It's been said so many times now that it’s become a defining cliche - Marvel Studios, as progressive as they may be in the comic books, really suck when it comes to representing female superheroes on-screen. Scarlett Johansson herself has poked fun at the studio in the SNL parody sketch of what a Marvel produced Black Widow movie may look like.
I'm not going to attack Kevin Feige for his comments on the subject (as others have done that quite eloquently enough) all I'll say is that the reasons given for the lack of a stand-alone Black Widow feature boil down to "we don't have time right now" and "we didn't plan for this." "This" I assume being Widow's popularity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the demand for more lead female heroes in general, indeed the Hollywood tide has been slowly shifting over the past decade, certainly since the beginning of the MCU with Iron Man back in 2008.
So, what ARE Marvel doing with Black Widow?
Black Widow was first introduced to the MCU in 2010's Iron Man 2; initially a deadly piece of eye candy, since then Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff has become a fan favourite, despite lack of representation both on-screen and in merchandise (which even Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) has complained about).
The really exciting news (not as exciting as if we actually got a Black Widow film, but close enough) is that footage screened at the Disney D23 Expo over the weekend suggested that Widow is going to have a pretty central role in the upcoming [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409). The first footage from Marvel's next MCU release hasn't been officially released yet, but it was screened for the fans attending the Expo, and here's what we've learned about Widow's role so far:
It's still unclear which side Black Widow will take in Civil War
Though Black Widow originally sided with Iron Man and the pro-registration superheroes in the comics, whose side Natasha will be on in the MCU has not yet been officially confirmed.
The trailer opens with her fighting Crossbones (our newest MCU villain) alongside Captain America and Falcon. She is later pictured alongside Bucky Barnes A.K.A The Winter Soldier, all of which suggests that she'll be joining Capt. against the pro-registration side of Iron Man and co. Furthermore the relationship between her and Steve Rogers/Captain America was well developed in The Winter Soldier, and given the events of that film it's likely that she too will be untrustworthy of institutions after the devastating infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D by Hydra agents.
The Civil War threatens her relationship with Hawkeye
Now it is all but confirmed that Widow and Hawkeye will be on opposing sides of this ideological argument. It was actually a pretty nice move in [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) to remove the hints of a romantic link between the two, replacing them instead with a more familial relationship (with Hawkeye's kids calling her "Auntie Nat").
Though we haven't been given the full backstory for either character yet these two clearly have a long history together (see Budapest) and a bond forged in battle, a bond which will be threatened by the events of Civil War as the footage shows the two old friends pitted against each other, with Hawkeye attempting to choke her as they fight.
So where does all this leave our favourite ex-KGB agent?
The main argument that Feige has made against the need for a solo Black Widow film has been that she's a key part of the ongoing Avengers MCU franchise, and that her presence in The Avengers overrides the need for an immediate solo outing. Whether or not you agree with this or not, it looks like we might get to see her character fleshed out even further in Civil War, and though that's not quite the news that fans have been waiting for, it looks like that's all we're getting from Marvel for now.