With Black Widow firmly on the backburner, the MCU now begins to firmly take shape as it pertains to Phase 4 and beyond. While this isn’t a review of Black Widow (although be sure to check out TMR’s official review of the film!), I will say that the film firmly provides us with characters and ideas going forward. However, Black Widow missed a ton of opportunities to explain landmark Phase 0-3 events. When I say Phase 0, I mean events that took place before our heroes came together. If you want to use the Black Widow character as an example, some Phase 0 events with her would include Budapest and Hawkeye being sent to kill her. But with the past firmly behind us, let’s see what Black Widow gave us going forward.
BLACK WIDOW – Setting The Stage
It goes without saying that the biggest takeaway from Black Widow was the introduction of the White Widow, Yelena Belova. Yelena, played by newcomer Florence Pugh, was hands down one of the best aspects of this entire film. She provided the heart of the film and was easily the central focus despite Black Widow being about Natasha Romanoff. One has to imagine that this was by design, as it was meant to introduce the character taking the place of the Black Widow going forward. Let’s take a brief look at what Belova brings to the table.
We already know from the post-credit scene that Belova finds herself in the employ of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Well, actually, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. The last time we left off with “Val,” she was filling in U.S. Agent John Walker about his new role. It would seem she’s putting together an alternative team.
It’s not quite Thunderbolts status, but it is certainly a different breed of hero with less aversion to crossing the line if it means saving humanity. No one would ever accuse Walker of being a Captain America ripoff and it seems highly likely that we will see Belova be a much different Black Widow than Natasha. In fact, we already know that her first mission is to take down Hawkeye and we will see her in the upcoming Hawkeye show.
BLACK WIDOW – Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine
We don’t know much about Val or her motives, so it’s difficult to determine whether she’s the one playing the heroes or if she’s the one being played by someone like Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. It could be a healthy mix of both. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and one would suspect we’ll get a little bit more of this saga in the upcoming Hawkeye project. There’s a lot to play with here and it’s quite the setup going back to Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
While the comic version of Melina Vostokoff is a villain named Iron Maiden, the film version has a heart and finds her strength toward the end of the film. There’s a lot to play with should Rachel Weisz decide she wants to come back and that includes David Harbour’s Red Guardian. Alexei Shostakov was a source of much of the humor in the film and his relationship with Melina Vostokoff could lead to a very interesting version of the Winter Guard, especially with Dreykov gone and the film showing an early version of Ursa Major, who was in prison with Shostakov at the start of the film.
BLACK WIDOW – Thunderbolts & Taskmaster
Another major thread left dangling in Black Widow is the freeing of Taskmaster AKA Antonia Dreykov from her father’s control. Taskmaster now possesses all of her abilities and none of her weaknesses. She hates her father and will likely change her name. I can see them doing a line of dialogue like “I decided Masters fit since I could become a master of anything just by watching it
It’s super easy to work in and leaves the MCU with one of the coolest villains it’s going to have. Pair the newly freed Taskmaster with Ghost, Abomination, Baron Zemo, Mordo, or any of the Sinister Six we’ve seen so far in the Spider-Man franchise and you have a formidable team. You could call them the Masters of Evil or do a Thunderbolts film and franchise similar to how D.C. did with The Suicide Squad.
There are a good number of threads left hanging by Black Widow and that is the sign of a strong MCU film. It may not stand out on merit, but there are a number of things that are going to tie back to Black Widow and that will strengthen the merit argument down the road. This happens with some MCU films. It happens. It definitely provides a solid foundation for Phase 4 and beyond while answering some questions about her past.
Hopefully, Hawkeye builds upon this and gives us even more background on how Natasha and Clint met and why Clint decided not to fulfill the mission he was sent on, which was to terminate her. The more I watch Black Widow, the more I notice and the more that could have a significant impact on the future of the MCU. The movie has already exceeded my expectations on this front and that’s good enough.
The Winter Guard
Black Widow could also provide a foundation for the Winter Guard as a team. In the comics, the Winter Guard is a collection of Soviet superheroes who are comparable to the Avengers. They’ve worked against each other and with each other, just like you would expect from these two teams. Olivier Richters played Ursa Major in a quick scene with Alexi. He was the one who said Captain America was still frozen during the time the Red Guardian is talking about. Then Alexi slams his hand down, beats him in arm-wrestling, and injures Ursa’s hand in the process of getting up.
Ursa Major was a member of the Winter Guard, folks will remember him as a giant bear. This is easily done via CGI and it would be fun to see some old-school Avengers vs. Winter Guard coming out of the seriousness that was the Infinity Saga. It would be a light rivalry and allow the MCU time to build a ton of threads in the background. It’s old-school Soviet vs. USA rivalry that ends up leading to them having to work together to stop a common enemy like AIM or Hydra.
This is all just a wish list, but wouldn’t it be cool to have this going on in the background of all the craziness that Doctor Strange: The Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home will bring to the forefront? No matter how you do it, Black Widow will provide us with a solid foundation for the future of Phase 4 all while giving us answers about the past and potentially new threats for the future. You couldn’t ask much more of an MCU film that still manages to tell a solid story around these constraints or artistic decisions. It’s got a solid spot at the core of Phase 4 and it will be interesting to watch in retrospect as things begin to happen and unfold.