Does the final trailer for Marvel’s Black Widow have you hyped up for the May 1st release? It should, not only because Scarlett Johansson finally gets a solo story for the character she first brought to life 10 years ago in Iron Man 2, and not just because we get to see Natasha’s extended family of sorts, but because Black Widow will also officially kick off Phase Four of the MCU.
So what can we learn about Black Widow, and by extension where the MCU is going, from the new trailer? We know that it’ll be a two-part plot: One centers on Natasha reuniting with familiar faces from her past while the other is the more action-focused conflict between the Russian superheroes and the forces of the villainous Taskmaster; more on that mysterious Marvel mercenary can be found here. We have our breakdown (along with a healthy dose of speculation) below. Also starring Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, William Hurt, and O-T Fagbenle, director Cate Shortland film opens on May 1st.
A Family Affair
Let’s meet Natasha’s “family” first. It seems as if Black Widow is going to be somewhat less of a solo effort and more of a family actioner. Natasha returns to Russia in a bid to either escape her present or patch over her past; perhaps both. In doing so, she reunites with Yelena Belova (Pugh), Alexei Shostakov / The Red Guardian (Harbour), and Melina Vostokoff (Weisz). While Marvel’s official synopsis and casting release confirmed Harbour’s character and alter ego, only the first names for Pugh and Weisz’s characters were given, but we’re going to go ahead and speculate that they’re playing their Marvel Comics counterparts. (And I would be surprised if the above picture wasn’t one of the final ones in the movie.) So who exactly are they?
The Red Guardian, a Soviet / Russian version of Captain America (complete with nationality-branded metal shield), has been around in the comics since 1967 under the Shostakov moniker. The Moscow-born test pilot and KGB agent was actually married to Natasha Romanova/The Black Widow in the comics, so obviously this has changed in the MCU. The comics version of Red Guardian also remained loyal to the motherland after Black Widow, disillusioned, defected to the U.S., though he became increasingly violent and vengeful. The character once sacrificed his life to save Black Widow and Captain America, only to return (in a matter of speaking) as a Life Model Decoy tasked with bringing in Black Widow to answer for her crimes. The MCU’s version of Alexei seems to find the character in some tough times; he’s caught up in a gulag of sorts before eventually donning the red costume which he clearly hasn’t worn into action in quite some time. But there’s no time like the present to do so!
And then there’s Melina Vostokoff, who has a rather interesting connection to Black Widow as well. Having failed to live up to the legendary super-spy, Melina left government service for a more lucrative mercenary job as the Iron Maiden. That job eventually led her to attempt to assassinate Black Widow on behalf of the wealthy Damon Dram, a.k.a. Indestructible Man. Melina then joined up with Superia, a supervillain hellbent on elimination or enslavement of all men, and her band of female warriors known as Femizons. (Yup!) The super-suited villainess also crossed paths with the Thunderbolts team during the “Civil War” arc in the comics. I can’t imagine much of this making its way into the MCU, but it’s an interesting idea to swap the longtime Black Widow villain into the somewhat maternal role of this non-traditional family unit.
Completing the set is Yelena Belova, another Red Room Academy grad who actually surpassed Black Widow in many ways. Belova was often sent on the same missions as Black Widow, albeit secretly, as a sort of shadow to ensure that the mission was a success. The tables were turned on Belova more often than not, however; the two even swapped faces once against her wishes; yikes. The super-spy has also dabbled as a lingerie model, adult entertainment entrepreneur, and even a technologically augmented being known as a Super-Adaptoid. She’s been cloned, body-swapped, and disguised through holo-projection, so you can’t really trust your eyes when it comes to Yelena. What you probably can trust, however, is that Natasha and Yelena will come to blows sooner than later, even if it’s just in the service of a sibling rivalry before they ultimately work together.
However, what seems to be clear is that Pugh is poised to be not just a scene-stealer in this movie but is ready to receive the baton passed from Johansson. It’s possible we’ll see how this plays out in Black Widow, perhaps in an mid/end-credits scene. It would make sense considering that Natasha will reunite with Yelena–and maybe even fight a version of one of them if the mysterious Taskmaster is revealed to be a clone–and reestablish their connection prior to making the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame. Might we see Pugh as the new version of the MCU’s Black Widow in future films/Disney+ titles? That remains to be seen though it’s a pretty good bet at the moment, especially as Disney/Marvel begins to freshen up their cast of characters.
But what about the action beats of Black Widow itself?
Thaddeus Ross, The Red Room, and Taskmaster
The story of the MCU has been unfolding for a while now. Black Widow isn’t just a prequel to Avengers: Endgame; it also gets a prequel story of its own, courtesy of the comic mini-series “Black Widow Prelude.” This globe-trotting, flashback-frenzied, lore-packed story may not be a necessity for the majority of moviegoers out there, but it’s likely essential for the die-hard superfans of the MCU. It centers on World Security Council member and S.H.I.E.L.D. overseer Hawley clashing with General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) over whether or not to bring in Natasha Romanoff. It acts as a sort of recap of Black Widow’s adventures in the MCU so far and the dual sides of the Avenger: She’s a super-spy with a ledger a mile long, making it hard to trust her, but she has also done a lot of good in her time with the superhero team. But what does all of this have to do with Black Widow the movie? Well, since Ross and his heavily armed and well-appointed team of law enforcement/soldiers show up throughout the trailer, we’re gonna speculate that it’s this dogged pursuit of Natasha in the past that led her to seek sanctuary amongst her fellow super-spies overseas.
But back in Russia, she runs into her own set of problems. Namely, the Red Room graduates as led by Taskmaster. The mysterious and masked mercenary appears to be leading a team of elite super-soldiers, spies, and assassins in an all-out assault meant to either kill or incapacitate Black Widow … for reasons unknown. Luckily, Natasha has fellow Red Room alumni Melina and Yelena on her side, along with Alexei’s rather rusty but reliable “Captain America” counterpart. So while we get a glimpse of both Natasha and Alexei going one-on-one against Taskmaster in the trailer, we’re betting on the biggest battles of the movie being more of a family affair.
The “sisters” Natasha and Yelena can be seen teaming up to take on the Red Room grads; these may be the “lowest-level” graduates since they wander around in packs without masks, helmets, or amped-up armor. But we also see Natasha attempting to take all of them on by herself, so whether that’s a setup of some sort or occurs before she teams up with Yelena remains to be seen. There’s also the warning that this trailer (like all Marvel trailers, which should never be trusted anyway) is cut from a movie that’s likely chock full of flashbacks and out-of-sequence storytelling, so don’t put too much stock into the order of events. If anything, pay attention to the costumes (because there seem to be quite a few costume changes for all involved) and the backgrounds/settings for context.
Natasha and Yelena level up with the addition of Melina and Alexei on their team; they’ll all need to work together to take on Taskmaster. This is a character who can take on any one of them solo but who can also smash their way into a plane’s cockpit midair (before being taken out with a shield, Cap-style) and then Spider-Man glide through the air to do battle on what appears to be a falling solar panel as it crashes towards the Earth. I don’t know quite what’s going on here, but we’re going to see our heroes do glorious battle in close-quarters combat within a house or apartment; on the streets in a high-speed chase complete with machine guns, motorcycles, and a bow and arrows; and high above some sort of wintry Siberian compound that undoubtedly houses a McGuffin or two.
A lot of the hints are right there in the trailers, but there’s plenty of teases to be revealed and mysteries to be solved when Black Widow arrives on May 1st. Be sure to share your theories below!