Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) kicks into gear this May with the release of Black Widow, directed by Cate Shortland and starring Scarlett Johansson. Her character, Natasha Romanoff, gets the standalone movie that fans have long been clamouring for, in a story that takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. And a stylish new poster has been revealed for the movie.
The final trailer has also been unleashed online, following the Black Widow International Women's Day message from Johansson and co-star Florence Pugh. Here's what we've learned from it.
1. Prepare for Russian accents aplenty
Although Johansson's title character still sports her American accent, the rest of the film's ensemble cast are gorging on Russian vowels as if they were borscht. This includes Little Women Oscar nominee Pugh as Yelena Belova and The Favourite's Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff, both members of the KGB's secretive Black Widow spy programme, to which Natasha herself belonged. And then there's Stranger Things' David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov aka the Russian Captain America – this even extends to the fact that he sports a shield.
These guys are essentially Nastaha's extended family, as indicated by the closing banter that reinforces the humorous dynamic. But what's the betting that at least one of these characters will turn traitor in the process of the movie? After all, you can't have a dose of gripping Soviet espionage without an element of betrayal, right?
2. Yelena is Natasha's sister
Or should that be 'sister', as in a figurative expression without any blood connection? Well, given that Pugh's character Yelena begins the trailer by saying, "I tell people that my sister moved out west", we imagine they are actually siblings. That makes this a personal mission for Natasha, as she reconnects with an especially important ally.
Not only is this set to unlock emotional undercurrents in Natasha's character, but the interplay with Yelena also looks amusing, as they have a lot of history to catch up on. In the manner of classic spy movies, east meets west, as Natasha reveals that her cover story is that she's married to a man who renovates houses.
Talking of Natasha's Westernised identity, we can't help but wonder if love interest Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) will turn up in the Black Widow movie. A recent behind the scenes Black Widow video showed Johansson illicitly capturing top-secret footage from the set, only to conceal the camera when someone appears off-screen whom she can't reveal. She says "like your haircut" and "spoiler alert: he's in the movie", so are we to assume it was Renner she was talking to?
3. Taskmaster's Red Room plan is teased
Back in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, we got a brief glimpse into Natasha's past, namely her Black Widow training in the mysterious 'Red Room'. Now, in 2020, we finally get to fill in the blanks (kind of), as villain Taskmaster (actor yet to be revealed) appears to be training a host of brainwashed female assassins in the room itself.
This is a classic MCU trope, extending back to the character arc of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in the Captain America trilogy. He began life as the friend of Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in World War II, before later being captured by the forces of Hydra after being presumed dead. He then emerged as a near-invincible weapon in the 21st century, before again turning to the side of good with Steve's help.
Of course, the Black Widow movie levels out the boys-own playing field by foregrounding its quotient of female characters, both good and bad. It appears that the Red Room training is a fate narrowly avoided by Natasha herself – instead, she became a part of the Avengers initiative alongside the likes of Captain America and Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).
"Before I was an Avenger, I made mistakes," says Natasha in the trailer. "And a lot of enemies." It makes Black Widow a narrative of reckoning and redemption, as she returns to Eastern Europe to confront her past.
4. General Thaddeus Ross makes an appearance
William Hurt's imposing General briefly appeared at Tony Stark's funeral at the end of Avengers: Endgame. But his last truly significant appearance in the MCU was in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, when he ordered the Avengers team to sign the Sokovia Accords. This compelled the superhero ensemble to take accountability for their destructive actions, following the devastation of the city of Sokovia at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
This was the act that ultimately broke the Avengers team apart, turning Captain America and Iron Man into enemies (at least, until Josh Brolin's Thanos came along in Avengers: Infinity War). Stark was an advocate of the accords and Rogers was against it, with the end result being that Rogers and his friend Bucky Barnes, whom Stark realised was involved (albeit brainwashed) in his parents' death, went into hiding in Wakanda.
Is Ross therefore in pursuit of Rogers and Barnes? If so, tracking down Natasha would be a good place to start – following Civil War's pivotal airport battle sequence, despite being part of Team Iron Man, she reluctantly let the two of them go. This likely means that she, also, will be held accountable for her actions.
5. Taskmaster absorbs the abilities of those around him
Fan favourite comic book villain Taskmaster parasitically absorbs the qualities of those he comes into contact with. And we witness this in the trailer, with the masked character unleashing the claws of Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), wielding a shield a la Captain America, shooting a bow and arrow in the manner of Hawkeye, and landing on his feet akin to Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
This is surely going to make Taskmaster a formidable nemesis for Natasha and her team. Given that Taskmaster appears to have stolen Hawkeye's abilities, this might add more fuel to the fire that we're getting a Jeremy Renner cameo in Black Widow.
On a side note, we're intrigued by the listing of one Ray Winstone on the poster – he's not playing Taskmaster, is he? Highly unlikely, as the role appears to call for someone nimble and athletic (no offence, Ray) – unless the Taskmaster we see in the trailer is a brainwashed pawn being controlled by someone even more diabolical. Perhaps that's where Winstone will come in?
It's what happened in Iron Man 3, with the so-called criminal mastermind The Mandarin actually being a British bloke called Trevor (Ben Kingsley), who was under the thumb of the villainous Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Or, you know, we could be completely wrong about that.
Black Widow lands in Cineworld cinemas on the 1st of May.