Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been crying out for a Black Widow solo film for years now. Initially, the studio seemed reluctant to do one. Recently, producer Kevin Feige stated that he wants to do a Black Widow movie, but Marvel Studios has yet to make any official statement about such a film being in the works. If her solo movie never gets made, would that be such a bad thing? Does Natasha Romanoff really need her own film? I would argue "no" on both counts.
Let me be clear before moving on: I do not believe the character is undeserving of her own movie; I'm not arguing that a solo film would be a bad thing. I do not at all dislike the character. On the contrary, I think the #MCU has done a fantastic job of developing the super-spy, which is the core of my argument that she doesn't even need her own film to be an engaging and popular character.
A Star Of The MCU
To date, Scarlett Johansson has starred in five MCU movies. That's nothing to scoff at. Let's compare her with the other main actors (leaving out cameos):
- The same number of films as Chris Evans
- More than Chris Hemsworth — at least until November (at which point Johansson and Hemsworth will be tied)
- More than Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton combined
- More than Samuel L. Jackson (depending on where you draw the line with cameos)
- Only one actor has made more appearances: Robert Downey Jr.
Of Black Widow's five appearances, she had supporting roles in Iron Man 2 and in Captain America: Civil War, but her appearances in both were quite significant and intriguing. In each of the two Avengers films, she was one of the ensemble leads. As for the second Captain America movie, it could have easily been titled Captain America & Black Widow, as she had nearly as much screen time as Steve Rogers himself, as well as her own plot line and character development.
The point is: Natasha has seen a whole lot of action (figuratively I mean, but obviously literally as well).
Her Own Story
Marvel has been crafting a fascinating story about #BlackWidow. In addition to playing out her present development, secrets of her past are gradually revealed. While some fans want to see it all pulled together in one film, I like the idea that it's spread out through multiple films.
With each appearance, the audience gets a bit more information on her past, one more piece of the puzzle. I find that fascinating, and I look forward to her future appearances just so I can get one more piece. It's as if one of our rewards for watching multiple MCU films is access to Black Widow's history. To me, that's far more interesting than having an entire story laid out for us in a single two-hour sitting. In fact, I'd like to see this done with other characters as well. The fact that this has only been done (to this extent) for Black Widow makes her special, and that's really cool.
Not Just A Pretty Face
Yes, Black Widow is a complex and relatable character; she's not merely a romantic interest for the male heroes. Around the time Avengers: Age of Ultron came out, there were some articles complaining that Natasha was with a different man each film. However, she was never romantically involved with any other man until Age of Ultron. Instead, she has a different relationship with each of the other characters:
- Tony sees her as a sexual object (well, he sees every woman as a sexual object), but she never genuinely reciprocates his interest.
- She's very close with Clint, but there was never anything that suggested there's any romance involved. They are good friends and act almost like siblings.
- Natasha and Steve are buddies. They joke around, and she tries to set him up on dates with other women — it's fun.
- It's only with Bruce that she eventually shows any romantic affection.
The fact that she has different ways of relating with her teammates is normal and healthy; it actually makes her a deeper and more realistic character. It's yet another way that the MCU has portrayed her so well. Even if there were more romantic relationships than the one we saw with Bruce, would that diminish the quality of her complex and dynamic character, or the intrigue of her backstory? Of course not.
Now, you might point out that Natasha did act flirtatiously in Iron Man 2 or that she kissed Steve in Winter Soldier, but neither of those were because she held genuine romantic interest for those characters. If the first, she was manipulating Tony, and in the second, she was manipulating the situation. That's a part of what she does. While her sexuality is one of her attributes, it never defines her.
Still, does Marvel play up her sexuality too much? Unfortunately, yes. This has been a reoccurring problem in general for the woman of the MCU, but it's not as bad for Natasha. However, her outfits are just too tight, and her poses in promotional materials are often ridiculous.
Here's the question: Would a solo film solve these problems? Not necessarily. Granted, the benefit of a solo film is that special care would be given to the character in hopes to best please the audience. Frankly, I think Feige, Whedon and the Russo brothers (as well as Markus and McFeely) have already demonstrated their desire and efforts to portray Black Widow as well as possible in her recent appearances.
- Does Black Widow "deserve" her own film? Sure.
- Has Marvel Studios already done right by her? Yes (mostly).
- Will a solo film make her character even better? Not really.
Natasha Romanoff isn't a perfect character, but then, who is? She's been portrayed extremely well and we should absolutely celebrate that.
But should we, as the fans, push to see the MCU's most prominent heroine become even more prominent? Or, should we instead focus on lobbying for other female characters to finally be done right, or for increasing the number of women on the Avengers roster?
Ideally, we would get all three of those things, but Marvel Studios has limited time and resources, and therefore a limited number of films they can make at a time. Let's root for She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), Spider-Woman or whoever else to join the Avengers or get their own film.
Marvel's got a good thing going with Black Widow — if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Which Marvel superheroine would you most like to see given a starring role in Marvel's Phase 4?