Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Might Be the Movie We Desperately Need Right Now

Marvel dropped the trailer for Black Widow on Tuesday, creating a new wave of excitement for the onset of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and signaling that perhaps the movie might be uplifting in a way — which is impressive since the central character is dead.

Just seeing Scarlett Johansson as Natasha is a shot in the arm for fans who thought her character got short shrift in Avengers: Endgame — and there’s even a possibility that Black Widow could keep going as a franchise after this movie, which comes out May 1.

Scarlett Johansson on the red carpet
Scarlett Johansson | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Does the trailer show us anything new?

If you weren’t at D23 or haven’t seen a leak of the sizzle reel that played there,  most of what you see will be new. The movie takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, with Natasha going back to her past. So for us and for Natasha, the movie is very much a prequel. 

One of the key reveals was of the character played by Florence Pugh, Yelena Belova. They call each other “sister,” and whether that’s meant literally is not yet clear, but what is clear is that the two are well-matched in the fighting department.

The trailer is just one element of a banner year for Pugh, whose performances in Fighting with My Family and Midsommar were highly praised, and she has Oscar buzz for her role as Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, coming out later this month. 

We also meet the ally characters played by Rachel Weisz and David Harbour, who appears to be doing a bit of a riff on “fat Thor.”

Either that or this is what happened to Chief Hopper at the end of season 3 of Stranger Things. But the introduction of Pugh’s character in particular shows that Black Widow could carry on as a franchise even if Natasha cannot. 

What does Scarlett Johansson say about the movie?

Johansson, too, has enjoyed a banner year, having not one but two performances that have Oscar buzz: her supporting performance in Taika Waititi’s anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit, and her lead performance in the divorce drama Marriage Story opposite Adam Driver.

Now her Marvel character finally gets the solo movie that fans have been itching to see for years.

In an interview quoted by comicbook.com, Johansson said: 

“It’s a film about self-forgiveness and it’s a film about family. I think in life we sort of come of age many times and you have these kinds of moments where you’re in a transitional phase and then you move sort of beyond it and I think in the Black Widow standalone film I think the character is at, when we find her, a moment of real crisis, and throughout the film, by facing herself in a lot of ways and a lot of things that make her, her, she actually kind of comes through that crisis on the other side and we start to be able to reset where she’s a more grounded, self-possessed person.”

So while the film tackles some very sobering issues, it sounds like it will be lighter in tone than Endgame was, although there is that inevitable air of melancholy, considering we know Natasha’s limited future. The trailer even references this, with Natasha saying. “Nothing lasts forever.” 

What has been the reaction to the trailer?

The overall reaction seems to be positive, if for no other reason that excitement is inevitable when any Marvel trailer drops. Fans who like more grounded action with hand-to-hand fights will be pleased, as this movie seems to have a more realistic and less outlandish atmosphere than we see in most Marvel movies. In other words, there are more in-camera stunts and less big CGI-heavy set pieces, although the latter is certainly present in the skydiving shots.

The panel at Collider that reacted to the trailer was largely positive and pointed out that a liability from past movies could become a positive for this movie.

The prior MCU movies had never developed Natasha very thoroughly as a character. That gave her an air of mystery, but for many fans it also sold Natasha short, particularly in Endgame, when Tony Stark got a grand farewell and Natasha got a cursory send-off. 

The new movie will be a milestone for Marvel in that it will not only kick off Phase 4, but it will also be the first MCU film to have a solo female director, Cate Shortland. Their other film for 2020, The Eternals, is directed by Chloe Zhao, so for Marvel, the future is very much female.