500 Reasons Why There Should Be a Black Widow Solo Film

black widow1) As Scarlett Johansson rightly stated, Black Widow’s history is rich, and steeped with great stories to tell. As a spy, she has been involved in so many organisations, and this has been touched on by the MCU, which uses her as a bridge to connect HYDRA and the Red Programme, The Winter Soldier and SHIELD. Exploring her past in a more comprehensive manner would have the advantage of revealing her associations to each, as well as weaving a complex web of relations.

2) Natasha Romanoff is a Russian woman. To have her star as a protagonist would be a huge leap for Marvel, as characters of non-American ethnicity, when featured, are generally played as villains or thugs, rather than with heroic story arcs. This is superbly illustrated by the fact that the woman that Marvel has picked up to title the first solo superheroine film is Carol Danvers, a white American woman with a military background, despite Natasha’s pre-existence as a popular MCU character.

3) The Black Widow is very popular (and the lone Marvel superheroine). She has an avid and dedicated following, who would be more than willing to watch and applaud a solo film, as seen from demonstrations, tweets and general comments made since Natasha Romanoff first appeared on the big screen. Furthermore, there is no disagreement from higher levels such as Kevin Feige. It would be a very easy sell.

4) There are already fanmade title sequences and trailers of the film! Beautifully made, one has tricked many an unsuspecting Marvel fan that a Black Widow film was on the table. In fact, given the quality of the trailer, if the film was made, it might outstrip the rest of Marvel’s creations so far. Additionally, there’s no shortage of actor, writer and director enthusiasm – a treatment of the film was written back in 2010, and many celebrities have been quoted as saying that they’d be on board with the enterprise.

black widow

This is, along with the top-most image, is a screenshot from a superb title track you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhR6eZWOMeU

5) If a movie were to be made, it would give audiences the added pleasure of potentially delving into Hawkeye and Bucky Barnes’ histories as well, uncovering more backstory and spy shenanigans.

Reasons 6-500) Natasha Romanoff is one badass lady, and on top of that, she is a chameleon. She evolves, constantly. Wouldn’t it be awesome to watch those metamorphoses on screen? (the answer is a resounding YES).

Mon Capitan: Steve Rogers in Cap 2

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Then I read some reviews, discussed it with friends, babbled about it for about 6,000 words. Then I swore that I would tidy things up and post some reviews.

The next instalment is now up! (oh, only 6 months later, no biggie)

For a look at my reaction to the introduction of The Falcon, click HERE!

For a look at my reaction to the introduction of The Winter Soldier, click HERE!

Cap’s earnest look begs you to reconsider and watch the film first, if you haven’t done so. Spoilers abound!

Okay. I have to confess: at first, I was completely confused by Steve and Natasha. Utterly bamboozled. They spoke differently (seriously, Scarlett Johansson drops register completely), and it seemed that they had undergone a complete character shift, especially Natasha. Now, here, I have to admit something. It’s been a while since I watched the film Marvel Phase 1 films, so my characterisations might be a bit muddled. But upon research, I immediately encountered comments and interviews and responses which showed me that there had been adjustments made to both characters, so at least I wasn’t delusional 🙂

This review deals with my thoughts on Steve.
Steve, after some consideration, began to make sense. The violence – especially that stabbing of the bad guy’s hand at the start – was displayed by Steve, became more justified (although that particular moment still doesn’t sit well with me), especially after I found out that the film takes place a year after Avengers does, (which I hadn’t known going in, somehow). That development already took place in Captain America: The First Avenger, as was pointed out to me (thanks, capsicleironman!). At the beginning of the film Steve says “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies” but after Bucky ‘dies’, he says he wants to take out and “kill” as many Hydra agents as possible. This is simply a continuation of the desperate and broken man who has just lost his best friend, which for Steve happened last year, not 70 years ago.

Here, I really agree with hellotailor, the author of a series of intelligent responses to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which you can find here); this film depicts a Steve that is fine physically – his healing factor is as efficient as ever and he’s processed the technological and mechanical  advances well – but isn’t coping mentally. He’s all alone – as he jokingly says to Natasha, everyone he knows is dead or really old (oh, that heartbreaking scene with Peggy that will be discussed later) and he has no one to lean his back on. Because in Avengers, Tony Stark and he rubbed the wrong way, Bruce Banner has probably disappeared (and seems to be very introspective and private in any case), Thor isn’t on Earth, who the hell knows where Clint is holed up after his shot period of mind-control, and Natasha and he, well – you see in Captain America: the Winter Soldier that while they might be okay in battle, and they’re fine with the camaraderie of a joking front, their friendship isn’t deep enough yet to allow Steve to display any vulnerability. In addition to the lack of true integration of the members of the Avengers as a team is Steve’s psychological isolation; he is constantly aware that he is 70 years out of time; that his army friends are mostly dead, that his old flame Peggy moved on and married and is now an old woman suffering from dementia.  I think it should also be pointed out that for Steve, this loss is achingly recent; fresh out of WWII, he simply hasn’t had the time to mourn his comrades; definitely not enough to move on. More importantly, Bucky – the person who’s ALWAYS  been there to support him – isn’t, and that’s left a huge hole in his life. He clearly wasn’t dealing well with Bucky’s ‘death’ at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, doing reckless things like flying planes over the Arctic, and since then it has just been one world-threatening situation after the next, leaving him with no time to internalise or accept his grief.

In a nod to comic-verse, Captain America battles Batroc the Leaper, who thankfully doesn’t have such an atrocious French accent in the film 😀

Thus Steve is depicted as lonely and cut-off, expressing a lot of nostalgia towards his time in the 1940s not because of the old-fashioned tech and attitudes, but because of the sense of belonging he had with the Howling Commandos and his certainty in the moral boundary between right and wrong. Watching Captain America: The First Avenger in order to experience Steve’s transformation is so important to understanding why he is angrier, and no longer as cheerfully genuine and earnest – he is still that, but it’s been shoved to the background and overtaken by new bitterness and doubts as a result of working for a year in a greyscale, modern world in an organisation built upon espionage and killing and, apparently, corruption. Steve’s ideal of ‘good and bad’ was broken down; as he told Peggy, he just wanted to do what was right and “I don’t know what that is anymore“. I think we started with a character who, reasonably given the era he lived in and the experiences he had, inhabited a world of binary opposites. When you were fighting Nazis, you had a very clear enemy that was almost universally acknowledged (except by the Nazi themselves, and their erstwhile allies), as the ‘bad guys’. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it was harder to figure out who exactly that bad guy was, and that’s a much better representation of our morally ambiguous age and the character arc Steve is developing.

I love the woah moment. That emotionally climactic scene that is chock-full of symbolism and catch-phrases. It was well-executed indeed. Steve, who never knew how to back down from a fight, who fought against the odds ever since he was wee little Steve Rogers, who fights until the end, be it his own or the enemies – throws down his shield and gives up. He doesn’t swim, has to be pulled out, because he cannot fight his best friend when it literally doesn’t depend on the world surviving.There’s a gif set somewhere that shows the number of times Steve has said that he’d fight, and then one at the end where he surrenders to Bucky. It’s a pretty powerful thing. The absolute loyalty towards his friend; “I’m with you till the end of the line” was very clearly highlighting Steve’s priorities, and the importance he placed in Bucky, especially since by giving up after the world was saved (and I don’t see why, if Hill had the activation codes and everything, blowing up the helicarriers couldn’t have waited for the battle to end, and for them to fly somewhere that didn’t create to much destruction. Or why they couldn’t be re-purposed), he was saying, basically, I can’t live in a world where Bucky does not know me. Or, that’s how I interpreted it. I’d be really interested in other’s point of view on this pivotal scene, though!!

The one aspect that I’m still confused about is Steve’s healing factor – he seems to be completely fine, showing no bruising or wounds or anything – just keeps going … until the last scene with Bucky, when suddenly he needs hospitalisation and is almost incapable of moving, and moreover, wakes up still bruised. So I’m not sure how the continuity people figure his healing factor into battles, but there were moments that didn’t fit, for me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and apologise for the continuing delay, but I hope that you enjoy my discussion and come away with new things to think about 🙂

-Let’s call me Lily

Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, a.k.a. Bucky, codename: The Winter Soldier.

My second instalment in a series of reviews of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Don’t despair, more will come…eventually.

For a look at my reaction to the introduction of The Falcon, click HERE!

For a look at my reaction to the development of Captain America, click HERE!

Be careful, guys, this here is your warning that you are entering SPOILER territory. Does Bucky look vengeful enough to dissuade you? Honestly, watch the movie first, then come back. If you want to come back, that is :)
Be careful, guys, this here is your warning that you are entering SPOILER territory. Does Bucky look vengeful enough to dissuade you? Honestly, watch the film first, then come back. If you want to come back, that is 🙂

Goodness, Sebastian Stan can pack his acting punches! Having read at least some comics, I am vaguely familiar with the Winter Soldier storyline, and definitely knew that he’d been mind-wiped multiple times and had his personality basically erased (probably through fanfic, if I’m being honest). So I am really curious what someone who didn’t know about Bucky being the Winter Soldier, or even didn’t know that he was being mind-wiped by HYDRA, got out of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, especially given that he didn’t actually have a lot of screen time for the titular character. In fact, what I really want to know was if someone who didn’t know the history of the Winter Soldier, picked up that Bucky was being continuously mind-wiped between missions in that short scene with Pierce and Bucky after he encounters and fails to kill Steve. Because to me, even though no one said it, it seemed so clear. And that was due to Stan’s acting.

I love Bucky’s characterisation so far; I, for one, am so glad that he’s not 12 years old. Or Steve’s sidekick. Although the newer strands of comics, which I’m a tad more familiar with, do portray him more like the MCU version. The power and emotions behind Steve and Bucky’s story comes across much better with Bucky and Steve as best friends since childhood, instead of a leader/follower dynamic; it puts them on the same level and gives more depth to their relationship. The fact that Bucky was once bigger and stronger than Steve, the person who always cared about and took care of Steve even after Steve’s transformation into Captain America and was saving everybody else. This is really important, because Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows how much Steve needs that – a friend who will back him up and offer the support that he requires; to believe in him, so that he believes that what he’s doing is the right thing. It also, I think, lends more credit to Steve’s reaction at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as Steve, knowing that he has been taken care of for years, wants to do the same for Bucky now, partly to repay him, and partly because of the deep and abiding loyalty and love that he has for him. It wouldn’t have worked if Bucky was just Captain America’s 12-year-old sidekick.

Yep, it was a Batman and Robin scenario going on there...

Yep, there was a Batman and Robin scenario going on there….

Something that I really love about Marvel is their character continuity, wherein they cast an actor in a role, and, for the majority of the time, that actor will stay in their role (a few exceptions are Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Don Cheadle as James Rhodes, who were recast, but both were markedly well-suited for the job, more than the original choices, in my opinion) for their entire duration in the MCU. I mean, can you imagine a different Tony Stark for each film? In this way, the actors in some ways canonicalise their characters through their stylised performance, as well as depict the development of their characters in a much clearer arc. This is really evident in The Winter Soldier, because we have the strong foundation of Bucky in Captain America: The First Avenger as Steve’s oldest and dearest friend; someone whom Steve loves deeply and looks up to in some ways, as well as a stubborn, charismatic soldier whose abilities are superb and who attracts the dames with his cocky smirk. This makes the change from Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier even more dramatic, because the audience recognises Bucky’s face and some of his movements in the Winter Soldier, but his entire attitude to life, the core of his being, has been erased, resulting in a vastly different depiction of character. But, and I stress this point, because that is what makes it such a breathtaking portrayal, there isn’t a ‘new’ character to take Bucky’s place. It is still recognisably Bucky underneath all the brainwashes and torture and experimentation that he has undergone, and it’s all conveyed without words, just the emotion that Stan carries in his eyes. Marvel made the marvellous (:P) decision to make the Winter Soldier powerful, strong, yes, but not in control (a bit like Clint Barton under Loki’s power), and in some respects, not aware of the destruction he has wrought because that is a consequence of his mind-wipes; that he is not aware of what he has done and who he has been. The Winter Soldier is a puppet; a broken toy to be used and abused as HYDRA and Pierce wished. This quality was so clear in Bucky’s plaintive, childlike protestation of “but I know him …” and pout, the resignation in his eyes as he prepared to be wiped again, accepting the mouth guard, knowing the pain was coming, but knowing he had no choice. Bucky wasn’t making choices for himself any more; wasn’t his own person, and that was what made Stan’s performance so heartbreakingly devastating.

…. yeah, Sebastian Stan made me feel like Bucky needed a hug.

Run, Bucky! Out of the fire, and into Steve's arms :P
Run, Bucky! Out of the fire of the war, and into the ice of the cryogenic chamber.

The Winter Soldier’s costume design was another point in Marvel’s favour. I really loved the way that the cybernetic arm was so smoothly crafted, a fine networking of interlocking parts that could lock together and provide him with a superhuman grip, as well as the way it just fitted onto him – not clunky, but a dangerous weapon that was intricately bound to Bucky and was now an integral physical part of him. Additionally, I always appreciate a comic shout-out, even if I’m not particularly knowledgeable, just because it’s nice to see where concepts are coming from. So while I don’t think that long hair on anybody involved in combat is a very practical idea, it did echo the Winter Soldier’s look, as did the black costume and assortment of weapons. One thing I will ask is: what is up with the smudged eyes? Because in comic-verse, this is one of those flimsy skin-tight masks that totally means that they can’t be identified (cue the suspension of belief), but in the film, it looked like smudged raccoon eyes? I’m not sure if it’s a side-effect because of his goggles or what; I’d really like to know.

Raccoon eyes :)
Raccoon eyes 🙂

However, in saying all of that. I am really disappointed in the lack of back-story of Bucky meeting with Natasha in the Red Room; that has always been a vital part of their story (and relationship, because the Black Widow and the Winter Solider are an item for quite a long time in most versions), and I was really interested in seeing that modernised and negotiated by Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov. I knew it wouldn’t be explored in depth in this film, but I did want at least a hint that Marvel was going to use it, because 1) it’s in practically every version of Marvel as far as I know, 2) it provides a great link between Natasha and Steve, as it gives them a shared motivation: wanting to snap Bucky out of it (otherwise, as we saw, Natasha would think that Steve is just wasting his time, because she knows intimately that second chances are a risky business) and 3) it was a genuinely interesting back-story that could have led to an origins-type film with Natasha and Bucky negotiating the Red Room, and how Natasha got out of that environment alive. Instead, it wasn’t mentioned at all. In fact, they made up a new story and acted like it didn’t happen – here, Bucky was simply another antagonist that Natasha had faced, albeit one that was more skilled than anyone she’d encountered before. There is a theory going round which tries to assert that as Natasha is an unreliable narrator, she’s covering up her emotional past with this story of being shot and not telling Steve the whole story, which is possible, but a bit unlikely in my opinion, simply because I don’t think that Marvel would want to confuse viewers that much.

One last quibble about the Winter Soldier himself; throughout the film he is described as a ghost, someone who slips past systems and kills and then disappears completely. Well, we don’t really see much of that at all, do we? Instead, we see daylight confrontations, gunfights and dozens of civilian witnesses! I know that this is because such things create more oomph and impact as action sequences, but it would have been nice to see the spectre-like qualities of the sniper in the Winter Soldier – his primary role in comic-verse – to shine through, Maybe it will be covered in the next film in which Bucky is part of? As Sebastian Stan told several interviewers, including here (which offers a very comprehensive look at Stan’s views on the film and his character and the future of Bucky), he didn’t find out that he would be the Winter Soldier until a year ago, and didn’t even know the title of Captain America: The Winter Soldier until it was announced at Comic Con by Marvel; so it stands to reason that Marvel is just keeping as much under wraps as possible.

Sebastian Stan’s acting is incredible 😀 I’m looking forward to seeing more of him. In the seven films that he is still contracted to make with Marvel. I was completely taken aback by that; that Stan had agreed to a nine film contract with Marvel. That’s going to keep him busy for, what, the next decade at least? I hope Marvel makes it interesting, both for his sake and ours.