There's been a lot of chatter in the last few months about Black Widow getting her own standalone movie in the MCU after it became clear that while the Captain America sequel was named [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973), it was as much Black Widow's movie as it was Steve Rogers'. The studio race to meet fan demand for the first female-led superhero film in this era has been a hot topic, with [Black Widow](movie:1070824), [Wonder Woman](movie:45787), [Ms. Marvel](movie:949779) and even Spider-Woman all being rumored to have their own movies in the works.
But so far, nothing's been made concrete, leaving a lot of fans (gals and guys alike) scratching their heads and saying, We're beyond ready for a female superhero film - what gives?
So it would probably surprise you to learn that a Black Widow movie was all set to go into production back in 2004, back when Iron Man was but a glimmer in Marvel Studios' eye. And, well, the reason why it never happened will probably piss you off.
Back in the day, David Hayter, fresh off the success of having just penned the first two X-Men scripts (you know, before it all went to temporary shit with X-Men: The Last Stand), had written a script for a Black Widow movie that was supposed to be his directorial debut with Lionsgate (this was before Marvel reacquired the rights to her character). It was a fairly badass script that would have hewed closely to Natasha's comic book origins, preproduction was underway...and then Lionsgate pulled the plug.
Why? Because a few female action movies did poorly at the box office. Explained Hayter:
Unfortunately, as I was coming up on the final draft, a number of female vigilante movies came out. We had Tomb Raider and Kill Bill, which were the ones that worked, but then we had BloodRayne and Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux. Aeon Flux didn’t open well, and three days after it opened, the studio said, “We don’t think it’s time to do this movie.” I accepted their logic in terms of the saturation of the marketplace, but it was pretty painful.
Now, I understand the logic of not wanting to oversaturate the market. Remember, this was a decade ago, before Hollywood was stuck in the "make ALL THE SAME GENRE" mentality it's in now. But to blame the failure of the movies on the fact they were female led, and not because the scripts were terrible and the directing worse is maddening, no? BloodRayne was directed by Uwe Boll, who is largely considered to be one of the worst directors ever. Seriously, ever. But the studio blamed it not on the movies themselves being terrible, but that audiences were burned out on female action films. And so the Black Widow movie was killed.
What might have been? A potentially great movie, that's what. Here's the breakdown of the plot by Brian Cronin of Spinoff Online:
Hayter’s script would have held pretty close to Black Widow’s comic book origins, with young orphan Natasha being adopted by Ivan Petrovich, who works in a secret Soviet training facility known as the Red Room. Enrolled by Ivan’s boss Sergei Riskolje in a program to train girls as super-soldiers, Natasha becomes a prized pupil, and even undergoes a risky medical procedure that “recreates the reflex-response of certain insect joints,” essentially giving her superpowers. She rebels against her adopted father for allowing the procedure happen, and forms a relationship with Alexei, a trainee in another program. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sergei goes rogue rather than shut down the program, and has Alexei kill the other trainees, including Natashas’s best friend Natalia, and (seemingly) Ivan.
Natasha steals the experimental “Widow suit” and escapes to the United States. Once there, she becomes a gardener, partnering with a man named Freddy and sharing an apartment with a roommate named Stevie Hunter. Her past comes back to haunt her, however, as Alexei shows up to hunt her down (Stevie is killed). Freddy, it turns out, is an undercover CIA operative who puts Natasha into contact with another agent named Anton, who informs her there’s a $10 million bounty on her head. In the time that Natasha has been living in the United States, Sergei has become a warlord in Russia and has restarted the training program, training little girls to become super-soldiers (he needs to capture Natasha so he can learn how to replicate the procedure that gave her her powers).
Ultimately, Natasha returns to the Red Room to take care of all her loose ends. Along the way, people are killed (Freddy), people are revealed to not have actually died (Freddy, Ivan) and people betray Natasha (Freddy, Anton). She gets her revenge in the end, as she uses her superpowers and her advanced Widow suit to take out all the bad guys, and nuke the Red Room (after first escaping with the young trainees, of course).
It ends with Natasha agreeing to work for the CIA, so the film was set up for sequels (with the young trainees as her supporting cast, I suppose).
Let that sink in for a moment. A little bit The Bourne Identity and a little bit Salt. Come to think of it, one could fairly easily tweak that script to springboard off the events of The Winter Soldier, with Natasha working backward to find out who ultimately set her up in a taut spy thriller with a bit of her murky origin story thrown in.
To drive home the point, check out this pretty slick fan-made trailer for a Black Widow movie:
I don't know about you guys, but I'd watch the hell out of that movie.
(Source: Spinoff Online)