Maybe the biggest challenge of making Black Widow was overcoming the audience’s preconceived notions. Not about the movie, or the character, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe…but notions that the movie wasn’t “relevant” anymore, since its title lead, played by Scarlett Johansson, sacrificed herself in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, making this whole flashback and origin story feel a little toothless to some. The movies’ strong box office performance and solid reviews seemingly suggest that the filmmakers overcame it — and according to director Cate Shortland, that is in no small part because they were aware of the challenge very early on.
So, how do you create a Black Widow movie that feels like it’s important and has stakes, in spite of everyone knowing that, in-story, Black Widow herself will be dead within a few years? It seems that the biggest thing was just to make the movie itself stand-alone and satisfying. That, the logic went, would make people feel like a grounded, gritty superhero movie starring a beloved character was worthwhile regardless of how we know everything turns out years later.
“Kevin Feige spoke about that from the beginning,” Shortland told ComicBook. “We spoke about that even though we knew what had happened to her in Endgame, it still had to feel at times that she was in trouble, and say with that Taskmaster fight on the bridge, we wanted to make it really raw. I kept thinking about women that have been attacked on the street. So we wanted to make it really gritty, and that other people could relate to it. It wasn’t two sort of superhero characters fighting. It was Natasha fighting for her life and I think that’s kind of the spirit of the film that we wanted to take throughout.”
Part of the process was giving Natasha a compelling and logical background, which both jived with everything already teased, but didn’t feel like you were just leaning on other writers, or playing connect-the-dots.
“The script was the hardest part of the process, so I think Jac Schaeffer was talking about that,” Shortland said. “I looked at what she’d said a little bit about her process with the writing and she said it was harder than WandaVision was to create. And then we had Eric, who wrote Thor. He also ended up doing the screenplay. So it was like everybody was adding to it. But the biggest thing was she’d kept all these secrets for so long, so you really felt that she wouldn’t reveal herself naturally. So we had to work really hard to get her to reveal herself as a character.”
Black Widow is in theaters and on Disney+ now.