By now, you’ve probably watched the Black Widow trailer, which dropped in the goddamn dead of night, and you have lots of questions about the rapid succession of images contained therein. If you haven’t seen it, you can follow the link in that last sentence or stick around until the end of this post. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. What I am here to do is hopefully explain the major players in Marvel’s first Phase 4 release so you can astonish your friends and family with your extremely cursory knowledge of why Chief Hopper is a Russian knock-off of Captain America. You’ll practically be a god, so let’s get to it.
What is a Black Widow, and why is it a movie?
I know what you’re thinking. Am I looking at a tree, an Asian woman, a very sarcastic transgender? Surprisingly, it’s none of those. It’s just plain old Scarlett Johansson taking time away from stanning Woody Allen to reprise her role as Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow, a Russian super-spy turned bonafide Avenger. If you’ve been following these movies, then you probably have two very good questions.
1. Didn’t she die? Yup, Black Widow definitely ate it in Avengers: Endgame. However, this movie takes place directly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, which ended with The Avengers breaking up and Black Widow going on the run after betraying Tony to help Cap. So it’s probably very smart that she went back to Russia, the one exact place everyone knows she’s from.
2. Why is this movie only happening now? It’s no secret that Marvel absolutely sucked out loud at bringing diversity to its cinematic universe thanks to being under the woman-hating thumb of Trump toadie Ike Perlmutter until around 2015. His genius decision-making rested entirely on the assumption that girls don’t buy action figures, so why make a movie starring one? Fortunately, Kevin Feige managed to go over Perlmutter’s head and convince Disney CEO Bob Iger to keep Ike the f*ck away from Marvel Studios, which resulted in Captain Marvel finally appearing in the MCU after 10 years and 19 films starring male leads. In short, Black Widow is part of a long-overdue course correction.
I clicked on this for David Harbour. Tell me nerd stuff now, nerd.
Alright, Jesus. Harbour is playing Red Guardian, who, if you can’t tell by his uniform, is basically Russia’s version of Captain America minus the super-soldier serum. (He just works out a lot.) More specifically, Harbour is playing the Alexei Shostakov version of the character, because there are at least seven other dudes who have been Red Guardian at some point because comics be crazy. Case in point: Shostakov was married to Black Widow before she was led to believe he was killed in a rocket explosion as one does. God only knows what the filmmakers do with that, but ScarJo’s Black Widow does have a thing for big beefy dudes. Or just gamma-radiated wang. Who are we to judge?
The hell is going on with Florence Pugh?
Remember how I just said there were 27 different versions of Red Guardian? Well, Black Widow is no different. In the comics, Yelena Belova takes the mantle from Natasha Romanoff and replaces her in The Avengers, which is pretty much what Florence Pugh is expected to do in the films and/or inevitable Disney+ series. Like I mentioned in my Hell or High Water piece, I’m a filthy swine in the eyes of Film Twitter, so I have practically zero knowledge of Pugh’s body of work except that she’s in Midsommar, which I still haven’t seen. But everyone here seems to be genuinely pumped about Pugh replacing ScarJo, so I’m gonna roll with that positivity. Yay, new fighting lady!
Wait, is that Rachel Weisz?
There’s a lot of secrecy surrounding Rachel Weisz’s Melina, but she has revealed that her character is a Black Widow, and it sounds a lot like she was ScarJo’s predecessor. Weisz also doesn’t do much in the trailer except fat shame Red Guardian, which bear with me, actually plays. The Black Widows are essentially trained like Russian ballerinas, and let me tell you something about ballet schools: They are eating disorder factories. Somehow, there’s a very prominent school in my podunk town, so I’ve met lots of ballet students over the years, and some of the stories they’ve told? Jesus. So while it seems like Marvel is once again leaning into fat jokes a la Bro Thor, Weisz’s line is probably a fitting character moment. But like I said, her role is very mysterious, and I’m sure that has nothing to do with who I’m about to talk about next.
Do I even want to know what a Taskmaster is?
Let’s get the dork stuff out of the way. Taskmaster is a Marvel Comics villain whose photographic reflexes allow to him to instantly learn and retain the fighting style of any opponent. Basically, he’s a real dick to fight. As for what he’s doing in the Black Widow movie, who the hell knows? He is a hired mercenary, so it makes sense for him to show up in a story that is definitely going for a more visceral, Winter Soldier vibe, which I’m entirely here for. That said, online nerds are already pissed that Taskmaster doesn’t have his trademark hood and his appearance deviates a lot from the comics. They’re also… *sigh*… not exactly thrilled that he’s being “wasted” fighting just Black Widow instead of the entire Avengers. As if that wasn’t exhausting enough, there’s a very strong theory floating around that the film will make a significant change to Taskmaster’s identity, and if that happens, things are going to get real toxic real quick. The internet was a mistake.