Black Widow movie will "hand the baton" says director Cate Shortland

It's been over a year since we bid farewell to Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame. Of course, in the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), no-one ever truly dies. And later this year, Romanoff is resurrected via the magic of non-sequential filmmaking in the standalone Black Widow movie.

The movie, directed by Cate Shortland, takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It sends Romanoff back to her old Soviet stomping grounds, previously alluded to in Avengers: Age of Ultron and others. There she discovers that nefarious villain Taskmaster is organising his own crew of brainwashed agents, whose training operates out of the mysterious 'Red Room', with which Natasha is familiar.

There's only one thing to do: track down her former family (in a figurative sense) and unite them to help take down Taskmaster. Little Women's Florence Pugh plays fellow Black Widow operative Yelena Belova, while The Favourite's Rachel Weisz portrays Melina Vostokoff, and Stranger Things' David Harbour portrays Alexei Shostakov aka the Red Guardian. 

The introduction of the new ensemble will, in Shortland's words, "hand the baton". In an interview with Empire, she explained what this means for the Black Widow legacy and the wider MCU timeline. In particular, it sounds like rising star Pugh is being trained to take a central role in the Marvel mythology.

"[Marvel President] Kevin Feige realised that the audience would expect an origin story so, of course, we went in the opposite direction,” Shortland tells Empire. “And we didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be. We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great. Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”

The prospect of the versatile and brilliant Pugh participating in more MCU blockbusters, or potentially leading her own property, is tremendously exciting. At the same time, Shortland says the Black Widow film is engineered to respond to a specific criticism of Avengers: Endgame.

“In Endgame, the fans were upset that Natasha did not have a funeral. Whereas Scarlett, when I spoke to her about it, said Natasha wouldn’t have wanted a funeral,” explains Shortland. “She’s too private, and anyway, people don’t really know who she is. So what we did in this film was allow the ending to be the grief the individuals felt, rather than a big public outpouring. I think that’s a fitting ending for her.”

It therefore sounds like the Black Widow movie will perform a double-whammy, as we officially bid farewell to the past while embracing a thrilling new future. Black Widow begins Phase Four of the MCU, which continues with Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, Phase Five of the MCU remains cloaked in mystery, bar the presence of Black Panther 2 and Captain Marvel 2.

Will Pugh's character Yelena be playing an active role in that era of the franchise timeline? While we speculate on that, we await the release of Black Widow on 28th October. Let us know your thoughts on the movie @Cineworld.