Great news broke Tuesday that the upcoming Wonder Woman movie will be directed by Michelle MacLaren, who has worked on shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. A solo, female-led superhero movie being directed by a clearly capable, talented woman (how about that!) is a huge step in the right direction for better gender representation in Hollywood. Now it’s Marvel’s turn to show us what they’ve got, especially since they have the firing of Patty Jenkins from Thor: The Dark World to make up for.
But I think it’s time to give up on a Black Widow movie that isn’t going to happen.
There is a pretty conspicuous lack of female-led superhero movies, but I feel like when it comes to the lack of plans for a solo Black Widow movie, there might be another story behind it. I adore Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov and her work in The Avengers and especially in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was top notch. She’s a fantastic actress, truly fun to watch, and it’s clear she can carry a movie (see: The Winter Soldier, Lucy, Under the Skin, and that’s just this year alone), so it’s a real bummer that there isn’t a Johansson/Black Widow solo movie in the works.
But did anyone consider that maybe this was Johansson’s call?
It sucks that there hasn’t been a Black Widow movie and there won’t be. It also sucks that the public reasoning behind it is that she “works better on a team” even though a certain star-spangled man with a plan is a pretty big team player and will have headlined three movies before his story is done. But when you consider the contracts that Marvel’s stars agree to when they “put on the suit” to play these superfolks, it might be understandable why someone like Johansson might not be amenable to handing over a significant portion of her life.
For example, Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier) has a nine-picture deal with Marvel; Chris Evans agreed to play Steve Rogers until Avengers 3: Infinity War, which will presumably be the end of his six-picture deal. (His cameo in Thor: The Dark World wasn’t part of that deal.) That means Evans agreed to play one character from the age of twenty-nine or thirty to thirty-seven. That’s a looooong time to play the same character, even if it’s not a constant gig. It still means returning to the same job over the course of nearly a decade, and while it might be great for someone’s career, is it truly fulfilling for the actor?
Evans has already ventured into directing and he says that he’s interested in a career beyond acting, scaring the crap out of those of us who love his acting. (Make it your business to see Snowpiercer as soon as humanly possible, please.) Actors, by their nature want to tell all kinds of stories in many different ways. Johansson, who also sings, may not have wanted to be tied down by a huge commitment that could keep her away from telling other stories and which might get her pigeonholed as one character for life. (What did these actors all think of Birdman? I would love to know.)
Plus this: Maybe we don’t need a Black Widow movie. There are other Marvel heroine depths to plumb and we’re going to get a Captain Marvel movie. I think The Winter Soldier was Marvel’s way of testing the waters with a female lead, making her a co-lead. No, her name wasn’t on it, but that was a Black Widow movie, no doubt about it. Trying to wedge a Black Widow movie into Marvel’s lineup might seem like pandering at this point. Marvel has been doing amazing work bringing its classic and obscure characters into a new cinematic universe. If any studio can figure out a brilliant, original way to give women more screen time, it’s Kevin Feige’s Marvel operation. Let’s find more great characters and look ahead rather than hold on to a lost cause — and let Scarlett be Scarlett.
RELATED: Hopefully by the time Captain Marvel and other female-led superhero movies are made, the media will have figured out how to interview women.