Even though her character is gone now after having sacrificed herself to stop Thanos, that hasn’t stopped Natasha Romanoff’s solo movie set in the past from being one of the most highly-anticipated upcoming Marvel movies. Black Widow was set to hit theaters earlier this year but with Covid disruptions, it’s now hitting theaters next May.
One of the reasons fans are so excited for the movie is to see Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff sharing screen time with Florence Pugh as comic book character Yelena Belova, another graduate of the same Red Room program that trained Natasha. In the comics, she follows in Natasha’s footsteps, wanting to cross paths with the OG Black Widow in order to prove her worth. However, Natasha works to deprogram Yelena and show her the reality of the world of espionage and how she’d been used.
As it turns out, this dynamic – Natasha being free and Yelena still struggling against her upbringing – will manifest itself in an interesting way in the movie, and that’s in their individual fighting styles. In an interview with Pugh in Marvel’s Black Widow: The Official Movie Special Book (via Screenrant), Pugh talks about how they fight. While Yelena is all about efficiency, Natasha is a bit more of a showboat and fights with a flourish that annoys the pragmatic Yelena:
“When I was starting to learn how to do some of the stunts and they were still designing where they were going to go and how the fight scenes were going to go, we all pretty much, especially the stunt team, were thinking that Yelena is more of a “get the job done as quickly and as efficiently as possible” kind of girl. Or, and it’s a common theme that happens throughout the film, I just make fun of Natasha’s fighting stance, her fighting pose. I’m constantly throwing digs at her about how she does too much performance and not enough, well, getting the job done. So, everything about Yelena is feisty. It’s quick. It’s powerful. She’ll do the job now as opposed to making it pretty. That’s a character attribute that I’ve clung onto with her throughout the making of this film.”
Natasha is the knife blade, Yelena is the bullet. It’s been interesting to see how Marvel is adapting their comic book relationship and backstory for the live-action movie. In the comics, Yelena eventually takes up the Black Widow mantle in honor of the late Natasha, who by that time had been murdered by Captain America’s dopplegänger.
In the movie universe, Natasha sacrificed herself at Vormir to acquire the Soul Stone, but Yelena is already being positioned to take up Natasha’s mantle in the movies, too. In an interview from this past July, director Cate Shortland gushed about Florence Pugh and how she and Scarlett Johansson felt good passing the Marvel torch to Pugh. “[W]e didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be. We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great,” Shortland explained. “Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m really going to enjoy seeing the new generation of young Marvel stars take over the MCU and make it their own.
Black Widow is in theaters on May 7, 2021.