Like a well-trained former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Black Widow’s release date has eluded us for more than year now, having been pushed back countless times. The film was originally due in cinemas in May 2020, but the pandemic forced a delay.
True to form, the Marvel movie has announced one last date change, but put down your electroshock batons as the UK release has actually been moved forward(!), meaning British fans can catch the film before countries such as the US.
The movie will also be available via Disney+ Premier Access for subscribers willing to pay an additional price, but if you’re happy to wait a few months then Disney has confirmed Black Widow will join the streaming service for free on 6th October.
However you watch the comic book prequel, it sounds like it will be worth the wait – director Cate Shortland has noted that the film has drawn comparisons to fellow MCU thriller Captain America: The Winter Soldier, considered by many to be the best Marvel outing.
“It’s got great action. It’s got a lot of heart, it’s emotional,” Shortland told Fandango. “And at times, it can be a little bit dark, but then it opens up again. And it’s really exciting. So I think that’s like this film. This film has fantastic action sequences, which we’re really proud of.”
Black Widow previously appeared as a supporting character in The Winter Soldier, but now she finally has her own solo movie. Scarlett Johansson is hoping to add context to the fan-favourite master assassin and bring closure following her death in Avengers: Endgame.
“Our goal was for [fans] to feel satisfied with this story,” she told Total Film. “That they could maybe have some resolution, I think, with this character’s death, in a way. It felt like people wanted that.”
Meanwhile, co-star Florence Pugh has hit back about the speculation that her Yelena Belova could take over from Natasha Romanoff as the MCU’s next Black Widow, with an appearance already confirmed for Disney Plus series Hawkeye.
“Even though that’s obviously where everybody wants to go and wants to think about – to think about what’s next – this film never really felt like that was what it was trying to underline,” she said.
If you fancy a movie marathon before the film comes out, you can check out how to watch the Marvel movies in order or swot up on the latest details we have on other upcoming Marvel movies as the studio sets off on its ambitious Phase Four plan.
Black Widow release date
Black Widow’s release date has changed yet again – but after countless delays, the film has actually moved up and will now open in UK cinemas on Wednesday 7th July 2021.
The Disney+ release date remains unchanged, however, so Black Widow will only be available to stream from Friday 9th July 2021 via Disney+ Premier Access, which means paying an additional fee if you’re an existing subscriber.
Disney has since confirmed that the comic book prequel will join the streaming service for free a few months later on 6th October 2021.
In an interview with Marie Claire, Scarlett Johansson gave her thoughts on the movie’s multiple delays, suggesting that it’s the right course of action for these unpredictable times.
“We’re all eager to get the movie out, but more important than anything, everybody wants the experience to feel safe, to have people be able to really feel confident about sitting in an enclosed theatre,” she said.
Black Widow cast
Scarlett Johansson will return to the role of Natasha Romanoff for the Black Widow movie, which will delve into her troubled upbringing in Russia, before her days as a SHIELD agent and Avenger.
Elaborating on her decision to return to play Black Widow in a stand-alone film after more than a decade of Marvel movies, Johansson told Total Film, “I love Natasha… When we finished Avengers: Endgame, I felt good about the work that we did.” Adding that the Black Widow film needed to be substantial if she was going to do it. “I felt that, unless we were going to go on a deep dive.”
An impressive supporting cast has been assembled to play Natasha’s chosen family, including Florence Pugh (Little Women) as Yelena Belova, a younger spy who has a sister-like relationship with Natasha.
Among a stellar cast, Pugh is one to keep a particularly close eye on, with recent comments from director Cate Shortland suggesting that she could take over the Black Widow mantle going forward.
“[Kevin Feige] realised that the audience would expect an origin story so, of course, we went in the opposite direction and we didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be,” she said.
“We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great. Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”
It seems that Florence Pugh’s Yelena was initially set for a more adversarial role – which Johanson said “felt very old fashioned and not true” – and thus their relationship was changed to a more sisterly tone.
“It’s a relationship that is grounded in a shared experience and a knowingness and a sisterhood,” Johansson told IGN. “And with that comes many complicated feelings of course. Not all good, fuzzy ones, but visceral, real, rounded ones. And it’s a very special relationship, and really I think it will be very touching for a lot of people.”
Meanwhile, Stranger Things star David Harbour will play Alexei Shostakov, also known as Red Guardian, who was the Soviet Union’s attempt at creating a super soldier like Captain America.
Chatting on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he told the TV host: “They wanted me to play a guy who starts out in a Russian prison. So there’s all these conspiracy theories that [Harbour’s Stranger Things character] Hopper went to Russia and then put on a super suit, and now is the Red Guardian in the Black Widow movie.”
To differentiate between the two characters, who both become based in Russia, a solution was needed. Harbour elaborated: “I had this long hair and this beard and I was big [in Black Widow] and I thought, ‘I can’t be the same guy with long hair and a beard in the same prison.” So the decision was made to make Hopper bald for the fourth season of Stranger Things.
Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz (The Favourite) takes on the role of Melina Vostokoff, a fellow spy and product of the Black Widow training programme. A master in hand-to-hand combat and a deadly dangerous assassin, in the comics she becomes an enemy of Black Widow.
Rounding out the supporting cast are O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale) as SHIELD agent Rick Mason and Ray Winstone (The Departed) as Dreykov, one of the heads of the Black Widow training programme.
The latter has previously been referenced in 2012’s The Avengers, when Loki attempts to get into Black Widow’s head by reciting moments from her dark past, including something to do with “Dreykov’s daughter”.
William Hurt will reprise his role as General Ross, whose previous MCU appearances include The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
Bodybuilder Olivier Richters, nicknamed The Dutch Giant because of his massive 7ft 2in frame, has also joined the movie in an undisclosed role.
Interestingly, we’re yet to hear who will be playing the movie’s villain, Taskmaster (more on that below), meaning their identity could be a surprise twist reveal.
Black Widow plot: What is Black Widow about?
In typical Marvel style, much of Black Widow’s plot has been kept tightly under wraps, but we do know that the movie will see Natasha confront her dark past by returning to her native Russia, where she was trained to be a deadly weapon.
Johansson has described Black Widow as a “family drama” in an interview with GamesRadar, as it sees her super spy character reunite with several important figures from her upbringing.
“I think part of Kevin Feige’s genius is that he always thinks about what fans expect out of these movies and then gives them something that they never could’ve dreamed of,” she said.
“The idea of Natasha Romanoff in a family drama is the least expected thing, and I had to wrap my head around what that was going to be because there’s such a big tonal shift.”
Florence Pugh agreed with the family drama sentiment, telling IGN that “it’s … about our family and where we came from and how we are broken and how we fix it.”
She added: “They’re like this big, bonkers, mad, loud Russian family. And they have a lot of love for each other.”
Natasha will also be donning a new white version of her traditional outfit, which was first spotted in the movie’s fleeting Super Bowl TV spot.
Black Widow trailer
A new teaser hints at the theme of family that will feature throughout the film – as well as plenty of pulse-pounding action of course:
It seems that much of the film will focus on the chemistry between Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and fellow spy Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), as well as their joint action scenes as seen in this extended clip.
The above scene sees the two sisters looking for a bike – seemingly leading into this snippet below that was released at the 2021 MTV Movie and TV awards.
There have also been clips released that show Black Widow and Yelena bantering about their respective fighting styles.
A Black Widow trailer was also launched in April 2021. Impressively, Marvel Studios has managed to avoid giving too much away about the film, despite having to make more teasers than originally intended due to unforeseen setbacks caused by the pandemic.
The teaser focuses on Natasha’s formative years, interspersing clips of the adult Black Widow we know so well with those of her younger self (played by Milla Jovovich’s daughter, Ever Anderson).
Johansson has previously described the film as a “family drama” and that certainly comes through here, as the super-spy has some tough conversations with adoptive sister Yelena and mother figure Melina (Rachel Weisz).
But of course, we can still expect plenty of classic Marvel action, with mysterious villain Taskmaster also getting plenty of screentime in the latest trailer – although the identity of the person behind the mask remains a mystery.
There are several older trailers for Black Widow that are also still available to watch, but it’s worth noting that the release dates shown in these teasers are now incorrect following the film’s pandemic-related delays.
If you’re keen to see more of the mysterious martial arts villain Taskmaster, a fan favourite foe from the comics books, you should have a watch of the shorter “special look” teaser.
This trailer for Black Widow, which had once been intended as the final one, showcases the movie’s blockbuster thrills, while also offering more insight into friends and enemies from Natasha’s past.
Who is Taskmaster?
Natasha Romanoff will face off against a classic Marvel villain in her first solo movie, that being the martial arts expert and ruthless mercenary, Taskmaster. (No relation to the Greg Davies panel show).
So who is Taskmaster? Real name Tony Masters, the character made his debut in 1980 when he attempted to take down the Avengers and has since been a recurring enemy for Deadpool and Captain America, among others.
Gifted with so-called photographic reflexes, Taskmaster only needs to witness something once in order to replicate it perfectly – an ability which has allowed him to master a wide variety of skills and combat styles.
The recent Black Widow trailers have given us a taste of this, showing Taskmaster wielding a shield much like Captain America and demonstrating archery skills of a similarly high caliber to those of Hawkeye.
In the comic books, the character wears an intimidating skull mask, but for his live-action appearance this has been adapted into headgear similar to a protective biker helmet.
In November 2020, some new images of the character were released as part of Black Widow: The Official Movie Special Book, including concept art and several stills.
One image shows Taskmaster heavily armoured and carrying a sword and shield, while another sees the villain facing off against Black Widow.
However, there has been little indication of who is behind the armour and it seems as if fans will have to wait until the movie’s release to find out Taskmaster’s true identity.
Is Black Widow a prequel?
**SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME**
Those who are up to date with their MCU happenings will be well aware that Black Widow sadly sacrificed her life in the war against Thanos during the latest Avengers crossover movie.
With that in mind, it should come as little surprise that her first solo outing is indeed a prequel, but rather than heading all the way back to her early years, the movie has carved out a more recent and specific place in the MCU timeline.
Scarlett Johansson described this as an “interesting place to start” as Natasha is “just broken” following the events of Civil War and the loss of her Avengers family.
“She’s part of this greater whole, and whether it was the Red Room or S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers, she’s had this kind of family,” she told IGN. “And then after Civil War, it’s all gone. And she’s, for the first time ever, really just on her own. She could totally disappear into the ether, and probably that would be that. She doesn’t have to return to anything, which is a pretty terrifying place to be.”
Stark himself is also rumoured to make a brief appearance, albeit through recycling an unreleased scene from Civil War, rather than shooting brand new material.
How will Black Widow fit into the MCU?
Although it may be a prequel, Black Widow will still hold major ramifications for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly in the introduction of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova.
Fans have long speculated that she could inherit Black Widow’s position on the Avengers and Marvel added fuel to the fire when they announced Pugh will also co-star in Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye series on Disney Plus.
Of course, Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff were best friends until the bitter end, so it makes sense that her sister (of sorts) would go to him for answers about her ultimate fate.
With Belova all but confirmed as a new recurring player in the MCU, the door is also open for Melina Vostokoff (Weisz), Red Guardian (Harbour) and Taskmaster to return – assuming they make it out of the Black Widow movie alive.
Will Black Widow be back for future MCU movies? Considering her demise in Endgame and that this prequel should fill us in on all that backstory we’ve been wanting to know about her, we don’t think we will be seeing Scarlett Johansson reprising her role again in the future.
The film’s director has stated too that she believes this could well be the final outing for the character – adding further weight to another longstanding MCU cast member bowing out – though Johansson has hinted she’d be willing to work with Marvel again in the future in some capacity.
Who is Black Widow director Cate Shortland?
Black Widow is directed by Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland, whose previous work has been on smaller indie movies such as Berlin Syndrome starring Teresa Palmer (A Discovery of Witches).
Marvel was reportedly “extremely thorough” in its search for the right director, having met with more than 65 people before deciding on Shortland.
The screenplay was written by Eric Pearson, who previously served as a co-writer on fellow MCU entry Thor: Ragnarok.
Black Widow posters
The main theatrical poster for Black Widow was unveiled on the movie’s official Twitter account in March 2020, roughly two months before the movie’s originally intended release date.
Marvel has also released a series of character posters focusing on the main four characters in the movie, played by Johansson, Pugh, Weisz and Harbour.
Following the film’s most recent delay, Disney unveiled some brand new character posters to get fans excited for its eventual launch in July 2021. We’re optimistic that this time it’s really going to happen.
Check out the brand-new character posters for Marvel Studios' #BlackWidow. Experience the film in theaters or on @DisneyPlus with Premier Access on July 9. Additional fee required. (1/6) #NatashaRomanoff pic.twitter.com/QUMEPDn323— Black Widow (@theblackwidow) May 10, 2021
Black Widow will be released in cinemas on Wednesday 7th July 2021. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight, or visit our Movies hub for all the latest news.