Who plays taskmaster in Black Widow?
Olga Kurylenko, who previously appeared in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace and the Tom Cruise actioner Oblivion, plays Taskmaster in the film. EW.comTaskmaster explained: How Black Widow retconned character's origin | EW.com
What movie does Black Widow come after?
Black Widow takes place after Captain America: Civil War, but before Avengers: Infinity War. Presumably, this means the events of Black Widow went down in 2016. SYFY WIREWhen does Black Widow fit into the MCU timeline? It's only slightly more complicated than you think
Did Natasha die in Black Widow?
For those who have forgotten, Natasha died midway through Avengers: Endgame during her quest to Vormir with Clint Barton (a.k.a. Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner). There, the two Avengers were told one of them would have to sacrifice their life in order to attain the Infinity Stone that resided on that planet. TIMEWhat the Black Widow End-Credits Scene Means for the MCU
How did Black Widow escape?
How did the Widows escape? At the end of the movie, Natasha and her surrogate family have crashed the Red Room, freed the Black Widows and are all set to start new lives. CNETBlack Widow: Does the post-credits scene undo the film, and more WTF questions
Cate Shortland explains Yelena’s incredible riff on Red Room trauma
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“What we tried to do was use humor to talk to the trauma,” she tells Polygon. “Most people in this film who’ve been victimized, are actually making jokes about that because they’re trying to overcome it.”
There’s no better example of Shortland’s approach than a moment in Black Widow in which Florence Pugh, as Yelena, reminds her surrogate father Alexi (David Harbour) of one particular horror of the Red Room. Here’s how it plays out:
Alexi: Why the aggression, huh? Is it your time of the month?
Yelena: I don’t get my period dipshit. I don’t have a uterus.
Natasha: Or ovaries.
Yelena: That’s what happens when the Red Room gives you an involuntarily hysterectomy. They kinda just go in and rip out all your reproductive organs. They just get right in there and chop them all away. So you can’t have babies.
Alexi: OK, OK, you don’t have to get so clinical and nasty!
Yelena: I was just going to talk about fallopian tubes…
The scene picks up a thread from Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which Natahsa lays out to Bruce Banner in the gravest terms what happens to the young women captured by Dreykov (Ray Winstone).
In the Red Room, where I was trained, where I was raised, they have a graduation ceremony. They sterilize you. It’s efficient. One less thing to worry about. The one thing that might matter more than a mission. It makes everything easier. Even killing ... You still think you’re the only monster on the team?
According to Shortland, Pugh’s clapback wasn’t actually in the script for Black Widow. In development for years, the final film’s story is credited to Jac Schaeffer (WandaVision) and Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) with a script by Eric Pearson. After entering Marvel’s screenwriting program in 2010, Pearson went on to write One-Shots in the early Phase 1 days, and has become a go-to source of rewrites for the studio, with a co-writing credit on Thor: Ragnarok.
“So Eric, who is our writer, had written a joke about women being in bad moods because they have their period,” Shortland recalls. “And I remember Florence and Scarlet and I reading it and just being like, ‘Oh, my God, this is ridiculous.’”
The director says she almost cut the joke entirely, but after discussing with her actors, ultimately decided to “answer it.” She didn’t clarify if that meant improvising on the day of or going back for traditional rewrites, but the outcome was the final digression on involuntary hysterectomies.
“I love it,” Shortland says. “Because it’s like, if you’re gonna make that joke, I’m gonna unleash Florence Pugh on you. She’s gonna Yelena you. It’s one of my favorite moments in the film.”
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11 July, 2021 - 08:21am
Given that the MCU is now 24 movies deep, it won't be a surprise to know that Scarlett Johansson's long-awaited solo movie is packed with references to the wider MCU, including several Avengers jokes from her 'sister', Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh).
But as with all MCU movies, its roots are in the comics so there are Easter eggs to be found for Marvel fans too, even if the on-screen version of certain characters and events aren't quite as they happened on the page.
So here are the best Black Widow Easter eggs and MCU references in case you missed them. Spoilers ahead, so look away now if you haven't seen the movie yet.
This is actually a nod to the Black Widow comics where the North Institute targeted Natasha and other Red Room subjects. In the movie, it's a SHIELD facility which is why Dreykov sent Alexei undercover to steal their technology.
He does so, which prompts them needing to go on the run, and it turns out to be the "key to unlocking free will" which Dreykov used to control the Widows. It's revealed to be the brainchild of a HYDRA scientist working at the North Institute.
Unsurprisingly, Ross is not successful in capturing Natasha before she leaves the US and we don't see him again in the movie. However, we know from Mason (OT Fagbenle) that Ross is still "sniffing around" and Natasha uses that to her advantage.
After the Red Room crashes to the ground in the finale, Natasha waits around for Ross to arrive while everyone else leaves. Since she activated a tracked to let him find her, we assume that their conversation was a pleasant one where she perhaps offered him Red Room information in exchange for her freedom.
We don't actually see the reunion though, so truly anything could have happened.
The comics version of Taskmaster, aka Anthony 'Tony' Masters, has photographic reflexes that help him become a career criminal able to replicate superhero moves. He's worked both for and against government agencies, clashing with Black Widow, Captain America, Spider-Man and more along the way.
In the movie, Taskmaster is seen replicating the moves of Avengers like Black Panther and Captain America, but it's not Tony Masters under the mask.
It's revealed to actually be Dreykov's (Ray Winstone) not-quite-dead daughter Antonia (Olga Kurylenko) who has been programmed to study and replicate superhero moves, with Antonia a potential nod to Taskmaster's comics name.
He's essentially a fixer for Natasha and other people like her, including Yelena, when they need new passports, cash and even planes – anything they need basically. He has a history of doing this for Natasha, but we don't get too much about their backstory.
It's thought he was based on comics character Rick Mason, aka The Agent, a mercenary who is a freelance covert operations specialist. Speaking to Digital Spy, Fagbenle called his character "more of an original creation".
"I don't know if and when they expand the character, maybe they will draw in some of that more of the original Rick Mason," he added.
Yelena was from the Red Room in the comics and started off as an enemy of Natasha, before becoming her ally and later adopting the Black Widow alias. They didn't grow up together though.
As for her 'parents' Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei (David Harbour), Melina was a former agent of the Russian government known as the Iron Maiden who despises Natasha, while Alexei was a celebrated pilot who was trained by the KGB to be the Red Guardian.
In a turn of events that understandably didn't make the screen, Alexei was previously married to Natasha before she went through the Red Room training.
An inmate correctly points out that at the time Red Guardian was around, Cap was in the ice, although he quickly regrets it. Later on, Alexei asks Natasha if Cap ever mentioned him, so was it just a boast or did he genuinely fight Cap?
It could well have been a different Captain America used by the US government or somebody just pretending to be him. Equally, Alexei might just be talking a load of nonsense, which is our most likely explanation.
While Jeremy Renner doesn't pop up in the movie, we discover that a Budapest mission to kill Dreykov was the last step of her defection to SHIELD. It saw her willingly sacrifice the life of Dreykov's daughter, something that Loki taunted her about in The Avengers.
Yelena shows off her new green vest to Natasha as it's the first thing she's ever bought for herself. Eagle-eyed Marvel fans had already spotted that it's the same jacket that Natasha is wearing in Avengers: Infinity War, leading them to worry about Yelena's fate.
Don't worry though, Yelena survives and she gifts Natasha the jacket at the end of the movie, so she was just wearing it in Infinity War to remind her of her 'sister'. Awww.
Dreykov isn't involved at all as he's an MCU creation and another significant change is that while the comics version is based in Moscow, Russia, the MCU's version is literally up in the air to avoid detection.
Natasha finally comes face-to-face with Dreykov again during Black Widow's final act, infiltrating his office by pretending to be Melina by using the same facemask technology we saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
That's not where the MCU throwbacks end though as part of the scene appears to show Dreykov having the upper hand, due to a 'pheromonal lock' that means she can't hurt him if she's smelled him (genuinely).
Natasha riles Dreykov up and he punches her, while boasting about how great his Widows programme is and how she can't stop it. But it's all part of the plan for her to get him to break her nose (he fails, so she does it herself), releasing her and also giving her all the information she needs about the Widows programme and how to access it.
"Thank you for your cooperation," she tells him afterwards, a direct throwback to her response to Loki in The Avengers after she pulls a similar trick to get him to confess his plan.
Natasha – now sporting her short, blonde hairdo from Avengers: Infinity War – tells him that she's going to use it to "break a few of them out of prison", referring to the Avengers left in the Raft after the events of Civil War.
The final moments of that movie saw Cap arrive at the Raft to free the likes of Wanda Maximoff and Scott Lang who helped him during Civil War. With this new scene, it appears he had help from his old friend Natasha in order to get to the Raft.
Val made her MCU debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and has been keeping busy since, recruiting Yelena to whatever team she's building with John Walker, and she's got a new target for her: Hawkeye.
For more on what this means for the MCU's future and the Hawkeye show, we've got you covered here.
11 July, 2021 - 08:21am
From there Black Widow leapt into "The Avengers" before co-starring in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which came before "Avengers: The Age of Ultron" and "Captain America: Civil War" and, of course, "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Endgame."
Hopefully by this point you've noticed the problem with grouping these films under a collection named for the superhero team's top-ranking woman – her name isn't in any of these titles. (She's an Avenger, but so are a lot of other folks.) Three place her in at least a secondary position to two of the franchise's top male superheroes. In "Iron Man 2" she's more accurately described as tertiary, not to mention some version of a honey trap.
Disparaging Natasha Romanoff is not my intent, by the way. I come to praise this unsung heroine, not bury her. Marvel already did that.
It took 24 MCU films for Black Widow to get a standalone feature while the lives of nearly all of the other core Avengers, save Hawkeye, are explored through multiple titles. That number doesn't include the pre-Phase One Hulk flicks but for the sake of this argument I'm counting them. Bicker about that all you want, but my larger point stands: Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk received title placement in multiple films and starred in a classic TV show. Natasha Romanoff hasn't gotten any kind of unaccompanied spotlight until this weekend.
Taking all of this into consideration, perhaps you get why some may emerge from watching "Black Widow" enveloped in a thunderstorm of mixed emotions.
In all the ways that matter to an MCU fan, "Black Widow" the film meets or exceeds all expectations. It is a killer action flick, and a unique viewing experience . . . in that I loved it, and the fact that I loved it also makes me livid.
Neither the movie nor the director and writer are to blame for this. "Black Widow" satisfies in every way that matters. Astounding action sequences and gripping character development confidently carry the plot. Smart humor, much of it courtesy of Florence Pugh's resolute delivery and playful sangfroid, combines with the rest to elevate Johansson's hero to the place of honor she deserves in this universe.
Indeed, "Black Widow" showcases Pugh's incredible range and muscular charisma over ScarJo's magnetic appeal. Perhaps that's unintentional, and Johansson's fine, but if Marvel planned for Pugh to clear a runway for Yelena, she fulfills that mission with a performance that sucker punches the heavens.
Similarly director Cate Shortland expands "Black Widow" beyond its expected role as a narrative patch. She and screenwriter Eric Pearson take swipes at the action genre's silly indulgences while telling an admirably spun story about women taking a fist to the face of patriarchy. Take Yelena's shade throwing at Natasha's superhero landing addiction, one of those comic book movie tropes that, as another masked vigilante points out in a different film, is totally impractical.
Nothing about Natasha or Yelena caters to the stereotypical horny male comic book reader – they are capable, confident women who address and treat one another like capable, confident women who somehow survive multiple assassination attempts by men who resent their agency. What's not to love?
This story's sinister overlord isn't members of the American government, Hydra agents masquerading as such, but a patronizing despot in post-Soviet Russia, where Natasha Romanoff and her adoptive sister Yelena Belova (Pugh) were trained to be assassins.
"Avengers" lore has it that Natasha escaped with the help of American operative Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Yelena did not, resulting in a contentious reunion between the two and the "parents" who raised them: Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour), Russia's gone-to-seed imitation of Captain America, and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), a former Black Widow reassigned to other duties.
Pearson strikes a balance between treating Natasha's backstory with the same solemnity given to every other key Avenger and with comedic gusto, all while drawing inspiration and connections to other TV shows and action movies. There's a vibe reminiscent of "The Americans" as it begins, before it segues into a storyline that moves, leaps and sharp-shoots a lot like a Jason Bourne yarn.
Comparisons between "Black Widow" and Matt Damon's multi-film action epic work in Marvel's favor, actually. They underscore the ways that both are patriarchal domination parables. Each is a saga about controlling ordinary people forced into a system that molds them into extraordinary specimens to be deployed by powerful men who decide how they live, who they kill and whether and when they'll die.
Natasha and Yelena's bloody quest to take down Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the general who ruined their lives, serves that purpose in a more obvious respect because they and their Widow sisters are women.
Be that as it may, Johansson, Pugh and their sister Widows have nothing to prove to the audience that knows Natasha Romanoff. To stubborn industry executives still doubting that a big budget action flicks starring a woman and about women can draw an audience, though, setting this example – again – still matters.
It bears repeating that it took two dozen movies before "Black Widow" hatched, four years after the original "Wonder Woman" became the most successful movie in DC's "Justice League" series, and a year and a half after "Birds of Prey," 2020's 10th-highest grossing film worldwide, attracted an audience evenly split between men and women.
"Black Widow" is leagues better than that movie. That doesn't lessen my anger at Marvel, because the triumph of "Black Widow" is blunted by the immutable fact of the title character's permanent death in "Avengers: Endgame." The sorrow of that isn't the thorny point, it's the insult.
Natasha Romanoff is one of two major, central women in the MCU, the other being Gamora from "Guardians of the Galaxy," whose backstories are established over multiple films.
Each is formidable, resourceful and capable in her own right; Black Widow is even more impressive because she's expertly trained as opposed to technologically augmented.
And each gets tossed over the same cliff to their deaths, sacrificed to serve missions carried out by men.
In the same ways Leia is a fictional role model for girls and women who love "Star Wars," Natasha Romanoff and Gamora surely served that purpose for "Avengers" fans. Framed thusly, you might then understand why watching those women reduced to a spot on the cosmos' pavement creates a sore spot that hasn't entirely healed.
It's helpful to know that we'll learn more about Okoye and Shuri from "Black Panther." Wanda Maximoff's psyche was the focus of an entire series, "WandaVision," which is nice. Marvel's also bringing us the further exploits of Captain Marvel (another super-woman introduced late in the game) and Ms. Marvel in an upcoming series.
Gamora, at least, receives a second chance through a version from an alternate timeline – but it's not the one with whom fans were encouraged to make a substantial connection. None of that changes the fact in the same movie that gives a loving goodbye to Tony Stark and Iron Man, Black Widow doesn't even get a funeral that we see on screen. Can we be surprised that the brazenly pandering all-female battle scene in "Endgame" came off as silly and hollow?
After all that, and in the wake of it, the continuing adventures of Black Widow are therefore impossible, which makes the satisfaction and emotional victory that is "Black Widow" still feel like a loss.
Nevertheless, there's a good chance we'll see more of the character's backstory. Early reports indicate opening day box office returns for "Black Widow" are healthy. It might even set a few box office records. If the longer term result is that we get more of Yelena in Phase Four, fantastic (assuming you've seen the mid-credits sequence). What would be even more gratifying is the MCU treats her and other next generation heroines as well as their male counterparts, and better than the sister who fought and flew ahead of them.
Melanie McFarland is Salon's TV critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision