Marvel's Phase 4 opens in 2020 with a film that's a bit of a throwback. When Marvel announced Phase 3 in 2014, there were complaints that Black Widow got the short end of the stick by not getting a film of her own. The Marvel Cinematic Universe will now correct this with the first Phase 4 film in May of 2020, Black Widow. But this isn't just about Natasha Romanoff's version of the character. It turns out there are multiple Black Widows in Marvel's upcoming movie, suggesting that the title may pass to a new heroine in the post-Endgame world.
The first footage of Black Widow aired at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 as part of the Phase 4 rollout. Though that footage hasn't been released to the public, I was lucky enough to be in the room and see it. Most of the sequences focused on the fight choreography. The first featured an extended scene between Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff and Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova. Then, there was a second one between Romanoff and a masked female opponent, who was played by Rachel Weisz.
But what was striking in both sequences was how evenly matched the women were when fighting each other. Also, all three received the same training. Both scenes featured Romanoff finding her attacks countered by the other woman doing the same move in mirror image. According to Weisz, that's because all three women are playing Black Widow fighters.
As Weisz puts it:
There are quite a number [of them]. I’m a Black Widow and Scarlett and Florence [Pugh]. There are quite a lot of other characters that you meet who are also Black Widows. I call tell you that Melina has been cycled through the Black Widow Red Room program by the time the film starts. She started being cycled through when she was a child and so, she’s a highly accomplished spy and assassin. But I can’t tell you her relationship to anyone else.
The Avengers lineup has always used the "Black Widow" moniker to refer to Johansson's character. But from early on, flashbacks showed she wasn't the only one trained this way. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Romanoff flashes back to an entire roomful of bun-headed Black Widow hopefuls, all of whom were trained by the Russian government.
Before Black Widow was officially announced, the project seemed to sit oddly in the Phase 4 timeframe. Unlike the other films, it is not looking forward, but back, reportedly set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. There are also hints that fans will learn what happened between Romanoff and Hawkeye back in Budapest, long before the Battle of New York in 2012's The Avengers.
To begin a new chapter with a look back seems like a strange notion, a Phase 3 film out of sequence. But Romanoff's death in Avengers: Endgame has not been dealt with, either. Multiple Black Widows suggests this film is the franchise's way of laying the character to rest and passing the title to a new Avenger. Black Widow was the first introduction to the world beyond Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. Having her replacement step up as the beginning of Phase 4 would be the perfect way to begin again.