THE Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, kicked off its big-screen adventure in 2008 with the arrival of Iron Man.
The MCU is set over four phases; the first three saw the six original Avengers establish their characters and welcome many others into their fold.
Since the MCU commenced, all but one character has had their own movie. Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), is the only female member of the original six Avengers and is the only original six-member not to have her own movie.
After seven appearances on screen, Black Widow kicks off Phase 4 of the MCU with a standalone movie that fans have been crying out for years.
She is a much-loved character, and the decision to give Black Widow her own film so long into the establishment of the MCU has been questioned by many.
The box office appeal of female superheroes was in doubt — would a super gal draw in audiences like their male counterparts?
Captain Marvel and the DC universe’s Wonder Woman proved that female heroes are just as popular, if not more so. Captain Marvel earned more than a billion dollars at the box office worldwide, making it one of the highest grossing films of all time.
The time has come for Black Widow to have her day in the limelight, and this Marvel fan could not be happier.
With the world made smaller by Zoom, I attended the film’s global virtual press conference. Director Cate Shortland joined cast members Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, and the main woman herself, Scarlett Johansson, to come together to talk about the film. Also on hand was Kevin Feige, the maestro behind the MCU.
In this film, we see Natasha Romanoff return to her roots to make amends for something in her past. The new cast members play Natasha’s first family, a bunch of Russian spies, who helped turn a young Russian girl into a world-class assassin and spy.
A global press conference is a bit like a pick’n’mix. Film reporters pop their questions in a chat bar and cross their fingers, hoping that they might get one answered. The powers-that-be weed out some questions and select which ones the stars should answer.
A surreal feeling washed over me when I heard my name called out, as the name The Echo was broadcast on a global stage. My question was the only one picked out from all the Irish outlets in attendance.
I had popped a few questions into the hat, but the one that was picked was for Scarlett Johansson. For one moment, a dream had come true: me, a self-confessed Marvel maniac, had the opportunity to listen to Black Widow herself answer my question.
It was a simple question: after working with the same actors for so long, what was it like introducing new actors to the Marvel world? This was Johansson’s reply: “It’s exciting. It is exciting because I love our Marvel family, and I know how special it is and how special an experience making these films is.
“I’m just excited for other actors to come in because I hope that they will feel similarly.
“It’s wonderful to see people coming to something with excitement and wide-eyed and getting to experience the incredible world of Marvel and making these huge productions.
“We all have been part of big productions before, but because Marvel feels so familial, there is something unique. It is a warm, inviting place and, it’s a fun thing to share.
“It was exciting to see everybody experience that for the first time.”
Picking my jaw up from the floor, I listened as other reporters got the chance to have their questions answered, whilst also sitting there gleefully proud to be the only Irish journalist picked out.
Kevin Feige believes that the popularity of Black Widow is all down to Johannsson’s performance. “Scarlett Johansson is an amazing performer. With each appearance, you learn more, you saw more, and you wanted to know more. The fact that we finally have an entire feature dedicated to her was exciting for all of us.”
The film tells the story of Natasha’s past by allowing us to meet her family, but she is a vastly different person from the confident Black Widow we usually see on screen.
Sure, she still packs a punch, but she is far more vulnerable than usual.
It is set just after Captain America: Civil War, a time when the Avengers were divided.
Johansson explains how this changes Natasha and why we see a new version of the character.
“At the beginning of this film, Natasha is alone for the first time. She has always been a part of something.
“She was part of the Red Room [In Russia], she joined SHIELD, and then subsequently the Avengers. She has always been part of a greater whole, and then suddenly, she finds herself floating in this weird in-between space, and she’s off her game.
“She realises that she’s got all this possibility in front of her, and it’s really suffocating. She is blindsided by this person who comes from her past, and she is thrown even more of her.
“It’s great to see her like that. We never get to see her like that. She’s just full of doubt and it leaves a lot of openings for stuff to kind of creep in.”
Black Widow is in cinemas now and also on Disney+ with Premier Access.