When Black Widow was delayed from May to November 2020, it created the longest gap between Marvel films since it was bought out by Disney in 2009. Fans have been filling the time with Avengers: Endgame rewatches, especially once the film arrived on Disney+. But seeing Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, die in Endgame again merely had fans asking more questions, starting with why her character's standalone film would come after the character's demise. It's also given life to a major fan theory that asks, is Florence Pugh the next Black Widow? Suffice to say, there's a lot to unpack.
Fans know, in practical terms, why a standalone Black Widow movie likely didn't come during Marvel's Phase II, when fans first clamored for it, or early Phase III, which, in Marvel's timeline, is when the film will be set. Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, has discussed his issues with former Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, who reportedly pushed back on diversifying the superheroes shows in the MCU. (Elite Daily reached out to Marvel for a comment on Feige's statement about Perlmutter, but has not heard back yet.) But even so, it is awkward that Phase IV would open with what is essentially a throwback to the middle of the now-finished Infinity Saga. So, the question is: How does this film move the larger story forward?
The most logical conclusion is Natasha's return to her first "found family" gives the series a chance to introduce a new Black Widow. The Black Widow title isn't singular to Romanoff (or Johansson, for that matter); the USSR's Black Widow program created dozens of assassins, including Melina Vostokoff and Yelena Belova, who are played by Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh. And it seems Pugh's Belova is being set up to take Romanoff's place in the Avengers lineup.
In a new interview, Black Widow's director, Cate Shortland, hints that will be the case. Speaking to Empire Magazine on July 6, Shortland said:
[Kevin Feige] realized that the audience would expect an origin story so, of course, we went in the opposite direction ... 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.
Moving to Yelena Belova for the new Black Widow role makes a lot of sense. She's the most well-known alternate version of the character, having appeared in the comics for decades. A version of Belova was even introduced as a 1950s-era Black Widow in Marvel's Agent Carter.
If Shortland's quote means what fans think it means, Pugh, who was just nominated for an Oscar for Little Women last year, is poised to become the newest member of Disney's biggest franchise to date. And the MCU's Phase IV just got a lot more interesting.
Black Widow is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on Nov 6, 2020.