It's been a decade since the MCU began, and eight years since we first met Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow in Iron Man 2. And even though we've seen three Iron Man standalones, three Thors, three Captain Americas, two Avengers, two Guardians of the Galaxies, an Ant-man and a Doctor Strange – with more standalones and team ups to come – we have not yet had a Black Widow standalone.
Even though she's one of the best characters and Johansson is one of the most famous and bankable actresses in the world.
In fact we've not yet had a female-led Marvel movie, though that's set to change with Captain Marvel in 2019.
Finally though, Marvel does seem to be moving forward on a Black Widow movie – they've hired Jac Schaeffer, who wrote the gender-swapped Dirty Rotten Scoundrels reboot Nasty Women, coming this year,to begin working on script. The studio has had much great success over the last decade with their male-led and ensemble movies but there's a lot riding on this one.
So not that you asked us, but here's what they need to do to get it right.
1. Hire a female director
It's a good sign that Marvel has hired a woman to begin writing the screenplay. It almost goes without saying that they need to put a woman in the director's seat too. So far ZERO Marvel movies have been directed by women, and even their first female-fronted film, Captain Marvel, is directed by a man and a woman. For Natasha's standalone they need to let a woman fly solo. It worked commercially for Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, so there's precedent right there.
2. Don't tie her down with a love interest
It is true that many of the male heroes do have partners: Iron Man has Pepper Potts, Thor had Jane Foster (for a bit), Cap had Peggy Carter and then later Sharon Carter (not sure what's going on with that). Hawkeye has a wife, too, and we think Doctor Strange was dating Rachel McAdams, though neither of these females had very much do at any point.
If we had faith that they could add a love interest subplot where the man (because we don't imagine Marvel are going to go all out and make her a lesbian) doesn't save the day, undermine or 'make safe' Black Widow, and would appear in the background a bit like Christine Palmer (who? Exactly!), then we'd be fine with it.
But if Wonder Woman taught us anything, it's that it's too damn likely that the male character would be given as much, if not more, dialogue, agency, influence and screen time as Black Widow herself. And we're not doing that. Not this time.
Besides, we're shipping Romanoff/Banner, and putting the Hulk into Widow's movie as a major part would be quite the distraction.
3. Introduce secondary and tertiary female characters
No Smurfette-ing! This does not need to be a movie about a kick-ass woman in a man's world, kicking the asses and hanging out with the men.
We've had that movie (Atomic Blonde, Rogue One, the Tomb Raider films) and Romanoff deserves better. Give her some other women to talk to. Pass the Bechdel test, why the hell not. Give her a whole bunch of women to talk to. Ideally we'd like Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie to be one of them, though we're good to wait for the all-female Avengers movie that she and the other women of the MCU pitched, if that won't work.
4. Choose the timeline wisely
There could be a temptation to set this in the past to explore some of Natasha's origin story. But given the movie's only just going into development and how booked up Marvel's slate is already there's no way it'll be with us before 2020. That's a decade after we first met her in Iron Man 2. Romanoff is a human, just let her be the age she is.
5. Don't make this about babies!
In Avengers: Age of Ultron Romanoff self-identifies as a 'monster' during a conversation with Bruce Banner where she tells him she's infertile. People did not like that. A lot later director Joss Whedon explained that this wasn't what the line meant – he said it referred to her being an assassin. Either way if Black Widow's movie ends up being about her not having babies that would be a very bad move indeed.
6. Fun is okay
She's ex-KGB, has a horrible backstory and is human rather than magic. It's fairly likely then, that her standalone could involve her breaking away from the Avengers and going back to Russia – it'll probably be an espionage movie.
But that doesn't mean it needs to be dour and nasty and devoid of jokes. Marvel has nailed the sense of humour in many of its other movies and it would be shame if this one couldn't retain a sense of light and shade. Don't give us the 'women aren't funny' bit.
7. Get on with it!
Seriously it's already taken way too long for this movie to go into development. Get it right, by all means, but do hurry it up a bit. If Johansson gets fed up waiting it's game over.
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