Thanks to a scrapped movie script, it’s possible that a Black Widow the movie could have opened before Scarlett Johansson and the MCU popularized the character. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, before Iron Man launched the MCU and changed superhero movies forever, the superhero collection was spread across studios. Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow was owned by Lionsgate, and they came very close to making their own Black Widow movie long before the MCU was even a concept.
Black Widow was released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2021, some twenty years after a solo movie starring the character was first released. The release of the film comes after Natasha’s death in Avengers: Endgame and over ten years after its original MCU debut, it has led to a movie that didn’t quite meet many expectations. Add to that the fact that its release has been delayed multiple times due to COVID-19 – and it ended up releasing on Disney+ concurrently with its theatrical run – and it’s clear why. Black Widow suffered at the box office. If Liongates had stuck with the original Black Widow in 2004, could have changed this result.
Why the Pre-MCU Black Widow Movie Never Happened
While superhero movies weren’t as big as they are now, they were starting to make waves in the movie world. Fox’s success X-Men influenced 2002 Spider man, which was a landmark and encouraging superhero film for the studios that owned the rights to several characters. Lionsgate hired David Hayter, who wrote X-Mento work in Black Widow movie. He worked with Kevin Feige on it, and the two were excited about the project, getting three or four drafts until Lionsgate canceled the project.
Three female-led action films BloodRayne🇧🇷 Ultraviolet🇧🇷 and eon flux released in a fairly short period of time, between December 2005 and March 2006. Unfortunately, they were all box office bombs and none of them broke 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently, that was enough to put Lionsgate off the idea of releasing a female-led superhero movie, leading to the film’s cancellation.
How the success (or lack thereof) of the Black Widow movie would have changed the character
Had Lionsgate chosen to proceed with the film anyway, its impacts would likely still be felt in the MCU today. Black Widow’s MCU timeline would likely be different, as would her backstory, her family, and even her dynamic with other characters like Clint Barton. While there’s no accurate way to estimate what the performance would have been like, no matter what direction it would have turned, it would definitely change Natasha’s character – setting a precedent early on for changing the character if the movie was bad or cementing her as more than one focal face of the displacement.
When Black Widow debuted in Iron man 2, his story was a blank slate, to some extent. The MCU didn’t have to scramble to reboot her character or change the public’s perception of her in order to tell the story they needed or wanted to tell. She was introduced piecemeal and played bigger roles as Marvel began to see audiences’ affinity for the character, though some felt the MCU failed Black Widow even after her solo film.
Would Black Widow still have debuted in Iron Man 2?
It’s unlikely that audiences got to know the MCU’s Black Widow in Iron man 2 if the original film had happened, regardless of its level of success. The MCU wasn’t the untouchable behemoth it is today; was on ice thin as a franchise and needed Iron man 2 to perform well. If the Lionsgate version of Black Widow had it failed, it’s unlikely that Marvel would have wanted to introduce Natasha to the MCU so soon after her solo film didn’t resonate well with audiences.
However, if Black Widow proved to be highly successful, which could have created its own set of problems. Lionsgate would likely become protective of the character and demand a hefty price for the rights to use her, similar to how Sony handled Spider-Man. Marvel would definitely like a high profile character like Black Widow in Iron man 2 to increase your credibility and attract audiences. But since they were just starting out as a studio, they couldn’t afford the rights to use Natasha Romanoff, so she likely wouldn’t have made her MCU debut until much later.
Would the MCU’s Black Widow movie still have happened?
If Lionsgate had released a solo Black Widow film in the early 2000s, the 2021 MCU Black Widow it would never have happened; at least, not in the same way. Releasing a solo film for Black Widow would have been more complicated as it constituted a reboot of the Lionsgate film, had that also explored her backstory. As such, the MCU could have either repeated what happened in reality and delayed a Black Widow movie until the character was established as different from her counterpart in the first film, or otherwise had a repeat. Spider-Man: HomecomingThe trick of having a solo first movie that didn’t involve the hero’s origin story.
The MCU probably would have released a version of Black Widow at some point, but the public’s perception of the character and the fact that she probably wouldn’t have appeared in Iron man 2 changes the history of the MCU as a whole, which in turn affects his solo film. It’s unknown if Marvel would still have tried to integrate her into the 2012 film. The Avengers, explored her past and the Red Room further, or if they still would have killed her in End of the game🇧🇷
As Lionsgate opted to scrap the original Black Widow solo film, it’s unknown what impacts this could actually have had on the MCU and female-centric superhero movies as a whole, possibly changing the evolution of female superheroes. While the MCU has likely integrated the character at some point, audiences may still be holding out for an MCU. Black Widow if the Lionsgate version turned out to be as popular as the X-Men. For fans of the assassin spy, it’s probably for the best that Lionsgate didn’t introduce the character to the big screen first.