After a year of delay because of the pandemic, The Black Widow will finally hit theaters (and streaming screens) this July 9. The film, which was originally set to be released back in May of last year, will give us the long-awaited solo film for Scarlett Johansen’s character Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow.
The film is set after the events of Captain America: Civil War as Natasha seeks answers regarding a conspiracy that involves her past. This nostalgic trip down memory lane will include the introduction of iconic Black Widow references and brand-new characters. But unless you follow the Marvel comics religiously, you will probably find yourself wondering what all these elements mean as you watch the film. As we ecstatically wait for the film’s release, we have done most of the leg-work for you — here’s an in-depth guide to every that you need to know before watching Black Widow:
Take note, this guide will dive into some of the comic book references and storylines and although it isn’t a guarantee that this will be the same plot and characterizations that the MCU will use, there might be a couple of unintentional spoilers up ahead.
Black Widow: Natasha Romanoff
Played by Scarlett Johansen
Mosf of the audience knows nothing about Natasha beyond her stint with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers. We see a few notable flashbacks in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but they’re not enough to give an overall picture of who Natasha really is. Her stand-alone film aims to fix that as she goes back to confront her past as a KGB spy in the employ of the Russians as well as her early days in S.H.I.E.L.D. Despite the tragic ending for the Black Widow in The Avengers: End Game, fans are still excited to see Scarlett Johansen back to deliver an exciting and action-packed performance as the titular character.
In The Comics
Natasha is known for her mental toughness, grit, manipulation, and strategic combat skills which fans of the MCU have seen on several occasions. She can clearly hold her own against most super villains and even an occasional superhero now and then. The comics provide several versions of the character which tend to be overwhelming for fans at times. In one version, after her mother died she was taken under the wing of Ivan Petrovich, who became a father figure for the character, and trained her to be a loyal soldier of the USSR. In another, she was kidnapped sometime in 1941 by The Hand to turn her into a ruthless assassin, only to be rescued by Wolverine, Captain America, and Ivan Petrovich. One of the interesting versions also involves her being enrolled in the Black Widow program as she was trained in the infamous Red Room by Joseph Stalin himself — this version being the closest yet to the MCU storyline.
In The Movie
As we have seen in her Scarlet Witch-induced hallucinations back in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Natasha has a lot of history with the Red Room which hopefully the film will shed more light on. There will also be parts of the film set in Budapest which fans are eager to see as it may finally resolve the long-running mystery that Black Widow and Hawkeye have been referring to throughout the MCU. Furthermore, the trailer gives us a peek into the effects and products of the Red Room as a group of Black Widow agents swarm the apartment that Yelena and Natasha are in.
The Red Room
In The Comics
The infamous Red Room was a secret facility created during the Cold War by a Russian organization known as Department X. This Red Room Academy kidnapped and recruited young girls to be brainwashed into becoming sleeper agents or deadly assassins known as Black Widows — the most famous graduate being Natasha Romanoff. The Black Widow Program, run by Professor Grigor Ivanovich Pchelintsov, began with 28 orphan girls who were imprinted with false memories in order to become undetectable while under deep cover. The Red Room also other nefarious programs other than the Black Widows, including the Winter Soldier Program and the Wolf Spider Program — the male equivalent of the Black Widows.
In The Movie
In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, a few scenes were shown regarding the Red Room specifically in regards to the graduation ceremony — the painful sterilization of the Widows — that Natasha had to go through. The Black Widow film is set to give more details on the Red Room with more Widows set to appear and hopefully a more detailed picture of what actually occurs during the said program.
Played by: Florence Pugh
Florence Pugh has gained notorious recognition in the past few years with amazing films coming out one after the other. Pugh’s talent is undeniable with standout performances in films such as the literary classic Little Women and the occult horror phenomenon which is Midsommer. This year she will get her time in the MCU spotlight as Yelena Belova in The Black Widow.
In The Comics
Yelena Belova was first introduced in Inhumans #5 in March 1999 and trained in the same ruthless spy academy, The Red Room. There she was able to break some of the records set by Natasha. She would later step into the shoes of Romanoff after being defected to the United States to become the second Black Widow. One of her most notable feats includes the murder of her mentor, Pyotr Vasilievich Starkovsky — the very action that compels her to step into the Black Widow mantle.
In The Movies
The trailer shows a more sisterly type of relationship between Natasha and Yelena which isn’t the case in the comic books — far from it. The two have often gone after each other’s throats on several occasions mainly due to differences in ideals and beliefs — which by the looks of the trailer, we will also be able to witness. In addition to this, Natasha does act as an older sister in the comic books, often pleading with Yelena to leave her life as a ruthless assassin behind. Only time will tell how the movie will depict Yelena and the future for the character. We are however hoping for the “next Black Widow” storyline, similar to Sam Wilson as the new Captain America, to come into fruition.
Played by: David Harbour
The Red Guardian is Russia’s version and counterpart to Captain America — these details alone excite us to see him in action in the movie. David Harbour is the next reason for fans to be excited as the Stranger Things veteran steps into a superhero suit to fight evil.
In The Comics
Alexei Shostakov is a Russian test pilot and veteran war hero who agreed to become Russia’s answer to The Avengers. Before this, he was the husband of Natasha Romanoff, in a forced marriage by the KGB, but died shortly after — at least that’s what they made Romanoff believe. The truth, however, was that Alexei was being trained to carry the Red Guardian mantle to become the Soviet’s equivalent of Captain America (minus the super-soldier serum). Alexei underwent grueling training to hone his reflexes, fighting skills, and strength through methods that the Soviets know how to do best. The Red Guardian debuted in Avengers #43 in 1967 as an opponent of the Avengers going head-to-head with Captain America.
In The Movie
The trailer has been quite clear that this version of the Red Guardian serves more as a father figure to Natasha and Yelena, so we might not get the whole “husband with a fake death” angle. However, the MCU has been known to keep plot twists under wraps until the films come out. What still remains to be exciting about this character is that he is serving more than just comic relief for the film but will bring high-stakes and heart-racing action scenes that will keep us at the edge of our seats.
Played by: Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz plays Melina Vostokoff and has stated that her character will be involved “in a complicated scientific research” — a crucial focal point of the film. The actress has an extensive career on the big screen, harboring several awards including an Oscar for Best Actress back in 2005 for The Constant Gardener. It will be interesting to witness a change of pace for the actress as she enters the world of the MCU.
In The Comics
Melina is one of Natasha Romanoff’s arch-nemesis who is also a product of the Soviet spy-training program. She is an excellent espionage agent, a master combatant, and an assassin — a truly formidable foe against Natasha. She grew sick of remaining under Natasha’s shadow and soon became her biggest sworn enemy. Melina also took on the alter ego of the Iron Maiden, encasing herself in a flexible metal costume, and became a full-time criminal.
In The Movie
The MCU reiteration of the character seems to be heading towards a totally different angle from the comics. As seen in the trailer, her character has a motherly bond with Natasha, and it would be interesting to see how this all plays out until the very end.
Other Notable Character Appearances
The list of characters that will appear in the upcoming film doesn’t end there. There are still a few new names and some familiar faces that will show up in the movie.
Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross who we have already seen in The Incredible Hulk (The Edward Norton film) as well as his cameos in Captain America: Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame, is scheduled to appear in the movie. Fans are hoping that his continuous appearance in the MCU will result in a potential Thunderbolt film and the introduction of the Red Hulk.
The big baddie in this flick is The Task Master, a lesser-known supervillain of Marvel Comics who was introduced in the Avengers comics back in 1980. He is a maestro of fighting skills and is able to reproduce the moves of others just by watching them in action.
The MCU showcases its masterful attention to detail and craftsmanship in movie continuity by adding a character specifically for the film which was first mentioned by Loki in The Avengers film. We will finally see Dreykov played by Ray Winstone, who by the looks of the trailer has power over The Task Master and is said to be the overseer of the Red Room Program.
The sheer length of this guide points to the rich and detailed story that is about to unfold in The Black Widow and we can’t wait for its release. The wait isn’t going to be too long since The Black Widow drops in theaters in the United States and on Disney + this July 9, so get your VPNs ready.
In the meantime, we can follow the adventures of some characters in their own MCU series such as WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki which is currently ongoing, dropping a new episode every Wednesday in the United States. The lineup doesn’t end there as Marvel Studios will release Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings on September 3, and The Eternals capping off the year for a November 5 release date.
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