I often imagine Marvel executives getting to all merry with a skip in their stride. They reach their office, and just before work commences, they read a memo that simply reads "what are we doing about Black Widow?" They sigh, and remember why they have stress in their lives. The collective shrugging that's been surrounding the prospect of a Black Widow movie really illustrates Hollywood's relative cluelessness when it comes to female-driven action movies.
May 2015 was a strange month for blockbuster movies. The two biggest releases received diametrically opposed receptions in regards to their gender representation. [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) had many fans up in arms about the use of Scarlett Johansson as Black WidowBlack Widowbeing far less than satisfactory for those hoping to see an encouraging and admirable female hero on screen. Conversely, the recent [Mad Max: Fury Road](tag:41445) received such vitriolic praise, you'd think it rewrote the book on how to do convincing woman-lead action.
If we are to one day receive a standalone Black Widow adaptation fronted by Scarlett Johansson, I'd bet the finesse and confidence of Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa seems pretty enticing to Marvel. Now, of course the figures of Black Widow and Furiosa are completely different, and suggesting that there is a universal way to write female action heroes is itself a form of regression, but there are a few things that Fury Road nailed, which a Black Widow movie would do well to echo.
A complete character arc
Black Widow's character arc in Age of Ultron is actually quite impressive. It revolves around her learning to respect herself and what she is, while also discovering that she is a dedicated part of a team, rather than an implementation of it. It's half the reason she's stood at Cap's side as the credits role. How might this resonate with a solo venture? Well it runs the risk of getting baggy, with a convoluted plot and heavily telegraphed character beats. If you look at Fury Road, you see that Furiosa's character arc is absurdly simple, with her realization that her ability to shape the world anew takes precedent over her own search for redemption and chasing of past glory.
Fury Road manages to shape a character through the very tangible elements of the story, with nothing having to be assumed beforehand. A Black Widow movie would here be at an advantage, as Scarlett Johansson's character has been with us for a while now, and we will already know her going into her own movie! If we can be treated to a story that convincingly shapes her as a person, rather than pitching her against a mcguffin of the week, a Black Widow movie could be seen as a resounding success!
A common goal for men and women
The potential male counterparts to appear in a Black Widow movie are almost endless (with Captain America, Hawkeye and Daredevil springing to mind). It's apparent that, in the case of Black Widow fighting alongside a male hero, screen time and presence aren't as important as the characters being mutually invested in the story. Fury Road showed that audiences respond better to gender equality on screen when it is driven as a team effort, rather than men and women having disparate motives. Tom Hardy's Max doesn't help Furiosa because he wants to look favorable or get a cookie at the end of this all. He fights alongside her because he's spurned on by a very immediate need for survival that she shares with him.
A Black Widow movie which saw Scarlett Johansson assemble a team, or pair up with other characters would be far more pleasing if characters fight alongside each other for admirable reasons rather than bicker for dominance of the story. Many people's problem with Age of Ultron came from Black Widow essentially being tucked beneath the rug until the story needed her once more. This could easily be avoided with a streamlined and elegant plot for a standalone movie.
Don't gender the fight scenes
Marvel, and particularly the Avengers movies, have actually done a pretty good job of placing Scarlett Johansson in convincingly empowered fight scenes. Consider the scene in The Avengers where Black Widow fights a brainwashed Hawkeye. She doesn't appear overly vulnerable simply because she's up against a man, and the movie resists relying too much on the spindly thigh gripping nonsense that got started in Iron Man 2. The two characters fight as equals on very realistic terms, and the scene becomes one of the least performative action beats in the film.
Take a look at Mad Max: Fury Road, and you see just how entertaining this logical approach to fight scenes can be. The first brawl between Max and Furiosa has the two genuinely going at it, without a care for the audience's gendered expectations. She really is trying to kill Max, and there is no sense of the characters performing to a preconceived notion of how men and women would fight. Imagine this kind of ferocity applied to a Black Widow movie, and you could have yourself one hell of a finale!
Leave some mystery
This is a small pointer, but after seeing Age of Ultron, I couldn't help but feel this is something that should be kept in mind upon making a Black Widow movie. The bewitching sequence in Avengers 2 was some of Joss Whedon's most visually ambitious work. It showcased some interesting elements of Natasha Romanov's back story, and that is everything I need! While Black Widow certainly has a detailed and elaborate back story built up by her comics presence, part of her appeal in the MCU is her being somewhat of an enigma. It fits perfectly with her spy/espionage origins, and would suit the tone of a potential solo movie.
Do you think Mad Max: Fury Road would be a good place to draw inspiration from for Scarlett Johansson's first solo venture in a Black Widow movie? Write a post about it here on MoviePilot, vote in our poll, or leave a comment below!