Let us now praise Black Widow.
I submit that the sultry superspy, played by Scarlett Johannson in Marvel movies, deserves her own film. Four of the six founding Avengers in the movies — Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man and Thor — have had multiple solo films. Dr. Strange, Black Panther and even Ant-Man are scheduled to have their own Marvel movies. But apparently Natasha Romanoff (nee Natalia Romanova) is not in line to get one.
One possible clue as to why the Widow has been slighted comes from the infamous Sony hack, in which an e-mail from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter to Sony CEO Michael Lynton was posted by WikiLeaks This e-mail continues a conversation in which Perlmutter apparently expressed an opinion about superheroine movies, which we can guess was not a positive one:
“As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
“1. Elektra (Marvel) — Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad.
“2. Catwoman (WB/DC) — Catwoman was one of the most important female characters within the Batman franchise. This film was a disaster.
“3. Supergirl — (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female superhero(es) in Superman franchise. This movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.”
Actually, despite Perlmutter’s assertion, there really aren’t any more examples of superheroine movies that did poorly at the box office. (Mainly because there aren’t many superheroine movies.) Further, the three movies he names didn’t fail because they had female leads — they stunk because they were awful movies. And he’s ignoring successful female-led action films, such as the “Resident Evil” franchise starring Milla Jovovich and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie.
But more to the point is the recent “Lucy,” starring Johansson. That film, which cost about $40 million to make, topped that at the box office on its opening weekend, and tripled that in movie theaters alone. It’s not a superhero movie, but it’s close. And it proves that Johansson is an A-list actress who can successfully “open” a movie.
Now, there are some who argue that a Black Widow movie would be too small. That, unlike movies starring thunder gods, narcissistic inventors, super soldiers or giant, green rage machines, an espionage movie requires a lead who blends into the background.
Really? Ask any of the actors who played James Bond or Jason Bourne how often they were asked to blend into the background. Or how “small” their movies were. The latest Bond film, “Skyfall,” was a $200 million effort and made $300 million at the box office.
And that’s ignoring one of the biggest and best espionage films ever made: “Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier.” Sure, it’s technically a superhero movie. But while the Star-Spangled Avenger was clearly the star, “Cap 2” was essentially a S.H.I.E.L.D. movie, using the overarching Marvel Cinematic Universe as its playground. And it was boffo.
And, one of the essential supporting characters was a kick-butt heroine named Black Widow.
Which makes another compelling argument for a Black Widow movie. Flip the script, so that Nat’s the lead and Cap’s the supporting character, and you’ve got another big-budget espionage blockbuster. Only this time it stars a woman who happens to be one of the premier actresses of our time.
And if you have any doubts about Johansson’s acting ability, especially as the Widow, go back and watch “Avengers” again. In her scene on the helicarrier with the Hulk, Johansson exhibits (in quick succession) sheer terror, a panic attack and then gritty resolve to return to the fray. It’s easy to be heroic when you’ve got a magic hammer or an armored suit, but if you’re just a woman in a catsuit fighting the Hulk, you’ve got to have a lot of guts. That’s what Johansson showed, in both her character and as an actress. It might have been the acting highlight of the movie.
Then there’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which just topped $1 billion at the box office worldwide. Once again Johansson’s character had a major dramatic story arc, hinting at her origins, connecting with TV’s “Agent Carter” and suggesting that her character might be more than just an orphan brutalized into being a spy by the Soviet Union — she might be the U.S.S.R.’s version of Captain America.
But with all that going for her, Black Widow doesn’t have a movie in the pipeline. Marvel has released its movie schedule through 2019, and Natasha’s not on it.