The Super Bowl has become a major drop day for movie trailers and this year, even with a couple studios sitting it out (Sony and Warner Brothers), is no different. Over the course of game day—spiraling ad costs have driven some studios to slate their TV spots in the pre- and post-game hours—we got a bunch of new looks at the movies of summer 2020, including Marvel’s annual game-day drop, this time featuring Black Widow. This is their big summer release for 2020, and something of an unknown for Marvel’s well-oiled machine. They’ve never released a prequel for a character who is already out of the story (Captain Marvel is a prequel but it’s also the starting point for Carol Danvers in the MCU, not a swan song), and they’ve never released a movie that is both pandering to fans and also five years too late. I just can’t quite get a grip on this Black Widow movie, and the odd place it occupies in the MCU, and after this Super Bowl spot, honestly, I wonder if Marvel couldn’t quite grasp it, either.
Natasha has a pretty great monologue in Endgame saying, “I had nothing,” explaining that the Avengers gave her a family. That provided her ENTIRE motivation for the film, the notion that Natasha wants her family back is her reason for everything she does in Endgame, including making the ultimate sacrifice. But Black Widow reunites Natasha with her pre-Avengers—pre-SHIELD, even—compatriots from the Red Room, where she was trained. Call them her “murder family”, if you will. This Super Bowl spot directly addresses that the Black Widow movie is basically undoing that monologue in Endgame and rewriting Natasha’s arc to incorporate her murder family. Marvel’s continuity isn’t 100%, but they generally don’t overwrite major character motivations from one film to the next. Part of their success is how well, overall, the individual films synch up with the team-ups, creating one almost seamless story. But this? This could make Natasha’s death even stupider than it already is.
There is only one way that I can see this working out. Everyone is wondering who is playing Taskmaster, the bad guy in the mask; Taskmaster’s identity is A Big Secret. But it must be Rachel Weisz. The only way to make a Black Widow movie that is about Natasha’s “family” that doesn’t render her big speech in Endgame completely meaningless is if her pre-Avengers family totally implodes. And the only way for that to happen is with a betrayal so big she would write the whole thing off and feel that the Avengers are the only family she really has. It still doesn’t completely track because by this point, Natasha has been with the Avengers for years and presumably already felt she had nothing as her Endgame monologue states, but at least it would give a reason for her not counting her murder family on her list of good things by the time she tells Steve the Avengers are the only family she has. It just strikes me as a bit weird that one year after we get, “I had nothing, you’re my only family,” Natasha is now going, “I mean, except for this OTHER family over here.” There really never was a plan for this character, was there?