Marvel Studios is getting ready to head into its future without a few of its most bankable stars, but the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to begin with what is probably one last hurrah for one of them — Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. Though it’s been a bit confusing about how this whole thing is gonna work after Natasha died in “Avengers: Endgame.” And none of the marketing thus far has given any hints about what the deal is with this movie and why they would release it now, after the main character died.
The answer, as you almost certainly have guessed, is that the long-awaited “Black Widow” movie is a prequel, but thus far the trailers have not even really attempted to communicate when in the timeline of the MCU the film takes place. Though certainly there are any number of times when Natasha could have gone off on some side adventure, there aren’t a lot of places where it would actually make sense to put this story.
What a lot of folks are assuming about this film is that it will allow the MCU to have its cake and eat it too — that is, it will introduce us to the new Black Widow: Yelena Belova, who is played in this movie by Florence Pugh. Pugh is the sort of star on the rise that the folks in charge of the MCU would probably want to keep around, and as the franchise pushes into ever-more-cosmic territory, it’ll always be useful to keep some of these more grounded heroes around to help everyone keep their sanity.
So realistically, “Black Widow” would need to take place late enough in the timeline that it wouldn’t feel like too much of a stretch that Natasha hasn’t mentioned Yelena in the other movies. And David Harbour, who plays the Red Guardian in the film, told IGN that the film takes palce in the spot on the timeline that I think makes the most sense: between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
This makes sense just because there’s a two year gap there where we know basically nothing about what Natasha, Captain America (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the rest of the folks on Team Cap got into. They were on the run during this per, hiding out doing who knows what.
That placement, of course, makes us wonder if Evans and Mackie and the rest of that crew will make appearances in “Black Widow,” just because it would be strange for this wild story to go down with them just hanging out back at the safehouse.
It’s been rumored that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) will appear in some capacity. While that might not sound like it would make a lot of plot sense, it would certainly be thematically appropriate what with Natasha having worked close with Iron Man for the bulk of the first two phases of the MCU. Remember, Black Widow first popped up back in “Iron Man 2.”
Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long for answers, as “Black Widow” hits theaters on May 1.
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This year will end up bringing us five (5) new Marvel movies, but somehow we're just getting started. "Shang-Chi" is the second after "Black Widow" -- let's see how it stacks up against all the previous theatrically released Marvel movies, both inside and outside the MCU.