The Avengers still hasn’t hit theaters, but there’s not a moment to lose when it comes to keeping the Marvel Superhero Machine running. Iron Man 3 is set for next summer, and it will feature some familiar faces. In addition to Robert Downey Jr, it’s not too surprising to learn that Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle will be reprising their roles as Pepper Potts and James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine, respectively. But Latino Review has uncovered [via Feature Film Casting] that Scarlett Johansson will be back as well. Her character, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, became Tony Stark’s personal assistant in Iron Man 2, but that was just a cover to spy on him for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) rather than a real occupation.
Hit the jump for my hearty speculation on how she’ll factor into the latest Tony Stark adventure. Iron Man 3 is being directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang), who is co-writing with Drew Pearce (No Heroics). The film is set for May 3, 2013.
It’s unknown how much of a role Black Widow will have in Iron Man 3, but I’m more curious to see if Marvel is still hesitant to give the character her own spinoff. Johansson, like her Avengers co-stars, is signed to a lengthy multi-picture deal, so there’s room in her contract for Marvel to give her a brief appearance in Iron Man 3 and still have her set for a Black Widow movie.
But there’s also the question of how many superhero movies Marvel can handle. Thor 2 is due on November 15, 2013, and the studio also has dates for April 4, 2014 and May 16, 2014. While those dates are subject to change, it would be a safe bet that Captain America 2 will take one of them. There’s nothing stopping the studio from churning out as many superhero films as possible, but at some point the slate may become too unwieldy. Where does Black Widow fit in? What about the Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) spin-off or the S.H.I.E.L.D. movie? Plus, Marvel is already gearing up for The Avengers 2. And what about characters who haven’t been introduced into the Marvel movie universe? For example, Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man continues to swim around in the ether (and he may be there a bit longer if Wright’s adaptation of The Night Stalker pulls ahead of the miniature superhero). There’s also been mention of Guardians of the Galaxy and The Inhumans.
It’s possible that the inclusions of Johansson in Iron Man 3 may be a way to keep the character fresh in people’s minds. There are a lot of Marvel films in development, and outside the big three characters (Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America), non-geek audiences may need the occasional refresher on the supporting superheroes. These appearances may become even more necessary as Marvel continues to push more superhero films into development.