The movie “Black Widow” – in the works at Marvel Studios for more than a decade – is a lot of things: it’s an accomplished action thriller, a family comedy-drama and even a rumination about the trafficking of girls and women. . It’s the (probable) Black Widow character farewell for Scarlett Johansson, who has played Natasha Romanoff since “Iron Man 2” in 2010. And it also showcases director Cate Shortland’s prodigious talents to the mainstream Marvel audience, while showcasing the eye-catching and heartfelt performances of Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbor as Natasha’s makeshift family – initially assembled by wrongdoing by Russian criminals. , but later remade then solidified by love in “Black Widow”.

In the current Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline, Natasha is dead, having sacrificed herself in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” in order for the team to acquire the Soul Stone. But “Black Widow” takes place earlier, after the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”, when the Avengers who weren’t imprisoned are on the run. Natasha tries to hide, until she learns that an old enemy she thought she killed is still alive and turns the girls into murderers against their will, just like he did with her and her sister. , Yelena (Pugh).

In an interview with Variety, Johansson has spoken of returning to the character, having previously played his death in the heart-wrenching scene of “Endgame.” “The whole process of creating was really moving – I have such an affinity for Natasha,” Johansson said. “She has a lot of integrity. And I find it very, very touching.

For Pugh, who is new to the MCU – although we’ll certainly see more of her sarcastically hilarious, but hurt Yelena in the future – “Black Widow” is part of reforming their “in-laws”. During their healing journey together, Pugh said that Natasha and Yelena forge “a sister story that really focuses on grief, pain, abuse, being a victim – living to be a victim.

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Melina (Rachel Weisz), Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh).
Courtesy of Jay Maidment

“It’s incredibly beautiful and impressive that Marvel approached it this way,” Pugh continued. “And that’s only to do with, obviously, Cate and Scarlett.”

Yes, Johansson, who is also an executive producer of “Black Widow,” played an active role in convincing Shortland to direct the film, although there was no shortage of directors who wanted to do so. Johansson calls Shortland’s 2012 effort “Lore” “a perfect movie”.

“From the start it was Cate Shortland for me,” Johansson said. “She was very elusive!

Watching Shortland’s previous films, Johansson said, she could tell the director would portray the Black Widow character differently. “She was interested in the parts of Natasha that interested me,” she said. “She would probably say something like, ‘All of her messy bits!’ or something like that. She likes to examine all of a character’s flaws, or a character’s perceived flaws – their insecurities. And she was so interested in taking that apart. women, you know?”

That Shortland was female – the first female to solo a Marvel Studios film – was also important to Johansson. And, she thinks, that was crucial for Shortland’s portrayal of Natasha to feel different from how the character has appeared in other MCU movies. “It’s a big part of it,” she said.

Shortland was his special ally on times that felt ‘wrong’, the ones that ‘Cate and I both called bullshit on,’ Johansson said.

“It couldn’t have been done with someone else.”

The events of “Civil War” tore the Avengers team apart, dividing them into opposing camps led by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). At first Natasha thought Tony was smart to try and stick to the rules imposed on the Avengers by governments around the world, but by the end of the movie, she realized that Steve had been right from the start. And her decision to help Captain America, while betraying Iron Man, left her without the team that became her new family.

“Now all of a sudden she’s in this place floating in between,” Johansson said of where “Black Widow” finds Nat. “And who is she?”

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Yelena (Florence Pugh) and Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) Photo: Film Frame
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

“Black Widow,” of course, was slated for release in May 2020, kicking off Marvel’s Phase Four films. It was delayed, along with all other theatrical blockbusters, by COVID-19 – and continued to be delayed every few months. Finally, it will release on July 9 both in theaters and on the Premier Access level of Disney Plus, costing subscribers an additional $ 30.

But now that “Black Widow” has finally launched into the world, Johansson and Pugh are optimistic about its deferred path.

“I think everything is going the way it’s supposed to be,” Johansson said. “And I think it’s actually the perfect time to release this movie.”

Pugh feels the same. “Go back to the movies if you can, and if you feel safe, this is such an epic movie to watch with speakers and big blasts on the big screen – like, this is the movie you want. go back ”she said.

She recently reviewed the movie herself, having not seen it for a year: “It continues to amaze me how epic this movie is.”

In the world before COVID, “Black Widow” would have had a short window between the end of production and its release, Johansson said – but the delay allowed the creative team “to work on it for a longer period of time, this which is always fantastic. “

And the pandemic has made its story unintentionally resonate with the public, as we begin to come together again.

“It’s exciting in every way you want a Marvel movie to be,” Johansson said. “But it’s also very grounded, and has so much heart – and it’s about the family you choose. And I think having all been apart for such a long time, and really re-evaluating the things that are important in our lives, I just think this is a movie that reflects all of that.

Johansson has waited a long time for “Black Widow” to see the light of day, of course. Now that it’s here, the question must be asked: is this her last portrait of Natasha Romanoff?

“I never feel like my job is done,” she said. “I’m always thinking of new ways to try out lines from movies I shot 10 years ago. I’m really happy with the work I’ve done in my last decade at Marvel. I feel like I’m coming out on a high note with a movie I’m incredibly proud of. I feel like my work with Natasha is over, if it is. I have explored many facets of her and I think her choice to sacrifice her life for her best friends was a choice she made actively and with determination.

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