Marvel's Phase Four stage is officially a go with the release of the Black Widow trailer.
Scarlett Johansson's tenacious assassin Natasha Romanoff finally gets her own movie after fans have spent years clamouring for such a thing. But how is it set to change the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?
Scroll down to read our breakdown of the trailer highlights.
1. It occupies an important gap in the MCU
The standalone Black Widow movie takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Clearly, after the tragic events of Avengers: Endgame, the only way to progress Natasha's story was to head backwards into her recent past.
It's an interesting dramatic decision: Black Widow is set to occupy the fractured and fractious time when the Avengers had turned against one another. This is the period where Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) had temporarily become enemies, so how will this inform the world in which Natasha operates?
Are we looking at a potentially lawless society in which the Avengers, in the wake of Sokovia's destruction, are no longer enough of a unified force to protect the world? And where does Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) come into it? The character first emerged in The Incredible Hulk and later appeared in Civil War while trying to mediate the tensions between the Avengers.
By becoming (temporarily) limited from the needs of the Avengers initiative, Natasha is granted a brief period of time in which she can discover herself. In the movie, she "goes back to where it all began", and the trailer cues up the Soviet flashback scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron to reinforce the themes of memory and heritage.
2. Florence Pugh plays Natasha's sister (kind of)
Is there anything Florence Pugh can't do? This year alone, she's portrayed WWE wrestler Saraya-Jade Bevis in Fighting With My Family, a traumatised young woman in surreal Ari Aster horror Midsommar, and ambitious Amy March in Greta Gerwig's forthcoming adaptation of Little Women. (The film is released on the 26th of December.)
Pugh now adds fighting abilities to her versatile acting skills, appearing to lock horns with Johansson before the sequence is revealed as a bonding experience between the two agents. As the film reveals, they and a fellow character played by Rachel Weisz are all agents in the Black Widow spy programme.
In a figurative sense, this makes them sisters (Natasha refers to Pugh's character Yelena Belova as such), but really it's about the comradeship between these trained killers. The opportunity to see Pugh let loose in an action environment is bound to be very exciting.
3. It uses a host of Cold War locations
Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland, who is perhaps best known for directing tense, Berlin-based thriller Berlin Syndrome. The movie focuses on a woman (Teresa Palmer) who is held captive in a German apartment against her will – so she's clearly a filmmaker who knows her way around a post-Cold War environment.
The opening shot of the Black Widow trailer is an arresting aerial view of Budapest, which announces the film's atmosphere, and how these environments have informed Natasha's character. It's the biggest movie yet from Shortland, not to mention the first MCU movie helmed by a woman in a solo capacity. (Captain Marvel was co-helmed by Anna Boden; Patty Jenkins has already broken boundaries in the DC universe with Wonder Woman.)
Shortland is leading the charge within the MCU – also arriving in 2020 is Eternals, directed by The Rider filmmaker Chloe Zhao.
4. We get to see the villainous Taskmaster
First appearing in May 1980, Taskmaster was swiftly cemented as Black Widow's nemesis. So the fact he's the primary villain in the movie should inject proceedings with a hefty sense of threat.
We only see the character briefly in the trailer, although we don't yet know who's playing him. (There's an uncredited role for Ray Winstone – is he up to the task?) Taskmaster's roll-call of abilities is formidable, including enhanced intelligence, advanced hand to hand combat skills and an ability to disguise himself.
5. Rachel Weisz is part of the Black Widow family
The Favourite's Rachel Weisz is credited as playing Melina, a fellow Black Widow agent. She doesn't appear much in the trailer, but appears to be fleshing out the 'family' dynamic at the heart of the story. (Don't worry – this isn't a Fast & Furious movie.)
Given her penchant for malevolence in the likes of The Favourite and My Cousin Rachel, among others, can we expect Weisz's character to turn coat and combat Natasha with that familiar wicked glint in her eye?
6. David Harbour is the comic relief
OK, so the Stranger Things actor is more than just the comic relief. He's playing Alexei Shostakov, aka the Red Guardian, and the character's comic book history is a little complex. Put simply, Alexei is one of a series of Marvel characters to have adopted the Red Guardian mantle.
Pitched as the Soviet equivalent of Captain America, Shostakov is a former Soviet pilot trained by the KGB to become the Red Guardian. His comic book history is closely bound with that of Black Widow – in fact, the KGB even arranged for the two to be married, although it doesn't end happily.
In the Black Widow movie, Harbour appears to have skipped leg day while doubling down on the comedy Russian accent – given the apparent seriousness of the rest of the movie, it looks like we'll need some laughs.