“Echo” Hawkeye Spinoff Coming To Disney+!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is probably the least interesting part of the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series…which I imagine really sucks for Renner’s hardcore fans, but is great for those of us who are only going to be watching Hawkeye for the amazing women involved: Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, and Alaqua Cox as the antiheroine Echo.

Echo
Echo | marvel.com

And despite being a complete newcomer to the acting scene, it’s Alaqua Cox’s Echo who’s apparently first in line for her very own Disney+ spinoff coming out of Hawkeye, a series that hasn’t even finished filming yet. Variety reports that, while the spinoff is still in the early stages of pre-production, Etan and Emily Cohen have come onboard to write the series scripts. This news, if true, would make Echo the first Marvel character introduced on Disney+ to get her own solo spinoff, further enriching this vast corner of the MCU, and hopefully proving once and for all that the Disney+ series’ aren’t just supposed to act as extended prologues and epilogues to other movies – they are their own thing, and should be viewed as such.

It’s been hard to convince some fans of that latter point, particularly when dealing with a universe where the occasionally eyeroll-inducing need for “interconnectedness” drove viewers away from Marvel’s previous TV collaborations with ABC (which hosted the long-running and criminally underrated Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Netflix (which only just recently relinquished the rights to Marvel’s Defenders content, including beloved heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones), after those TV series’ struck out on their own and forged new ground…in the process becoming less essential viewing for the MCU overall. That’s a pattern we saw repeated after WandaVision‘s finale, which proved to be controversial in part because fans felt cheated when the series didn’t halt in its tracks to introduce the Multiverse, or reveal villains like Mephisto and Nightmare, or reinstate Fox versions of the X-Men (though, to be fair, Evan Peters should have been playing Peter Maximoff), despite laying the groundwork for at least two other Marvel films and another Disney+ series.

Echo
Hawkeye | businessinsider.com

The news that Echo specifically is getting a spinoff is exciting for several reasons. The character – whose codename comes from her ability to expertly replicate or “echo” any opponent’s fighting style and techniques – is a deaf Native American antiheroine named Maya Lopez, who rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld to become a widely-feared and respected warrior. While operating in Japan and fighting a faction of HYDRA, she adopted the alias of “Ronin”, the same name we saw Hawkeye himself randomly pick up in Avengers: Endgame, during his five years as a vigilante/serial killer. The Hawkeye series will hopefully explain away all the mysteries surrounding the Ronin identity, including whom it belonged to first in the MCU canon, but Echo’s story doesn’t have to end there.

In the comics, Maya Lopez goes on to help and hinder the Avengers at various points, even playing a critical role in the Secret Invasion storyline which will be adapted for Disney+ in the near future. She’s had complex relationships with many of Marvel’s grittier street-level characters, including Daredevil, Moon Knight, and the Kingpin – who mentored her throughout her childhood, after first murdering her father. Maya later turned on Kingpin and left him temporarily blinded, but he’s honestly the least of the villains she’s battled while wielding her signature nunchuks, from Madame Hydra to the Skrull Queen Veranke – the former of whom at least deserves to be brought back into the MCU, with Mallory Jansen reprising the role she so brilliantly originated on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. In one storyline, Echo even hosted the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force within her during an underwater battle with Namor.

Echo
Phoenix Force Echo | comicbook.com

Echo’s role in Hawkeye is still unknown, though I remain confident in my theory that she’ll be revealed to be one of the last remaining Red Room cadets trained by Taskmaster, positioning her at an intersection between the storylines of Hawkeye and Black Widow and making her the literal “echo” of one of Widow’s greatest failures, still reverberating through current MCU history. Having her own spinoff series, though, vastly expands the number of stories that could be told with the character – from undercover work as a ninja in Japan, to fighting alongside Daredevil on the streets of New York City, all while helping to increase onscreen visibility for the Indigenous and disabled communities.

But what do you think? Are you excited to see Alaqua Cox as Echo? Do you have any theories about her spinoff? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Abomination To Return In “She-Hulk” Series!

Even apart from official confirmation that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany will indeed be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in the upcoming Disney+ She-Hulk series – despite her insistent, and very convincing, claims to the contrary over the past few months –  there were several other reveals about the series that have me even more excited to see Maslany transform into the lovable, seven-foot tall, bright green bodybuilder: and prove once and for all that she is not simply a gender-swapped version of the Hulk, as some like to claim, but a unique and fascinating character in her own right, with an abundance of new stories to tell.

She-Hulk
She-Hulk | comicbookinvest.com

For one thing, the series will not gloss over Walters’ day job as a lawyer and activist for both societal reform on a widespread level, and individual superheroes. Marvel president Kevin Feige strongly implied that a couple of familiar MCU characters – both heroes and villains – might wind up in court before Walters, and that she might be placed in increasingly more tricky (and potentially dangerous) predicaments depending on who she’s either representing or trying to place behind bars. Heroes who might show up include Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, most of whom are already fugitives from the law. But they likely won’t end up in prison, or if they do, it won’t be for long. Villains, on the other hand…that’s where this gets interesting.

The MCU has long had a habit of discarding potentially interesting villains after a single film appearance, without ever actually killing them off – which was just lazy storytelling during Phases 1 through 3, but turns out to be a blessing-in-disguise heading into Phase 4: because now, with the Infinity Saga finally completed, we have time to go back and address all the unresolved storylines of these various antagonists. And there’s long been speculation that, as in the comics, a multitude of these long-forgotten villains will assemble their own version of the Avengers called the Thunderbolts, under the leadership of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, an anti-superhero watchdog (who, ironically, is secretly able to transform into the Red Hulk). With no specific Thunderbolts series or movie announced during the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, I believe She-Hulk will act as the Phase 4 set-up to an eventual Thunderbolts series or movie during Phase 5.

Think about it for a moment. Currently, the MCU has dozens of villains whose fates are still unknown, and a few who have yet to show up but probably won’t be killed in the near future: and all of these villains have committed more than enough heinous crimes to deserve high-profile court trials. Let’s go over a few. Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s wannabe copycat in Iron Man 2, quietly dropped off the grid after unleashing a small army of heavily-armed robots on New York City; Ghost, the quantum-phasing antagonist of Ant-Man And The Wasp, never received the healing particles she was supposed to get from Scott Lang, and has likely regressed back into self-loathing and hyper-aggression; Yelena Belova, who is set to appear in both Hawkeye and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, probably won’t stop being a violent super-assassin anytime soon; Baron Zemo, the big bad of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, is far too ingenious to stay locked up for long (he’s already escaped one high-security prison); and Madame Masque, whom Vera Farmiga will likely play in the Hawkeye series, is just a really cool character. There are a bunch of others who could fill out the team roster, but the one that we need to focus on is Abomination.

She-Hulk
Abomination | cinemablend.com

First introduced in The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Emil Blonsky (better known as the horribly mutated, grotesque titan Abomination) has only been referenced in-universe once or twice since his debut: back in 2013, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that he was being held in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, in a cryo-cell in Alaska. Since then, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA and been almost entirely disassembled from the inside, but there’s been no mention of Abomination since. Until now. She-Hulk will officially feature the return of the old villain, with Tim Roth reprising the role after over a decade – and hopefully getting a new and improved, comics-accurate, design. The fact that Roth’s involvement has already been announced suggests that Abomination plays a key role in She-Hulk…and what do you know, he also has connections to Thaddeus Ross, and thus to the Thunderbolts team.

So what’s my theory? I believe, based on everything we know so far, that Jennifer Walters’ work as a prosecutor will place her directly in Thaddeus Ross’ line of fire, as he tries to secretly unite various villains and keep them out of prison, even while Walters fights to incarcerate them. In the MCU, it may be agents working for Ross who give Walters the gunshot wounds that almost kill her, leading to Bruce Banner having to save her life with an emergency blood transfusion – which in turn leads to her becoming the She-Hulk, and gaining the extra brawn she’ll need to take the fight straight to Ross. And when she comes face to face with him (probably in the season finale, after figuring out how deeply the corruption goes), that’s when Ross will reveal his own alter ego, the Red Hulk, and engage her in an epic duel. Sounds pretty good to me.

She-Hulk
Red She-Hulk | wallpapersafari.com

As an additional bonus, Tim Roth’s MCU return means we could see other characters from The Incredible Hulk pop up in She-Hulk: including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross (herself a Hulk variant in the comics, the fearsome antiheroine Red She-Hulk). Tyler’s return is something that’s been rumored, and that fans have especially been hoping to see – and of course, I’m always up for a Lord Of The Rings star coming into the MCU, even though, in Tyler’s case, she’s been there for a while; just not getting the recognition and screentime she deserves.

So what do you think? What are you looking forward to from She-Hulk, and how do you want Tim Roth’s Abomination to feature in the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Hawkeye” Casts Florence Pugh, Vera Farmiga, Several More!

With the Marvel Hawkeye Disney+ series having just started filming in New York City, official casting announcements were inevitable. The Hollywood trades proved to be a bit slow when it came to confirming that Hailee Steinfeld was, in fact, the series’ co-star (something that was reported by The Illuminerdi several months ago, and proven yesterday in behind-the-scenes footage from the Hawkeye set), and they weren’t even the first to break the news that Black Widow actress Florence Pugh will be reprising her role as Yelena Belova (can we say reprising if she hasn’t even had the chance to appear in Black Widow yet?) in Hawkeye, but they – specifically Variety – have now announced some exclusives of their own: including casting for Kate Bishop’s mother, the villains Swordsman and Clown, the antiheroine Echo, and her father.

Hawkeye
Yelena Belova (right) | indiewire.com

The biggest news is, of course, the Florence Pugh casting. Pugh, hot off an Oscar nomination and a string of other successes, will eventually debut in Marvel’s Black Widow as Yelena Belova, a suspicious assassin who reconnects with Natasha Romanoff, her “sister” and former Red Room classmate, in order to take down the shadowy Russian government organization that created her. Belova’s fate after Black Widow is still unknown, with many wondering if she’ll betray Romanoff at some point during the movie and have to go into hiding, reappearing after the Widow’s death in Avengers: Endgame; or perhaps she’ll become the founding member of the Thunderbolts team, a group of semi-reformed villains working undercover for a variety of different reasons…but whatever the case, we can be pretty assured she survives Black Widow, something that was previously in question. With COVID-19 continuing to delay the release of the Widow’s solo movie, more and more unintentional spoilers for the film are inevitable.

As for what Belova will be doing in the Hawkeye series, that’s a bit more mysterious – although it’s been rumored she’ll don the Ronin mantle that Hawkeye himself briefly wore during the events of Avengers: Endgame, while he was going on a murder spree throughout Asia. If Belova is coming back out of the shadows after Endgame, it would make sense for her to wear a disguise at first: though whatever crimes she commits while wearing said disguise would inevitably have consequences for the person who wore it before her. We’ve all been wondering how Hawkeye gets re-involved with the superhero business after retiring and settling down with his family – an ongoing fight between him and Belova to finally rid himself of the guilt and shame of the Ronin disguise and the damage it’s done to him…that would be just the thing, in my opinion, and it would be a great thematic throughline for the series.

But there could be another catch. The character of Echo, who will be played by newcomer Alaqua Cox (and when I say newcomer, I mean “does-not-even-have-an-IMDb-profile-yet” newcomer), is one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, with her own claim to the title of Ronin, and a possible connection to the Red Room – or at least people associated with the Red Room. Echo, a deaf Native-American woman born with the name Maya Lopez, takes the Ronin moniker in the comics while working undercover in Japan. She quickly becomes a prestigious crime-lord, but her moral code is complicated, and she sometimes offers her help to the Avengers as well. But one potentially crucial detail about her is that her superpowers are identical to those of the villain Taskmaster: the main antagonist of Black Widow. Both characters possess photographic reflexes, which allow them to flawlessly mimic the movements and fighting style of any opponent. From the Black Widow trailers, it’s become clear that photographic reflexes are also taught to all the Red Room cadets, including Natasha Romanoff herself, and Yelena Belova. In the MCU, it would make sense for Echo to be one of the last batch of Black Widows raised in the Red Room, or an apprentice of either Taskmaster or Belova, gone rogue after the events of Black Widow (which presumably ends with Natasha destroying the Red Room completely). Not only would it streamline the series, but it’s a choice that would make Echo even more significant: as the living legacy (or, one could say, an “echo”) of both Hawkeye and Natasha’s worst mistakes, but with her own unique identity and agenda. It also allows for Natasha to still be a part of the story after her death.

Hawkeye
Echo | fullcirclecinema.com

Echo’s father has also been cast, with Zahn McClarnon (most notable for roles in Westworld, Fargo, and Doctor Sleep) taking on the role. His character – named Willie “Crazy Horse” Lincoln in the comics, William Lopez in the show – is most notable for being murdered by agents of his former employer, Kingpin, and leaving the marking of a bloody handprint on his daughter’s face before he died: a marking she would adopt as her symbol. Hopefully he has more to do in the show, but no other details have been given on his role.

Two other villains are now confirmed, although there have long been rumors that they would show up. Fra Fee will portray Clown, a serial killer from the pages of the Hawkeye comics who comes from a circus and doesn’t really have any overarching agenda besides senselessly murdering people. I suspect that his tragic circus backstory will be retconned to tie in with Hawkeye’s own tragic circus backstory (it would be pretty bizarre to have two in one show, otherwise), but I don’t expect him to stick around long, or pose much of a threat. He’s minor antagonist material at best.

Swordsman, on the other hand, might have more to do. Set to be played by Better Call Saul‘s Tony Dalton, the character is getting a small name change – from Jacques Duquesne to Jack Duquesne – but his backstory should remain much the same. In the comics, Duquesne mentors the young Clint Barton at the circus where Barton grows up: before one day betraying him while attempting to flee with stolen money, and almost killing him in the process. Barton becomes Hawkeye and the two don’t really interact much beyond that. In the MCU, it’s possible that Barton will purposefully seek out the Swordsman for his help, or the two will be enemies. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see this part of Hawkeye’s history, which has heretofore never been referenced in the movies.

Hawkeye
Kate Bishop | gameinformer.com

And finally, we have Vera Farmiga – who will be playing Eleanor Bishop, the mother of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Farmiga, the Oscar-nominated star of the Conjuring horror franchise, is a high-profile actress for such a small role…except that Eleanor Bishop isn’t your average movie-mom character, and she may be one of the series’ major antagonists. In the comics, Mrs. Bishop fakes her own death shortly after the birth of her daughter, and then proceeds to live a life of crime, as the mastermind behind the villainous Madame Masque (who, as you might remember, is rumored to appear in Hawkeye). The comics distinguish Bishop and Masque as two separate characters – but I think the Hawkeye series will make them one and the same for increased dramatic effect when the masque finally comes off. Eleanor Bishop might not have a very strong connection to Clint Barton, but it’s worth pointing out that Kate Bishop is supposed to be the co-lead of this show – and as such, she should have her own circle of supporting characters and villains.

So what do you think of the casting, and of my speculation? Which character are you most excited to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Five Ways Black Widow Could Come Back To The MCU!

Last night, I had the chance to watch Avengers: Endgame again for the first time in a while. As on previous rewatches of the film, I found myself appreciating most of the first act of the movie (where, SPOILER ALERT I GUESS?, the Avengers kill Thanos), and most of the third act (where the Avengers kill Thanos a second time). I even liked a lot of stuff in my least-favorite part of the movie, that troublesome second act that has the team split up across different timelines and try to steal Infinity Stones from history.

Black Widow
cinemablend.com

But I still cringed at the absolute worst part of Avengers: Endgame – the scene in which Natasha Romanoff, the legendary Black Widow, sacrifices both her life and years of character development in exchange for the mysterious Soul Stone, willingly leaping from that accursed cliff on the godforsaken planet of Vormir to her very certain death. Cue the outrage. Natasha Romanoff, Marvel’s first (and for a long time, only) woman Avenger, was sacrificed in much the same way as another woman a year earlier: Gamora, who was tossed from the cliff by her own father. As womens’ bodies continue to pile up at the foot of that stupid cliff, fans (and especially, female fans) asked Marvel one simple favor: could you please stop fridging women?

Natasha Romanoff’s death is doubly infuriating because it came just before her long-awaited solo movie, Black Widow, which is supposed to explore an adventure in her past, before the events of Avengers: Endgame. But many are still clinging to a desperate hope that the Widow is still somewhere out there, either alive on earth or fighting to get back home. So let’s take a look at a couple ways Natasha could come back to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5: It Wasn’t Really Her.

Yelena Belova
hitc.com

This theory is a bit preposterous, but still worth noting: the idea is that Natasha Romanoff’s “sister”, Yelena Belova, who will make her debut in the Black Widow film, actually traded identities with Natasha before Avengers: Infinity War, or at some other point before Avengers: Endgame. There’s a little bit of evidence that supports this: Natasha wearing Yelena Belova’s jacket in Infinity War; a shot from a recent Black Widow trailer that shows Yelena Belova on a surgical table with a strange scar around her forehead, as if her face had been removed or changed. This option is undoubtedly the least appealing, not only because it would mean that the rest of Natasha’s awesome character beats in Endgame weren’t her own, but because this only changes the identity of the woman victim. As Infinity War Captain America would say: “We don’t trade lives.” Nonetheless, expect the super-spy sisters to swap identities frequently in the Black Widow film.

4: Multiverse Shenanigans.

Gamora
reddit.com

As I mentioned previously, Gamora was the first person to lose her life on Vormir – but she has since returned, thanks to the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. Coincidentally, it was when Black Widow, Nebula, Hawkeye and War Machine traveled back to 2014 to retrieve the Power and Soul Stones that a 2014 version of Gamora was able to slip through into the present Marvel timeline, along with the 2014 Nebula and Thanos. If the Avengers wanted to bring Natasha back, they could simply find a version of her from another timeline – but that poses a whole bunch of other problems.

3: Bruce Resurrected Her.

Hulk
looper.com

One of the plot-lines left over from Avengers: Age Of Ultron that went nowhere was the love story between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk. The two characters both regarded themselves as “monsters” (let’s not even get into the reasons why), and bonded over that. But after Bruce went missing for two years and the Avengers films switched directors, that story was mostly left unfinished. Except for the fact that, when Bruce Banner finally got his hands on a fully-operational Infinity Gauntlet at the end of Endgame and snapped his fingers to bring back the people that Thanos had dusted, he also tried to bring back Natasha. This is only mentioned in a throwaway line in the film’s final few minutes, but it’s still intriguing – could Bruce have been successful? How would he know? Natasha would presumably be resurrected on Vormir where she died, meaning she’d have to find her own way home.

2: Captain America Came To Bargain.

Captain America
screengeek.net

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Captain America takes it upon himself to go back in time and return all the Infinity Stones the Avengers had taken from time. The Space Stone went back to New Jersey, the Time Stone back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Reality Stone…I don’t even want to know how he somehow injected it back into Jane Foster without her knowing. But the Soul Stone is the most interesting one: to bring it back, Captain America would have to return to Vormir, to the exact moment of Natasha’s death, and hand it over to…Red Skull, I guess. But does returning the Stone mean that Natasha’s life is also returned? If Natasha is to be brought back to life, this is by far the most likely explanation as to why.

1: Natasha, Daughter Of Ivan.

Druig
en.wikipedia.org

And then we come to my theory. I’ve always believed that there’s a reason the Black Widow solo film is supposed to kick off the epic, cosmic events of Marvel’s Phase 4. But what business does the decidedly human heroine have in this universe of gods, aliens and mythical lore? Well, my theory is rooted in comic lore and a very intriguing name that gets dropped minutes before Natasha’s death. Red Skull calls her “daughter of Ivan”, and Natasha comments that he must be telling the truth, because she didn’t even know her father’s name. But who is Ivan? While there are any number of Ivan so-and-so’s associated with Natasha in the comics, there’s also another character who goes by that name, who has a connection to the events about to unfold in the MCU: Ivan Druig is the alias that Druig, an Eternal (who will be played by Barry Keoghan in The Eternals), takes when he impersonates a sadistic Russian KGB officer and the leader of a small Soviet state named Vorozheika. If “Ivan” is Ivan Druig, and Natasha is Ivan’s daughter, that makes her a demigod – similar to how Peter Quill was revealed to be the son of a living planet. Druig might have an interest in resurrecting his daughter, maybe even giving her new powers in the process. If this were the case, Natasha could hold her own in the next phase of the MCU, while her film would have a major tie-in to The Eternals that would help to get audiences excited for that film.

What do you think of these theories? Do you even want to see Natasha brought back, or were you happy with her sacrifice? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Black Widow” Final Trailer Review!

The final Black Widow movie trailer goes in a different direction than its two predecessors, focusing on the personal relationships between our protagonists, and the grim drama about to unfold as our team of antiheroes and misfits face off against the powers that be within the Russian government. There’s still plenty of cool, exciting action to be seen (Taskmaster especially keeps getting power upgrades in every new trailer), but director Cate Shortland was chosen for her work with intense, intimate dramas – and that’s exactly what she’s going to deliver.

Natasha Romanoff, our Black Widow, struggles with guilt from never having returned to Russia to help her family (they use familial terms to address each other, but it’s still unclear whether that means anything, considering Natasha supposedly never knew her biological family) escape from the clutches of the KGB Red Room training program that turned them all, including Natasha herself, into highly-skilled assassins. Natasha’s “sister” Yelena Belova and “mother” Melina Vostokoff were some of the lucky ones who weren’t entirely brainwashed to the point of becoming “Manipulated: fully conscious but no choices”, as Yelena describes the other Black Widows in the program.

But the other Black Widows, with their elegant, perfectly synchronized fighting techniques, aren’t even the most dangerous threat to Natasha and her team: Taskmaster, the head of the Red Room and a warrior armed with photographic reflexes that allow him to perfectly emulate any opponent’s techniques (in this trailer, we see him memorizing moves from Natasha’s iconic hallway fight scene in Iron Man 2 and using Black Panther’s signature Wakandan fighting style, which includes mock panther claws), he’s their biggest threat. Obviously, it’s hard to piece together where everything we see in the trailer happens in the context of the film, but it looks to me like he goes after each of Natasha’s team individually in the third act battle – and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who survives his killing spree.

Unfortunately for Natasha’s family, this is the type of film where characters are expendable, no matter how lovable and sweet: which means it’s possible that any or all of the trio (excluding Natasha, since this film is a prequel and we know she lives) will be snuffed out in a blaze of glory during their attack on the Red Room. Personally, I’m guessing it will be Red Guardian, Natasha’s gruff, bear-like father figure – and I suspect that Yelena could die a fake-out death, only to be revealed as alive in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. It would be sad to see any of them go, as they all look like fun characters, and their playful banter with Natasha about good posture is instantly endearing.

Black Widow
syfy.com

As for Natasha herself, we may finally get a deep-dive into her troubled psyche. In this trailer, we see her fighting to retain her own identity while trying to live on the run and undercover, shedding one fake name only to adopt another, taking Melina’s advice never to “look into the past”. But here she is, faced with the conflict that will determine who she is and what she stands for: although this movie takes place in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, after we had already seen Natasha in several movies, this is the moment that will turn her into the hero who gave her all to help defeat Thanos. This is the moment she stops being one of the Red Room’s countless faceless Widows, and becomes the one and only Black Widow. “At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be, and who you are,” Natasha declares at one point in the trailer: this movie is about her, making that fateful choice.

Are you excited to see the transformation of the Black Widow? What’s your favorite part in the trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8.7/10

“Black Widow” Super Bowl TV Spot Review!

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is only a few months out, and with a new line-up of character posts, special Twitter emojis and recently revealed tie-in merchandise, the film’s marketing campaign is heating up. Tonight, we’ve got a new Super Bowl TV spot that gives us tiny glimpses of new material: nothing too substantial, but just enough to keep us talking.

The brief teaser, which highlights each of the characters who make up Natasha Romanoff’s team of Russian special agents, features a voice-over from Romanoff, the Black Widow herself, who tells us that the Avengers weren’t her first family – before she was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s super spy and legendary assassin, she was a member of the Red Room program, which trained her (along with her “sisters”, Yelena Belova and Melina Vostokoff) to be the world’s most lethal killers. Now, in the Black Widow movie, she’s taking on the Red Room with the help of her comrades, and facing off against an impressive roster of villains.

We still haven’t seen the face behind Taskmaster’s skull-shaped mask, but we’ve now got more proof that he is indeed displaying his comics-accurate abilities, such as the photographic reflexes that allow him to copy any opponent’s fighting moves – in this new trailer, he flips his shield in a manner reminiscent of Captain America’s classic move, implying that at some point he fought the First Avenger.

The trailers for this film have been careful to avoid showing any spoilers, and this one is no different. We still have no clue what will happen to Natasha’s family on their mission deep into Siberia: a theory created soon after the first trailer’s release suggested that Natasha could be seen holding Yelena Belova’s jacket in a scene after a helicopter crash, leading the internet to believe that Belova might have died in the crash. That theory is disproved by this new TV spot, which shows the whole family safely reunited at the crash-site and gathering in a circle to hold hands – with Natasha being the only member of the team to stand to the side.

What do you think of the TV spot, and do you think any of Natasha’s family are doomed to die in the hotly-anticipated Marvel thriller? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 6.5/10

“Black Widow” Special Look Review!

In what could technically be considered the second trailer for Marvel’s Black Widow but is instead being called the first “special look”, ex-KGB assassin Natasha Romanoff is forced to reunite a lethal team of trained killers to take on a new wave of Black Widows, and all the might of the villainous, government-operated Red Room program that created both them, and her.

This special look gives us a hint of what has spurred the events of the Black Widow movie, which take place after Romanoff went on the run following Captain America: Civil War but before Thanos’ invasion in Avengers: Infinity War. All the way back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha made a brave decision to leak all of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency’s deepest, darkest secrets (including her own) onto the internet in an attempt to expose the far-reaching corruption of organizations like HYDRA. In this teaser, Natasha seems to reference that, saying “I was trying to do something good” when asked why she’s suddenly being stalked and hunted by Russian operatives.

But Natasha learned a lot from her mentor Nick Fury, and one of his lessons must have been how to assemble a great team – because she’s got the help of some of the deadliest Russians ever to bear arms in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at her side in her fight: Yelena Belova, her “sister”, whom we still don’t see wearing her iconic spider-eye mask, much to my dismay; Red Guardian, (played by David Harbour, currently the only member of the main cast without an Oscar nomination in real life), who appears to be something of a father figure to Natasha; and the mysterious Melina, a white-suited martial artist who has a certain maternal charm in one scene, and then cold-blooded killer instincts in another.

"Black Widow" Special Look Review! 1
imdb.com

These four are up against the Taskmaster, who has a much better showing in this teaser than he (or she?) did in the movie’s first trailer, which earned him/her a bunch of criticism for looking like a Power Ranger in the light of day. Interestingly, all of his/her scenes here are at night – and they look fantastic. In the first trailer it was hard to tell whether the character (who in the comics is legendary for his “photographic reflexes”, which allow him to mirror any opponent’s fighting moves) was displaying his/her unique power-set, but here there can be no question, as we see the masked mercenary perfectly replicate not only Natasha’s moves as they fight on a Budapest bridge, but also those of Natasha’s dear friend Steve Rogers, even employing the Captain’s very same shield-tricks. In the comics, Taskmaster is typically a man named Tony Masters – but it looks like Marvel could be shaking things up, because a couple other characters in this same movie have already been shown to have skills like “photographic reflexes”: Yelena Belova copies Natasha’s moves as they fight in her shabby apartment, and Melina emulates the fighter’s classic superhero pose at one point – and the “new wave of Widows” all seem to move in perfect harmony. Considering that all these characters originated in Russia’s Red Room, another possibility is that Taskmaster is the head of the program, or even the very first Black Widow (who in some comics is also Natasha’s identical clone, if I remember correctly).

So what do you think of the trailer? Do you think it’s a good idea for Natasha to work with a team, or will they stab her in the back (figuratively or literally)? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7.8/10

“Black Widow” Teaser Trailer Review!

A decade in the making, the Black Widow solo movie is finally on the horizon, with a teaser trailer that has my heart racing and tears flowing. It’s emotional, it’s powerful, and it’s long overdue. The character of Natasha Romanoff had to endure setback after setback before getting to this point – and even now that she’s here, it’s a bittersweet victory for the character, who died in Avengers: Endgame. This movie is set to be a prequel, exploring her origins, and how she became the most fearsome assassin, spy and heroine the Marvel Cinematic Universe had ever known.

And the trailer gives us a tantalizingly brief glimpse into that story: we are quickly re-introduced to our protagonist, Natasha Romanoff, at a dark time in her life – sometime just after Captain America: Civil War, according to rumors. On the run from the government, she assembles a ragtag team of her Russian friends and former adversaries to help her infiltrate the notorious Red Room that created her and an army of other fiercely skilled (and perfectly choreographed) Black Widows.

Along the way, she will cross paths with the deadly Taskmaster, a master tactician and warrior armed with photographic reflexes which allow him to mirror the fighting techniques of any opponent. While his outfit leaves much to be desired (he’s being unfavorably compared to a Power Ranger online), it’s to be hoped that his superpower will make him a worthy adversary of the Widow’s. There’s also a fair amount of suspicion that Taskmaster won’t end up dying, but will instead return further down the line as a member of the Thunderbolts, a team of reformed villains from the Marvel comics – whose lineup also includes another Black Widow star, the antiheroine Yelena Belova. Belova, who I talked about many months ago, has finally made her onscreen debut in this trailer – and Florence Pugh is clearly having the time of her life playing the dangerously aggressive younger “sister” of Natasha Romanoff, armed with vicious sarcasm and a heavy Russian accent.

The trailer also reveals Rachel Weisz as the character Melina, and David Harbour as the Red Guardian, a genetically-enhanced superhuman created by the Soviet Union as an answer to Captain America at the height of the Cold War. Both characters seem to have come out of hiding or retirement to join Natasha’s desperate endeavor, though it appears that Melina still has some connections to the Red Room, as she is seen conversing with an unnamed character, possibly played by Ray Winstone, who appears to be the head of the covert operation.

Natasha herself is off the charts in this trailer: she’s always had to rely heavily on her wits in the Marvel Universe, since most of the Avengers’ enemies tend to be gods, cyborg superhumans or alien warlords who probably aren’t going to be too fazed by bullets and martial arts, but here, in her own territory, on her own terms, she has no reason to hold back. And that is the coolest part of this whole trailer – for the first time, Natasha Romanoff is on her own, without anyone telling her what to do or where to go. And assuming all goes well, Natasha will finally be able to prove, once and for all, that she always was a heroine – she never needed the “redemption” that the Endgame writing team had to offer her.

The next era of Marvel history is about to dawn, and it’s Natasha who will guide us into that new day.

Trailer Rating: 9.5/10

The “Broken Women” Of “Black Widow”.

Last night, I began my coverage of Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con panel with a brief post about what had been revealed at the Black Widow presentation; there seemed to be very little at first – it was a prequel, Florence Pugh would play Yelena Belova, and the film’s villain would be Taskmaster. And that seemed to be it. Boy, was I wrong.

Since then, there’s been a bunch of interviews with the cast of Black Widow (who are about to head back to London for more filming): a lot has been revealed, and we’re going to have to go over it all. Forget basically everything in my initial post. There’s a lot to talk about now.

The big thing about the film, apparently, is that it’s a drama: what with Black Widow herself being something of a small-scale superhero, it makes sense to focus on finding creative ways to make this film stand out, since, honestly, in a universe where Captain Marvel can punch spaceships out of the sky with her bare hands and Thor can harness the power of a dead star, Black Widow’s skills with a baton just aren’t gonna cut it. Scarlett Johansson has revealed that this film is much more intellectual than other Marvel movies: she gets to “talk more” than ever before, and says that there’s a lot of dialogue. It’s an introspective movie that will explore Black Widow’s mental and emotional state during a very interesting period of her life, when she was a fugitive in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It looks like, during this time, Black Widow is on her own and trying to figure out her purpose in life when her past suddenly catches up with her and takes her on a wild ride back to places she remembers from her youth – the Red Room and Budapest, for example. The Black Widow we see here is someone who’s a little out of her element, and more than a little scared of what’s happening all around her: but we know from Avengers: Endgame that Widow will eventually pull herself back together and find her moral compass once again, only to have to sacrifice everything she’s won to save the world. Prediction: this film will prove, once and for all, that Black Widow is the most tragic character in the entire MCU.

What she finds on her journey will surprise her: first up, we have Florence Pugh’s character, Yelena Belova. We have a few new details on this elusive Russian assassin – she’s got a complicated history with Black Widow. The footage shown to the crowds at Comic-Con depicted Belova first attempting to murder Widow by strangling her with a curtain before sitting down with her to share a drink. Pugh says that Belova is very strong, but is dealing with her own issues – I think we’ll see Belova struggling between sticking with the Red Room that she’s known for her entire life, or leaving to follow Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, into the great unknown. It’s becoming more and more likely that Belova chooses to take on the mantle of “Black Widow”, when she learns of Romanoff’s self-sacrifice. Can you imagine how shocked the remaining Avengers will be when Belova arrives and introduces herself as Black Widow?

Now, we have a tidbit of information that has me flabbergasted: there’s no Taskmaster in this movie, apparently. Turns out, the footage shown at Comic-Con did not show the hooded villain as was previously reported – no, the character seen in that footage (footage which has not been released online) was a woman, Melina, who becomes the Iron Maiden character from the comics – the footage apparently showed Melina and Black Widow fighting in the wreckage of a fiery car crash. This character will be portrayed by Rachel Weisz, who says of Melina that she is an embittered woman who has been cycled and recycled through the Red Room program five times already, but had never been able to match the skill and prowess of her antagonist, Black Widow. She also mentioned that Melina is part of some scientific project which she couldn’t describe in any detail.

It looks like these three women will be at the center of the film: just as Captain Marvel explored the power of female friendships, Black Widow will probe deep into even more complex relationships of hatred, fear and resentment, as all three are trying to survive in a dangerous world.

But the two confirmed male characters both have interesting storylines as well – David Harbour confirmed that he is playing Alexei, the Red Guardian, a superhuman character born from Cold War conflicts; basically, the Soviet Union’s answer to Captain America. Considering that the Soviet Union disbanded quite some time ago, it would be interesting if Red Guardian was a relic of bygone days, someone who isn’t quite sure what he’s meant to do in a post-Cold War world: rather like Black Widow herself. Harbour promised that his character is very complex, which sounds awesome.

O.T. Fagbenle, meanwhile, is apparently not playing the villain, as previously speculated: instead, he’s a self-described “fixer” named Mason, who helps Natasha because of his romantic feelings for her. He’s a shady guy, who operates an extensive underworld of secret contacts and is always ready to help out his highest-paying customers by giving them emergency backup. He sounds like an interesting fellow, but we don’t know very much else about him yet.

So, now that we’ve gotten all this additional information; what do you think? Are you excited for Black Widow? Do you like the thought of it being a drama? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Black Widow” Is A Prequel!

Marvel Studios has officially begun its conquest of the next few years of cinema and culture, with an absolutely outstanding array of new films and TV shows being revealed at San Diego Comic-Con – the entire world responded accordingly, pushing Avengers: Endgame past its box-office competitor Avatar to make it the highest-grossing film of all time, while also managing to dominate social media, with all of Twitter’s top ten trends being Marvel-related, from Kate Bishop to Thor: Love And Thunder. Marvel has also given me quite the headache, giving me endless topics to discuss for the next few days, or possibly weeks – and discuss we shall, starting with the first film to be released next year (but the last film to be announced by Marvel president Kevin Feige at tonight’s showstopper presentation).

Black Widow, officially confirmed for a May 1st, 2020 release date, with David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh and O.T. Fagbenle set to star alongside Scarlett Johansson’s KGB assassin in what will be a semi-prequel movie set in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, during a time in which Black Widow was a fugitive from her own government: it was not revealed whether or not Captain America, Falcon or Winter Soldier would be in the film. It appears that large parts of the movie will be set in the fabled city of Budapest, though it is still unclear whether the events depicted there are flashbacks to the battle of Budapest referenced by Black Widow and Hawkeye in The Avengers – and Jeremy Renner was not among the cast members revealed for the film, so there’s a possibility Hawkeye isn’t even in it. Footage from the upcoming film was shown to a cheering crowd (who all received Black Widow hats afterward): the brief sizzle-reel showed Black Widow fighting Florence Pugh’s character, confirmed to be Widow’s antihero nemesis and “sister-figure”, Yelena Belova – called it! – before moving on to an intense brawl with the film’s main villain, Taskmaster, seen sporting his iconic shield: still no word on who will be playing that character, but we do know that David Harbour will portray a man named Alexi – in other words, Harbour will not be playing her father, Ivan, as was previously believed by many theorists. I’m still holding onto hope that my theory about Widow’s father being the Eternal, Ivan Druig, is correct. Eternals had its fair share of surprises during their opening presentation, but we’ll talk about that in a separate post. It was also confirmed that Fagbenle’s character “has feelings for” Black Widow, which is interesting. It wasn’t said whether she reciprocated his affections, or not.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to cover the rest of the SDCC reveals tomorrow morning – Black Widow happened to be the least eventful of Marvel’s many panels, so it was easy to talk about all the basics. Stay tuned for discussion of Lady Thor, the Multiverse, Kate Bishop, Eternals casting and more!

“Black Widow” Movie Adds Another Black Widow!

There’s a lot of news to cover on this front: I would have posted much earlier, when there was a report that Ray Winstone had joined the cast of Marvel’s Black Widow solo movie, but I suspected that a bombshell report would drop in a few days more, so I waited patiently – and I was rewarded.

Black Widow is currently filming in the city of Budapest – an iconic locale in Marvel lore, having been mentioned as the site of some huge battle/catastrophic event by Black Widow herself, and fellow spy Hawkeye, multiple times throughout the Marvel movies. While some maintain that the city is probably being used simply as a stand-in for Russian locations, it gives us at least a little glimmer of hope that we will finally see the origins of this oft-mentioned, never-explained anecdote.

Whether or not we do, we will undeniably see the origins of the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff – the movie is rumored to be a prequel, exploring Natasha’s years working as a KGB assassin and then as a rogue agent defecting to S.H.I.E.L.D. While this might seem disappointing to fans who want to see the character in the present timeline, you can expect the film to drop all sorts of hints and clues about things that will be very important to the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel president Kevin Feige made this very clear, while also being very vague, when he said, while being interviewed, that, even though he can’t say whether it’s a prequel or not, “there are ways to do prequels where you learn all sorts of things you never knew before”. He actually said quite a few interesting things: I recommend you check it out for yourself here.

Those “things we never knew before” might include all sorts of things – events, big battles, encounters with other superheroes. And that’s what leads us back to Budapest for a minute, just so we can take a look at some very interesting details that might have been inadvertently (or deliberately?) revealed in behind-the-scenes images.

WARNING: this might be considered a spoiler to some, so if you don’t want to know any of the characters who might be in the film, you should go now! Also – Avengers: Endgame spoilers!

The image in questions shows Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double (maybe, we’ll get to that in a moment) riding a motorcycle at dangerously high speed through the streets of Budapest, sporting a long red braid – still no sign of the iconic short red bob-hairstyle that would definitively mark this as a prequel. Her hair still looks very much like how she wore it in her latest appearance in Avengers: Endgame. She’s not alone on the motorcycle: behind her, with arms wrapped around Natasha’s waist, is another woman, with a blond ponytail. She could be anyone, right?

"Black Widow" Movie Adds Another Black Widow! 2
Twitter | @builtfromhope

Well, it could be – except those two women on the motorcycle are apparently stunt dummies, not even stunt doubles. In other words, they’re basically pre-packaged mannequins: who come in packages. Which would necessarily be marked with the name associated with the mannequin inside the package. See where I’m going with this?

Yep, Twitter user @bestofwidows shared pictures of the boxes which apparently carried those dummies – one marked Natasha, the other marked…Yelena.

And the reaction from the general audience is probably similar to Thanos’ when he encounters Scarlet Witch in Endgame“I don’t even know who you are.”

Oh, but you will. Yelena Belova is one of only a handful of well-known characters from the Black Widow comics – a dangerous assassin in her own right, equal to Romanoff in strength and agility, and a student of the Red Room program. Belova has been both a villain and an antihero in her comics appearances, but her most notable run has her initially working against Romanoff, only to team up with her and bring about the defeat of the Red Room. She is virtually a clone of Romanoff in every way, and even uses the moniker “Black Widow”, except that her hair is typically blond. Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson supposedly had her character dye her hair blond in Avengers: Infinity War as an homage to Yelena Belova – which, naturally, has now begun sparking some rumors that the Black Widow in Infinity War actually was Yelena Belova, and that in this prequel we’ll discover that there never was a Natasha Romanoff or something like that. It’s a cool premise, but highly implausible: more likely is that a young Yelena will be introduced in this upcoming movie and will then make an appearance in the present timeline soon after – similar to how Captain Marvel’s prequel origin film ended with a startling post-credits scene of her arriving at Avengers HQ after the events of Infinity War.

There’s still the slim chance that this movie isn’t, in fact, a prequel: why haven’t we seen Natasha’s classic hairstyle? Why does she seem to be dressed in civilian attire in all the behind-the-scenes photos, such as she wore throughout Avengers: Endgame, rather than her black outfit? I can’t answer those questions yet, but I can propose a theory. Two, in fact.

My first theory relies on the movie being a prequel: I suspect that Budapest is not serving, at least in this case, as a stand-in for a Russian city. I think what we see here is a young Natasha Romanoff rescuing Yelena Belova from the clutches of their KGB captors, trying to bring her into S.H.I.E.L.D custody with her: something will go wrong, and Yelena will not be saved. In this scenario, we might also see Natasha’s friend and lover, Hawkeye, and maybe a team of S.H.I.E.L.D agents attempting to assist the Russian rogues. Ming-Na Wen of the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has already expressed her wish to be in the Black Widow movie, portraying a younger version of her character, Agent Melinda May. This would be the perfect place to have her appear: and with the recent cameos of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D actors Clark Gregg and Patrick Brennan in Captain Marvel, plus James D’Arcy of the TV show Agent Carter appearing in Avengers: Endgame, it seems like Marvel has begun to embrace its outlying spinoffs for the first time since Avengers: Age of Ultron.

My other theory, while much more unlikely, has basically the same premise, but the setting is now sometime in the post-Endgame universe. Here, Natasha would be brought back to life (there are dozens of theories on how this could be achieved), and would go on a search for her father, Ivan, whose identity was finally revealed to her after years of searching in Endgame, shortly before her death. As one of the last things Natasha would remember, it would make sense for her to try and find her father and any living family members, after being resurrected – this hunt would take her to Russia, where she would run into Yelena Belova and a similarly-resurrected Red Room. It’s unlikely, but still worth mentioning.

Either way, we now know that Yelena Belova is indeed going to be in the Black Widow movie – most likely portrayed by Marvel newcomer Florence Pugh, whose likeness the blond stunt-dummy apparently carries, and who recently arrived in Budapest.

The last bit of news concerning the movie comes from a small, blurry photograph of the film’s first official logo:

"Black Widow" Movie Adds Another Black Widow! 3
Twitter | @ripmarvel

Prepare yourselves for May 2020, folks. We’re in for a ride.

 

You can also watch my video review of this news story on YouTube!

“Black Widow” Begins Filming!

Marvel’s highly-anticipated Black Widow solo movie was expected to begin filming next month, at Pinewood Studios in London, but apparently things have been moving quicker than anticipated, as leaked photos show that Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson has arrived in Norway.

Johansson touched down in the Ørsta Municipality in a private plane, but cameras still managed to catch a glimpse of her (or, at least, someone who looks identical to her) being driven around the picturesque Norwegian landscape. However, it seems like the actress is here, not for sightseeing, but for filming, as other photos show signs with Black Widow‘s working title “Blue Bayou” written on them in a distinctly Cyrillic typeface. The Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff is clearly on her way to Norway.

"Black Widow" Begins Filming! 4
@bestofwidows | Twitter

There’s no good reason as to why, just yet, but it’s easy to imagine that Norway, with its fjords, mountains and miles of uncharted wilderness, could be the perfect place for some impressive action sequences, or a secret KGB hideout. Norway is also, notably, where Thor builds New Asgard in Avengers: Endgame, but it seems unlikely that there’s any correlation – Black Widow is expected to be a prequel, set before the events of Romanoff’s first appearance in Iron Man 2. Other rumors, yet to be confirmed, suggest that the movie will take place in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, following Romanoff as she flees from the law and the restrictions of the Sokovia Accords, helped by a rogue Steve Rogers. The problem with that scenario is that the film would kind of need…Steve Rogers, not to mention Falcon, and possibly Scarlet Witch and Vision. Those would be all great additions to the film’s cast, admittedly, but this is a solo film, not a team-up, and Captain America’s time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is supposedly over. It’s probably best to keep the focus on Widow herself, and have it be a prequel, where we can finally learn the truth about the Red Room program, and maybe even see some classic comics characters like Yelena Belova (expected to be portrayed by Florence Pugh, of Fighting With My Family).

That doesn’t rule out the possibility of characters like Hawkeye and Nick Fury appearing, since both had close relationships with Black Widow. And it seems likely that we’ll finally see what happened in Budapest. Rumors have been circulating like wildfire – most recently, some speculation that star David Harbour will be playing The Thing, one of the Fantastic Four, in Black Widow…despite the fact that this (a) makes no sense, and (b) wouldn’t work due to the timing of the Disney/Fox merger.

One last thing to note is that Scarlett Johansson was wearing the red braids she sported in Avengers: Endgame, not the iconic short red haircut seen in earlier films, or even her curly hairstyle from Iron Man 2. While it’s possible that this was Johansson’s own stylistic choice, it’s definitely an intriguing one, one that might bode well for the many people who want this movie to be a sequel. The behind-the-scenes video showing Johansson’s hairstyle can be found here.

With filming having now begun, expect more updates, castings, and theories to follow!