By now, most of you who are reading this have already had the pleasure of watching The Avengers; but if you haven't yet don't worry, you can still read this article without any major spoilers. Like many of you who live, breathe and love comics, I too felt that The Avengers was one of the best comic book, super hero movies I have ever watched. Better than all Marvel movies that came before it, and all FOX comic book movie adaptations. It even gave 'The Dark Knight' a run for it's money, in my opinion. But this isn't an article about how much I loved 'The Avengers,' it's about how happy I felt when I left the theater thinking that after just having watched that film, there's no reason why Marvel Studios couldn't make a Black Widow movie.
If you were to have asked me before, I would have told you that there was no way that Marvel Studios could pull off a Black Widow movie -- she just didn't hold enough clout. The character, who has been around since her first appearance in TALES OF SUSPENSE #52 could hardly ever maintain her own ongoing series. At best, they would get cancelled -- not because they weren't good (because they were often fantastic) but because she simply didn't garner support of enough readers. Her appearance in Iron Man 2 when she first met Tony Stark was sub-par. She was completely uninteresting and had no depth.
Before watching the movie I was convinced that Black Widow was the only really odd part of all of The Avengers movie posters and she didn't make sense to me in the trailers because Scarlet Johansson had delivered a less than stellar first performance in Iron Man 2. I wasn't expecting a whole heck of a lot out of her performance in 'The Avengers, and that may very well be the reason why I was so blown away by her character's presence on screen. When I left the theater after having seen The Avengers for the second time the only thing on my mind was, "what the hell happened in Budapest?" I was smitten.
If you get that reference, then you probably know where I am going with this. Even though Black Widow didn't have a tremendous amount of on-screen time, the moments where she made an appearance were compelling -- so much so that I left the theater with a whole new appreciation for her character. Hawkeye and Black Widow had obvious chemistry in the film, but it wasn't sexual; and the fact that Whedon strayed away from any romantic involvement between the two characters (something that frequently appeared in the comics) is what made it so interesting to see the pair working together (and at times against one another) on screen.
What Whedon didn't touch on (which I was completely comfortable with) was the fact that Natasha and Clint Barton were lovers at one time in the comics. At that time, Barton had been working with the Avengers when Natasha was still with the KGB when he fell in love with her and whisked her away. At least that's the romanticized version. In her early appearances, Natasha left the KJB for Barton and the Avengers, although their relationship fizzled. And while there is clearly chemistry between the two characters in Whedon's film, the fact that there is no on-screen romance is a plus. The possible romance would have been distracting, first of all, and it would have ultimately taken away from Natasha's ability to be seen as an equal by her peers (the other Avengers teammates), which I will get into later.
There are some great moments between them, however, that were virtually pulled straight from the comics. In the film, Natasha emphasizes the fact that she owed Clint Barton "a debt" and that is the reason why she was so dedicated to ensuring his safety. That debt is her life, and in turn she feels obligated to save his too, because he had been sent to kill her but instead chose to save her. He (Clint) understood her struggles and all she had endured, and there were diffinitive seeds that were purposely planted by Whedon in the film that will probably be expounded upon later -- hopefully in her own movie.
In the scene where she is coaxing Hawkeye -- who is restrained after being brainwashed by Loki -- she repeats (for a second time) that she "had been compromised." This time, in a more somber tone. She states again that she "has red on her ledger." Those who have read any Black Widow comics or know anything about her history know that she was used by the Russian KGB.
At one time, Black Widow thought herself to be a ballerina, but she later discovered that she had been brainwashed. The memories she thought she had had were not her own, and they were put there by the Russian KGB. She was never a ballerina. Her husband hadn't died as she had originally believed. She was used as a pawn when she was utilized as part of the "Red Room" experiment. During that time, she did a lot of terrible things to people; and the fact that Whedon alludes to this in his film makes me think he is preparing fans for a movie of her own; which she rightly deserves.
All too often when there is a prominent female character in a cast of mostly men, the woman is often the object of affection -- she's used as the romantic interest. We saw Natasha play that role in Iron Man 2 when she was first introduced to audiences. She was there mainly for eye candy, referenced specifically by Iron Man's character.
There was none of that here. In Whedon's film Black Widow was able to play with the boys, and the fact that they never once questioned her capabilities and consistently treated her as an equal was probably the most compelling thing about her portrayal. It's so much so that you forget that Scarlett Johansson is sexy. It's never in your face. The blatant joke in the beginning of the film by Georgi Luchkov during the interrogation where he claims that Natasha is "nothing more than a pretty face" is an obvious affront to an age old cliche; that she wouldn't have such prowess without her striking good looks. This is something that both Whedon and Scarlett Johannson successfully disprove.
Black Widow naturally has an interesting (albeit, complicated) history in Marvel Comics. Born in 1928 in a small town in Russia, she is said to be the last of the Romanov's. She became a spy for the KGB, was brainwashed, and at one time she even took a dose of super soldier serum -- which explains why she still looks good after all these years. She is smart, savvy and of course, beautiful; making her deadly. In her performance in The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson and Joss Whedon proved that Black Widow can be conveyed as an interesting and compelling character.
After seeing The Avengers there is no doubt in my mind that Marvel Studios can't make a great superhero/spy movie featuring both Black Widow and Hawkeye. She has a complicated history, (and so does he) and certainly both characters have their share of demons; but that's what makes them human and easy to relate to. Hopefully we'll get to see what happened in Budapest in Black Widow's very own feature film, or at the very least find out where all that "red on her ledger" came from.
What do you think? Do you want to see a Black Widow/Hawkeye spin-off movie? Do you think that kind of a film would be successful?