Thu
Aug 7 2014 9:47am

No Black Widow Movie For Now, But How Long Can Marvel Hold Off?

Black Widow movie screenplay Nicole Perlman Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Kevin Feige women

After Guardians of the Galaxy stole our hearts with a firefly-spouting tree and his emotionally wounded raccoon counterpart, it makes sense that movie audiences would want to see more work from co-writers James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, together or apart. And the idea of Perlman writing the screenplay for Marvel’s long-rumored Black Widow standalone movie sounds absolutely perfect.

But it’s just that—a rumor. Perlman herself debunked it.

On August 4, riding high from Guardians’ opening weekend box office success, Perlman made sure to rein in fan speculation before it ran rampant:

Boo, but at least she gave us a clear answer. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has not had that luxury, dancing around an answer to the ever-present question of when we’ll see a Black Widow movie—or, really, any female-led Marvel film. Most recently, he told Comic Book Resources:

I think it comes down to timing, which is what I’ve sort of always said, and it comes down to us being able to tell the right story. I very much believe in doing it. I very much believe that it’s unfair to say, “People don’t want to see movies with female heroes,” then list five movies that were not very good, therefore, people didn’t go to the movies because they weren’t good movies, versus [because] they were female leads. And they don’t mention Hunger Games, Frozen, Divergent. You can go back to Kill Bill or Aliens. These are all female-led movies. It can certainly be done. I hope we do it sooner rather than later.

But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have—which is a very, very good thing and we don’t take for granted, but is a challenging thing. You may notice from those release dates, we have three for 2017. And that’s because just the timing worked on what was sort of gearing up. But it does mean you have to put one franchise on hold for three or four years in order to introduce a new one? I don’t know. Those are the kinds of chess matches we’re playing right now.

Thing is, it’s hard to argue that now isn’t the time for a female superhero-led movie. Nerdist recently reported that 44 percent of Guardians’ opening-weekend audience was female—beating the previous record of 40 percent who turned out for The Avengers in 2012. Plus, Sony just threw down its gauntlet by announcing a lady-centric movie for 2017. If Perlman isn’t the one writing Black Widow, someone else should start, and soon.

[via Bleeding Cool]

Photo: Marvel Studios

38 comments
Christopher Bennett
1. ChristopherLBennett
Mr. Feige, if you very much believe in doing it, then just do it. Stop making excuses about how hard it is to do it. It'll keep being hard to do until someone actually gets it done, and then it'll get easier.
Jshillingford
2. Jshillingford
I love Black Widow, and believe a lower-budget spy film would be an excellent vehicle for her. That said, I'd rather see Captain Marvel film before a solo BW film. Either way, Marvel's excuses are starting to sound weak. Too many franchises but we're going to get Ant-Man?
Jshillingford
3. Random22
I hope they wait until Whedon goes. He seems more interested in female feet than female characters. Creepy!
Josh Storey
4. Soless
My guess is Marvel's wrapped up in contract negotiations with their current actors, and that's why they didn't announce the phase 3 line up past Ant Man. I'm hoping Black Widow's penciled into the line up and they're just making sure Scarlet Johansen's contract is signed.
Dave Thompson
5. DKT
If we don't get a Widow movie for Phase 3, I'm doubtful we'll ever get one - at least one with Scarlett Johansson. And I don't get it - Ant Man, Dr. Strange, but no Widow? That is kind of crap.

If they did a Captain Marvel movie in Phase 3, I'd be less frustrated. I guess we'll wait and see and hope that one of the upcoming dates they've announced is for Black Widow or Captain Marvel. But really - this should be the tip of Phase 3 for them.
Jshillingford
6. ragnarredbeard
Why do we want Perlman to write Black Widow? She wrote GoTG and hashed it so badly that two people came in to fix it.
Thomas Jørgensen
7. Lavode
I not only do not understand why there isn't already a black widow movie, I am honestly confused why there isn't already a black widow *trilogy*. Does Marvel not like money? Spy movies sell. Scarlett Johannsen is pretty darn amazing in the part, and a bankable name in her own right - Execute a black widow movie with competence - and marvel appears to have that part down solid - and the money ought to roll in. What are they thinking not moving on this?
Thomas Thatcher
8. StrongDreams
1I think contracts are definitely one of the hold-ups here. Thinking about the world in which Black Widow operates, and what she might do on a solo mission, what other supporting characters will it need? Do you just do a female spy movie (i.e. Salt), or a female spy in a world of superheroes? Then you need at some superheroes on the periphery at least. If the actors are signed up for X movies, then you better get them re-signed to X+1, otherwise you have to write them out of Avengers 3 or something. And, given how sucessful the franchise has become, getting those contracts amended isn't going to be easy or cheap.
Jshillingford
9. Bluejay
I suppose some could argue that "Doctor Strange has to come first, because he's more famous." But beyond the comic-book fandom, I'd say that he's not any more of a known quantity than Captain Marvel... or Iron Man before the RDJ films, for that matter. And Guardians just proved that the right movie and the right marketing can make the world embrace a bunch of previously utterly-unknown characters. So the "more popular character appealing to a bigger audience" argument is pretty much bunk. (And even by THAT argument, Black Widow and Scarlett Johansson are MUCH bigger in the public's awareness than any new, untested hero that Marvel trots out.)

There really isn't any good reason for Marvel (or DC) not to have a female superhero-led film by now. If Sony beats them both to the punch, and the movie itself turns out to be good, then more power to 'em.
Jshillingford
10. OgreMkV
While I agree that Marvel should have a female led movie. Black Widow has already been in 4 movies now. That's vastly more than most female superheroes ever see.

Why not open something else up? Captain Marvel (Ms. Marvel) would be an excellent tie-in with Guardians. She-hulk is a very strong character and would work will with the Avengers (a few minutes of Mark Ruffalo).
Kimani Rogers
11. KiManiak
Of all of the excuses that I've heard for a lack of a female-led Marvel vehicle (and I vehemently reject the lame notion that Winter Soldier was in any way Black Widow's movie), I have to admit that the potential contract issue sounds the closest to being an actual reason and not just an excuse.

Having said that, such a "reason" would only apply to ScarJo/Black Widow, not to the other female Marvel characters out there. Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers or Monica Rambeau version would be fine with me), She Hulk, shoot even Spider-Woman or the like could be viable options; especially after witnessing the effectiveness of the Marvel marketing machine with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel could even release movies with male/female duos, if they (somehow) still feel they need to ease into female-centric release. "Black Widow & Hawkeye" would immediately intrigue the vast majority of Avengers fans and provide some cover to any executive that still feels uncomfortable. "Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver" could bank off of Avengers 2, assuming they survive it (or "Scarlet Witch and Vision," if the movie decides to follow the lead of the comics, which I personally wouldn't be the biggest fan of).

The point is that there are multiple ways to approach this and still address the glaring problem. If Marvel is really going to give us Ant Man (never been a big fan) and Dr Strange (ditto) before any super-heroine led movie, then ultimately any attempted excuse to justify that action is just that: an excuse.
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
The defense always comes to "Marvel has a plan"

Yes, a plan that included ten movies without one female lead.

THAT is the problem.

If we get through Phase 3 with no female led movie, or POC, Marvel will have made 10 movies starring white guys named Chris, without ever having included a woman, or a person of color.
lake sidey
13. lakesidey
Or they could just be keeping it in reserve so that there is at least one guaranteed hit in Phase 4. After all the Iron Man franchise can't carry it forever...

As far as I am concerned though, she was an equal lead in Winter Soldier (and certainly got far more screen time than the eponymous villain). I ain't complaining.

~lakesidey
Chris Nelly
14. Aeryl
she was an equal lead in Winter Soldier

I'll agree with that when she gets her name in the damned title
Thomas Thatcher
15. StrongDreams
@14, so Hermione Granger is not an equal lead in any of the HP movies?
Thomas Thatcher
16. StrongDreams
Two other comments:
It seems to me that Marvel/Disney is not getting enough credit for moving the women's roles as far ahead as they have so far. In IM1 and the first Hulk movie, the female characters were basically nuturers or damsels in distress, very "traditional." By Cap2 and GoG the main female charaters are at worst, strong ass-kicking sidekicks, or at best, co-leads.

Also, besids the contract issue is the overal MCU plot problem. Assuming the execs started out with a more traditional attitude*, and that at some point they realized that the right action heroine could indeed carry a movie, shoehorning an extra movie into the already densely plotted MCU (not to mention the money already spent on pre-production) is probably a real challenge. I don't think Feige is saying "it's not the right time for a woman," I think he's saying, "I've plotted myself into a corner and I have no idea how to squeeze another movie into the mix and affordably keep the same cast."

*Even if every Marvel/Disney exec was on board with making female-led action movies from day one, remember that they are charged with risking millions of dollars of other people's money (including people who can ruin their careers if they lose too much of it). I can't recall any female-led action movies other than Salt (which had more star power than Scarlet Johansen at the time) that would have given the execs the reassurance that a female Marvel movie was a safe bet.
Christopher Bennett
17. ChristopherLBennett
@6: "Why do we want Perlman to write Black Widow? She wrote GoTG and hashed it so badly that two people came in to fix it."

That doesn't follow, because Hollywood feature scripts routinely get rewritten for many different reasons. According to Wikipedia, when James Gunn was brought on as director, he felt that Perlman's script didn't work for him and rewrote it from scratch. Which is what most directors do when they're brought onto existing film projects, because they want to put their own mark on them and take their own approach. It has nothing to do with the quality of the original script, merely with the director-centric nature of the Hollywood feature industry. Often a brilliant script will get rewritten into a total hash just because a director would rather create their own "vision" than translate someone else's -- see the infamous case of the brilliant, revisionist Nottingham spec script that everybody loved but that Ridley Scott then tore apart and replaced with a much more boring, routine Robin Hood movie.

To the ongoing discussion: No, TWS wasn't a Black Widow movie, but it's a step in the right direction because it portrayed her as a pretty much equal lead who wasn't just there to be the male hero's love interest. It's not the end of the journey, but it's an achievement that Marvel now needs to build on and surpass. And the fact that they haven't already been planning all along to take the next step, to build on the momentum that film gave them, is a squandered opportunity.
Jshillingford
18. Bluejay
@15: "so Hermione Granger is not an equal lead in any of the HP movies?"

I would say she isn't. She's a strong character and an important character, but not the LEAD character. The story doesn't focus on her infancy or childhood, doesn't show how she discovers her powers, doesn't show how she gets invited to Hogwarts, doesn't show her hanging out and talking to the other girls in the girls' dorm, doesn't tell any part of the story from her point of view. The story isn't called Harry and Hermione or The Hogwarts Trio. It's pretty clearly Harry's story. She's a vital part of that story, but it's his narrative, not hers. They aren't equal.
Sky Thibedeau
19. SkylarkThibedeau
She needs to save Hawkeye from Hydra. Since Clint did not appear in CATWS he must be at the mercy of Hydra.
Jshillingford
20. Bluejay
@16: "Even if every Marvel/Disney exec was on board with making female-led action movies from day one, remember that they are charged with risking millions of dollars of other people's money (including people who can ruin their careers if they lose too much of it). I can't recall any female-led action movies other than Salt (which had more star power than Scarlet Johansen at the time) that would have given the execs the reassurance that a female Marvel movie was a safe bet."

But studios seem to be willing to risk money on films that aren't safe bets for other reasons. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and most recently Guardians of the Galaxy were all considered huge risks for various reasons, with naysayers plausibly arguing "nothing like this has ever been successful before." And yet here we are.

There's no reason that an action movie with a lead female character presents any more of a risk than other films that studios are willing to gamble on. If anything, after the recent success of several female-led blockbusters and (arguably) the public's appetite for more, a female-led action movie seems like a safer bet today. And after Guardians, since people seem to be enthusiastic about Marvel as a brand overall (it's "the new Pixar" now, apparently), it's likely that anything Marvel puts out is guaranteed at least a huge opening weekend.

I think you have a point with the MCU plot problem, though. The lack of female superheroes should have been addressed right from the start, before the whole overarching plot was baked in and all the wheels set in motion.
Dave Thompson
21. DKT
I would totally watch/read Hermione Granger and the WHATEVER. But no, she is NOT an equal lead. Not as much screen/page time as Harry. Not the star.

She's a strong supporting character, not the protagonist.
Chris Nelly
22. Aeryl
@15, That's a terrible example, considering the story was supposed to be Hermione Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. And I've never once heard the movies referred to as the "Harry Potter and his friends movies"

But that's beside the point because we aren't talking about Harry Potter, we are talking about Marvel, where anyone not in the title, isn't considered the lead.

Sure, all of us with brains can see she is the co lead, but no one is willing to extend her the credit, and THAT'S the problem
Kimani Rogers
23. KiManiak
StrongDreams@15 – re: Hermione Granger – No. No, she is not an equal lead in any of the HP movies (or books, for that matter). Does she play a strong supporting role? Sure, as does Ron. But I don’t think anyone would reasonably claim that any of the 7 books or 8 movies is "Hermione’s". She provides (incredibly valuable) aid to the hero of the sotry; she’s not the hero of the story herself.

The same with the Black Widow in Winter Soldier. It’s no more her movie than it is the Falcon’s.

@16 – re: Marvel receiving credit – How much credit do you feel is adequate? Why do you believe they haven’t received such credit? Why would receiving that credit be sufficient justification for still not having 1 (of the 15 movies in Phase 1-3) that has a woman and/or Person of Color headlining their own film?

As for the “can’t fit another movie into the plotted MCU” excuse, didn’t Marvel announce Phase 3 after the success of Avengers (which provided 2 blockbuster movies to prove that Black Widow was a viable character), which itself heralded the end of Phase 1? Post Avengers, we’ve had GotG, Avengers 2, Ant Man, Cap 3, Doc Strange and GotG2 announced. I’m pretty sure all of those were not irrevocably locked into place pre 2012 to where a Black Widow movie couldn’t also have been fit in.

Finally, the financial risk. GotG (with a cast of relatively unknown Marvel heroes, a setting that’s predominantly off Earth and starring an actor who’s mostly known for his role in the (quite excellent) Parks and Recreation TV series) would likely be a much more significant risk than a Black Widow movie starring a known and proven character, in a known and proven world, with an A-list actress reprising one of her signature roles.

ChristopherLBennet@17 – I may not necessarily agree with you about the equality of the leads for the Winter Soldier, but I do agree with your “step in the right direction but lack of building off of that = squandered opportunity” sentiment.
Jshillingford
24. Bluejay
Re Hermione Granger: Fans of Hermione (like me) will, I think, be pleased with this article:

http://globalcomment.com/in-praise-of-hermione-granger-series/

and its follow-up:

http://globalcomment.com/the-further-adventures-of-hermione-granger/
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@20: You're right -- just about all the male leads Marvel's had were risks rather than safe bets. After all, the safe bets were Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four, and those are all at other studios. So all Marvel Studios had were the lesser-known characters that were gambles to put on screen at all. (Well, they had the Hulk, but the poor reception of his previous screen outing made him a major gamble indeed.) So saying that a given character is too much of a gamble because she's female -- let alone saying that all female characters are somehow a bigger gamble than a Norse deity or a talking raccoon -- is just nonsense, a flimsy excuse for institutionalized chauvinism.

And you're also right, Bluejay, that it makes no sense to call a female-led action movie a gamble in the age of Katniss Everdeen. On the contrary, it should be a sure thing. Look how well Lucy did at the box office despite being incredibly stupid. It is completely out of touch with reality at this point to say that an action movie starring Scarlett Johanssen is anything less than a safe bet. Hell, Marvel should've announced a Black Widow movie the day after Lucy hit number 1.

As for Hermione, I'd say her role is even smaller in the films than it is in the books, because her ongoing subplot as a house-elf-rights crusader was missing from most of the movies.
Jshillingford
26. Bluejay
@25: I like to imagine that Lucy was Scarlett Johansson telling Marvel, "I got tired of waiting for you to make a superhero movie just for me, so I went off and made this one. How do you like them apples?"
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
it makes no sense to call a female-led action movie a gamble in the age of Katniss Everdeen.

In the age of Frozen, Maleficient(which bumped IM3 out of the top 10 earner spot), Bridesmaids, The Heat.

I mean Lucy beat Hercules! Which looked just as stupid, but it had Dwayne Johnson, if he can't lead you to box office victory, who can?

Scarlett Johanson, that's who
Dave Thompson
28. DKT
To be fair, the whole slate of Phase 3 has yet to be announced.

We know we're getting Ant-Man. Dr. Strange will probably be next, as they have a director and are trying to cast. Captain America 3 is definitely happening. Thor 3 is presumed, though there's no schedule. GotG 2 - I'd guess will happen either right before Avengers 3, if Thanos *is* the Big Bad that go around, or immediately after?

It is still possible they'll try and squeeze in a Black Widow or Captain Marvel movie. That said, it is already a pretty full slate, and I have serious doubts.
Cain Latrani
29. CainS.Latrani
I said something about this over at another geekycentirc site recently, and it still holds true now, that Marvel is just afraid to break the role they are on.

Now, I admit, the contract thing sounds resonable, more so then finding the right story or the right timing.

I say this as a writer who deals with leading female characters in much of my work. There is no valid reason to not have a female led action piece. It is not tricky. It does not need timing. There isn't some mystical manner to go about it.

I've got a whole series with a woman in the lead, which I've yet to get a single bad review on, and I named the main character Bunny! I mean, come on!

If I can do it, with no finacing, backing, marketing, or help, then these yahoos with the multimillion dollar backing sure as hell can.

Saying they can't, that's a load of crap. I know it is for a fact, and so do they.
Jshillingford
30. megpie71
I strongly agree Marvel really needs to get off their collective arses and make a female-led action movie. However, I'd argue instead of Black Widow, it should instead be She-Hulk who gets featured.

Here's my reasoning. Firstly, in Phase Three, there's apparently slots for another Captain America movie and another Thor movie, as well as possibly a second Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The Captain America movies are always serious business - there's very little light and fluff in them. The first two Thor movies were slightly fluffy, but the comedy in them came from Thor's "fish out of water" nature on Earth - something which isn't likely to be as effective in Thor 3 given the ending of Thor 2. The "comedy relief" movies of the series were always the Iron Man movies - particularly IM2 (which was laughable not only because of the plot and the sexism, but also because of the science). These appear to have run their course - Tony Stark has started to settle in to the role of superhero, and Robert Downey Junior has started switching banks as each successive one fills up with his money. Besides, if Iron Man keeps following the trajectory of the comics, Tony is due for a LOT of angst and horrible things to happen. Not much space for laughter in the Iron Man canon.

So there's a gap in the roster, for a light, fluffy, "comedy relief" movie in the MCU Phase Three which is set on Earth in contemporary culture. The She-Hulk series of comics is a perfect match for this slot.

Jennifer Walters was a brilliant character - she's not your standard Marvel hero, moping about power and responsibility and all that. She's wound up becoming a seven foot tall, green-skinned Junoesque Amazon as a result of a medical error, and she revels in it. She loves being noticeable (having previously been the kind of girl who vanished into the wallpaper, becoming She-Hulk really gives her a chance to shine) and she enjoys her super powers. Okay, she's not so fond of the more mundane side-effects (I can remember at least one of the comics had her ranting about the difficulty of finding nice shoes in her size), but overall, as far as she's concerned, superpowers are a Good Thing, and she approaches the whole business with a completely different frame of mind to the majority of the rest of Marvel's stable of superbeings.

So with She-Hulk, not only do we get the chance for a female-led movie, we get a chance for a female-led movie which is free of the standard "with great power comes great angst and manpain" vibe which surrounds a lot of these franchises. We get a female hero with a tragic backstory who rises above the tragedy (the thing which led to her getting a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce was a really nasty car accident - the choices were the blood transfusion from Bruce Banner, or dying) and learns to live with what happened. In a lot of ways, this is a story women could use, too - it offers an alternative to the "shattered victim" trope which is the standard.

Plus, once we have Jen's story out there as an alternative to the "broken bird" trope, we can get the background on Natasha Romanov, and start really admiring how much she's had to come through to get to where she is. At present, the only real narratives we're offered for female heroes are either the "strong female character" aka Ms Bigger-Balls-Than-You, or the "broken bird, shattered victim" ones. Natasha is too complex to fit into the first, and I'd argue she's a very poor fit for the second for a lot of reasons.
Jshillingford
31. Ragnarredbard
@17

"According to Wikipedia, when James Gunn was brought on as director, he felt that Perlman's script didn't work for him and rewrote it from scratch."

Which highlights my original comment exactly. She completely failed at Job #1, why do we want her to do job #2? There are lots of other writers.
Christopher Bennett
32. ChristopherLBennett
@30: I agree, She-Hulk would be a great character -- with the right casting, of course.

@31: No you miss my point. It's got nothing to do with "failure," because just about every director who's brought on an existing project will have the script rewritten, regardless of its quality. Even if the same director is on a film from the start, the script will still usually go through dozens of drafts by multiple different writers. Any writer's script will get rewritten regardless of its quality or the ability of its writer, because the writing process in the feature film industry is an overcomplicated mess. Just about any movie you see, regardless of what the writing credits say, will have a script that's stitched together from many drafts written by many hands. You will almost never see a movie that's shot from its first-draft script.

Thus, it makes absolutely no sense to assume that Perlman's script getting rewritten says anything about her ability as a screenwriter. It got rewritten because that is what the feature industry does. Always. Yes, there are lots of other writers, and every single one of them would also have gotten their first-draft script rewritten, because that is what happens in the feature industry.
Dave Thompson
33. DKT
Let's not forget that it was probably Perlman's Black Widow treatment that got her the job to write GotG. It was four years ago.

Yes, Gunn rewrote GotG. This is standard - when you hire someone like Gunn (or Whedon, or whatever writer/director), they're going to rewrite the script to put it their own voice, which is what's made them the writer/director brand they are. This is part of what these folks are hired for.
Chris Nelly
34. Aeryl
he felt that Perlman's script didn't work for him

Nowhere in that statement does it imply that the script was atrociously written by a no talent hack.

It didn't work for him. Which isn't surprising if you look at his filmography.
Jshillingford
36. Ellie_Oh-Angel
Telling stories about female superheroes is a really complex, fraught thing. I agree Black Widow is one of the best shots at doing it.

Tedx talk on this subject, referencing Gail Simone's "Women in Refrigerators" -- http://bit.ly/1md5q5k.

Jump to 4:45 min if you want to skip the non-superhero set-up stuff.
Jshillingford
37. saterade
does anyone know when scarlet johanssen was cast as lucy? i'm wondering if marvel knew that she was coming out with an action movie and didn't want/wasn't allowed to/scarlet didn't want to put a black widow movie so close to her other movie so they went in other directions.
Jshillingford
38. Darth Touma
So I guess I'm the only one who would rather see a Loki movie than a Black Widow one, huh?
Christopher Bennett
39. ChristopherLBennett
@38: Marvel makes a lot of movies. No reason we can't have both.

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