Marvel's highly-anticipated return to theaters serves as a final goodbye to one Black Widow — and a hello to another.
Black Widow, the long-awaited solo movie for Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, debuts this weekend in theaters and on Disney+ after numerous COVID-19 delays. It's a prequel that picks up after Natasha went on the run following 2016's Captain America: Civil War, and it can be seen as a bit of a mea culpa from Marvel after fans spent a decade calling for Natasha to get her own film.
But Natasha is still dead in the present after sacrificing herself in Avengers: Endgame. So in addition to closing the book on Johansson's character and giving her the movie fans wanted years ago, arguably Black Widow's main purpose is actually to establish Yelena Belova, the sister-figure of Natasha played by Florence Pugh. She's been widely praised as the film's standout character — a fact that's drawn some complaints that Natasha is overshadowed — and viewers can expect plenty more of her to come.
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"Obviously, I've got major shoes to fill," Pugh recently told Comicbook.com.
Pugh's Yelena is set to return in the Disney+ series Hawkeye later this year, and Black Widow teases her involvement in a broader plot Marvel's got cooking, which may mix storytelling both in theaters and on television in a way the franchise hasn't previously attempted. It's not clear what other projects Pugh will return for, but Black Widow's director says the film could potentially get a sequel "following a different character," presumably meaning Yelena would have the titular role. Johansson, for her part, has confirmed she has no plans to return as Natasha.
Ultimately, then, it may seem a bit strange for a Black Widow movie to arrive only after the character's already been killed off. But for Marvel, revisiting its last era is still all about building out the next one.
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