When a potential plot leak emerges from the Avengers: Age of Ultron set, we sit up and take notice. You can read all about most of what was leaked right here. The same source, however, also revealed another key detail that is - if true - about to set the Marvel Cinematic Universe ablaze. This, by the way, is the point where you should definitely stop reading if you aren't in the mood for potential SPOILERS.
According to Latino-Review, the opening scenes of the film will be dominated not only by action, but by a newly introduced romantic entanglement: one between Black Widow...and the Hulk.
As they put it:
"We discover that Banner and Black Widow kinda have a thing for each other. Banner is afraid to consummate anything with her for fear of hulking out and hurting her. He doesn't trust himself."
Which, being so much Joss Whedon's sort of thing it's surprising he hasn't tried to trademark it, isn't as unlikely as it sounds. if nothing else, Mark Ruffalo needs something to do in the film other than become a CGI rage monster when the fight scenes kick in.
There's a slight problem with this whole scenario, though - and it comes from an Easter egg hidden in the very depths of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Hidden, in fact, where no-one would ever think to look: right on top of Scarlett Johansson's cleavage.
You see that necklace? That's very much an arrow, that is - and Black Widow wears it pretty much the whole way through the film. Which Avenger does that remind you of?
Which, in and of itself, doesn't mean all that much. She's close to Clint Barton - aka Hawkeye - and credits him with saving her life, so it could just be a gift from him that she feels obliged to wear, right? A necklace alone doesn't mean you're dating somebody.
Until, that is, pretty much everyone involved in the MCU comes out and starts hinting that this particular necklace means a whole lot more than that. As Johansson put it to Rotten Tomatoes:
"You know, I think that may have been my little nod to Mr. Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye. I guess you could interpret it in different ways, but we thought it would be nice to have something that was a little bit personal for the Widow. You know, you kind of forget—I think because she's so, she's such a badass—you kind of forget she's still a woman and that she has her interpersonal relationships and life outside of work."
So, interpersonal relationships - check. That doesn't necessarily mean romance, though. They could just be really, really close friends.
Cue Johansson's directors on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo, speaking on Empire Magazine's podcast #105. After admitting that Black Widow and Cap's relationship had evolved throughout production "into a work-wife/work-husband relationship”, the duo were asked about the necklace:
“Honestly, it was a choice that Scarlett made as a character, um, and I think it will become clear—her relationship with Hawkeye will become very clear, I think, in Avengers 2.”
So, yeah. There's that. A classic tease if ever there's been one - and one hinting very much in the direction of a Black Widow/Hawkeye liaison, just like in the comics.
What does all of that mean for Avengers: Age of Ultron, and poor Hulk, though?
Well, if the rumor regarding Bruce Banner's romantic feelings is true, then it might just mean something a little bit like this:
Only with a flattened archer in place of a mildly pummelled Norse trickster God.
Could this love triangle - the Widow, the Archer and the Giant Id Monster - be one of the upcoming Avengers sequel's main points of focus? It certainly seems a whole lot more possible than it did a few weeks ago - and would at least give the three Avengers with no solo-franchise to currently call their own something to do in between smashing robots.
The real question, then, is which of the two super-heartthrobs should Black Widow choose?
[The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) is set for release May 1, 2015.