7 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Black Widow’
Black Widow lands on Wednesday 7 July, and despite Scarlett Johansson’s flame haired assassin being a fixture in the Avengers movies for years, she’s never had her back story explored on the big screen like most of her super squad pals. July will see her origins come to life at last, and introduce viewers to a whole new side of Natasha Romanoff.
So before you dive in, why not check out our round up of things you didn’t know about the Avengers’ favourite assassin?
You might think Natasha is a little frosty. Well, she grew up during a Cold War in icy Russia, and was trained to be a cold-blooded killer. So yeah, she’s not big on the warm hugs and small talk.
After the death of her mother, Natasha was raised in the KGB’s Black Widow program, learning everything she knew in a facility known as the Red Room. (NOT the same as the one in 50 Shades of Grey, get your mind out of the gutter!) She was put through strenuous training every day, and forced to spar with other trainees. Failure was not tolerated, and to quote Game of Thrones, “you win or you die”. Firearms practice used real people instead of dummies, and she also slept handcuffed to her bed so she couldn’t escape. On top of that, the program’s graduation ceremony involved forcibly sterilising the women, so family could never distract them from a mission. Despite being one of the best students, Natasha deliberately failed her exams to avoid the graduation ceremony, but her teacher noticed and made her go through with it anyway.
Her training and skills
She trained to be a spy, an assassin, an acrobat and a master of deceit, seduction and manipulation. She’s multilingual, knows martial arts, is a weapons expert and excellent markswoman, plus a master tactician and computer hacker. She was actually trained as a prima ballerina too!
Some of her memories are implanted by the KGB to ensure her loyalty – she sometimes finds it hard to distinguish which memories are her own.
Thor’s got his hammer, Cap’s got his shield, Tony’s got his suits, but ever wondered what Black Widow’s weapons do? Her gauntlets project various tools like electrocuting Widow’s Bites, a knock out drug called Widow’s Kiss, and a Widow’s Line, used for rappelling up buildings. On her belt, she’s got tear gas, discs of TNT, knives and other weapons. She’s like a lethal Mary Poppins!
History with the Winter Soldier
Natasha actually trained with the Winter Soldier when he was fresh to the role, and they even had a brief romance before her arranged marriage to a Russian fighter pilot named Alexei Shostakov. “How could she have met Bucky when he had only just become the Winter Soldier and therefore in the 1940s?”, you may ask. Well, in the comics, Natasha was born in the 20s, and although she doesn’t have superpowers, she was given a serum in the Red Room that improves her healing and immune system, slows her aging and elongates her life far beyond the natural span. She and Bucky met when he was the newly made Winter Soldier and he began to train Red Room trainees. They fell in love (Natasha loved him more than she loved Alexei) and he would sneak into her sleeping quarters to see her, but after an incident during an assassination, he was deemed unstable and put into cryostasis when not on a mission.
Natasha and Bucky did actually get reunited, and bonded over their shared experiences with brainwashing, offering a constant for each other in turbulent lives where no one else could fully understand what they’d been through.
If the MCU’s Natasha follows this timeline, it would plug a potential hole too – current MCU Tash is said to be born in 1984, and considering the real-life KGB dissolved in 1991, she wouldn’t have had a lot of time to train with them! She was recruited young, but surely not that young.
Natasha ran from her life with the KGB after a mission at Tony Stark’s lab went south and she knew the failure could cost her her life. She had become hugely disillusioned and began to question her country and her missions, so from there, she planned to leave Russia and join the Avengers with her new lover, Hawk Eye. However, Nick Fury had other ideas and recruited her into S.H.I.E.L.D initially – but obviously she smashed all her missions, so she worked for both S.H.I.E.L.D and the Avengers, eventually splitting with Hawk Eye but remaining good friends.
She teamed up with (heroically and romantically) Daredevil at one point, moving to San Francisco and hatching a side hustle as a fashion designer! She ultimately left him because she didn’t see her as an equal on the battlefield.
Black Widow works with S.H.I.E.L.D, the Avengers (where she was actually a co-leader at one point), Daredevil, Secret Avengers, Lady Liberators and the Champions, but she works best alone. She spends a lot of time trying to make amends for things she did under the influence of the KGB, and is driven by an urge to wipe out the red in her ledger, similar to the repentant Bucky we see in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
A testament to her desire to do better, she once took what would have been a fatal blow were she not serumed up at the hands of HYDRA, so Miles Morales wasn’t hurt.
The Black Widows
When we say Black Widow, you think Natasha Romanoff, right? But there’s actually more than one. The Red Room where Natasha was trained produced many Black Widows, including rival-to-ally Yelena Belova, who we’ll see brought to life by Florence Pugh in the movie. They fought over Nick Fury’s Super Soldier serum, and on one mission, Natasha actually surgically swapped their faces without Yelena’s permission. Yelena was not too happy about it, as you might imagine! As Yelena, Natasha infiltrated the KGB, got what she was after, then swapped their faces back. So don’t be surprised if these two have a frosty face off in the film!
Who’s coming out of the pages and onto the screen?
Yelena Belova/Black Widow
We’ve touched on Yelena, played by Florence Pugh, but not gone into detail. Yelena is an amoral character – she’s not good, she’s not bad – she’s just entirely indifferent. She works against Black Widow, she works with her; she works for S.H.I.E.L.D, she works for HYDRA. You get the gist. She’s a slippery one. She actually also was changed into a version of Super-Adaptoid by HYDRA, subsequently becoming a high council member of A.I.M (Advanced Idea Mechanics), a criminal network of scientists and arms dealers. We actually see the A.I.M in the trailer when Yelena is being wheeled off on a gurney, so this may be tied in to the story. As Super-Adaptoid, she can copy powers and fights against the New Avengers. Ultimately, she does end up fighting for Natasha, but perhaps not in the way you’d expect.
Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
We’ve actually touched on David Harbour’s character too – he’s going to be Alexei, who we mentioned earlier. He appears to be more of a brother figure than a husband in the trailer, so we’ll see how that pans out. In the comics, he and Natasha were both Soviet agents, and he was a decorated fighter pilot. He was also successful in his personal life, having married the famous ballerina Natalia Romanova (aka Natasha Romanoff). As the Cold War took hold of Russia, the government realised they needed their own Captain America, so they faked Alexei’s death in a test flight and trained him as the Red Guardian, keeping his survival a secret from everyone including Natasha. Whilst Natasha grew away from the propaganda fed to her by her country, Alexei grew more loyal, eventually coming face to face with Natasha in America as she battled alongside Captain America against Alexei and his allies. He actually died trying to save them, and that’s when the Life Model Decoy (LMD) was created. So who knows what kind of story these two will be tangled up in the film!
Melina Vostokoff/Iron Maiden
Rachel Weisz also joins the cast as Melina Vostokoff, who’s known as the Iron Maiden in the comics and agent of the Russian government. She trained in the Red Room too, but gradually grew a deep hatred of the Black Widow as she always felt like she was walking in her shadow. She thought that if Natasha was the best at being a hero, she’d be the best at being a villain. Working as a hired assassin, she even very nearly killed Natasha once. She’s not super-powered, but like Natasha, she’s so good in combat that she holds her own against those with powers and anyone she goes after is pretty much screwed.
She’s been a long term enemy of Black Widow since her first comic book appearance in the 80s, so it’ll be interesting to see if she’s the ally she appears to be in the trailer or if she’s got ulterior motives.
And of course, we also see Taskmaster in the trailer. He has “photographic reflexes” which mean he can mimic any fighting style he sees immediately. In the comics, he’s a guy called Tony Masters from Brooklyn, and he dons his mask to train criminals in various fighting styles (even Captain America’s) then sell them to the highest bidder. Since he appears to be a Russian agent in charge of the Red Room and its trainee Black Widows in the trailer, he’s perhaps not Tony, but nonetheless could become another MCU anti-hero.
How many of these facts did you know? Let us know your thoughts and theories in the comments!