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Black Widow Release Date, Cast, Director, And Villain

"Black Widow" should've been well in our rearview by now, alongside several other MCU Phase 4 flicks. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the film more than once, along with every other Hollywood production over the last year, which has given us quite the Marvel drought. Luckily, at the beginning of 2021, our MCU void was filled with "WandaVision" and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" both premiering on Disney+, but it's still been almost two years without a movie from the studio. It's quite hard to believe we've gone so long without an MCU film, especially since we'd been spoiled with three a year previously. But as the world gets back to normal, "Black Widow" is ready to blow everyone away with a firm premiere date.

Scarlett Johansson is back as Natasha Romanoff in her first ever solo flick, a character who made her first MCU appearance in 2010's "Iron Man 2." The solo movie is long overdue for Johansson, whose male co-stars have been boasting their own films since the MCU got started back in 2008. Granted, the movie is a prequel, so fan's shouldn't expect to see a resurrected Natasha after her unfortunate but necessary death in 2019's "Avengers: Endgame." Still, the movie is steadily approaching, and here's everything we know about it so far.

When is Black Widow being released?

"Black Widow" was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe property impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The highly anticipated solo flick had an original premiere date of May 1, 2020, but it was pushed back three times as theaters remained closed across the globe. The Scarlett Johansson-led flick was moved to November 9, 2020, then again to May 7 of this year. Fans were further disappointed when it was announced this March that "Black Widow" would be delayed one more time – this time to July 9.

The movie isn't expected to shift again, as things are finally looking up regarding the ongoing health crisis. Most theaters in the United States have reopened, and mask mandates are being lifted as millions of Americans have become vaccinated. For those still feeling unsafe about heading back out to the movies, "Black Widow" will also be available to stream on Disney+ the same day that it's in theaters. Subscribers to the platform will have to shell out extra cash to watch the movie, as it will only be accessible via Premier Access for $29.99. If you bought "Mulan" or "Raya and the Last Dragon," then you're already familiar with the drill.

Where does Black Widow fit in the MCU timeline?

It was never any secret that "Black Widow" was going to be a prequel story for Natasha Romanoff, and it wasn't long before fans found out just when the movie would be taking place. The movie will occur between the events of "Captain America: Civil War" and "Avengers: Infinity War." 

We know that some of Team Cap are on the run from the United States government at this point in time after Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) broke out his pals from the Raft prison. While Natasha was famously on Team Iron Man, she eventually found herself in the middle, as she aided Steve and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) in their escape from the airport battle in Germany. Unfortunately for her, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) told Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) about what Natasha did, forcing her to leave the Avengers and go on the run. 

Then, in "Avengers: Infinity War," we learn that she eventually linked up with Steve and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and the trio helped rescue Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) at the train station in Scotland when they were attacked by Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) and Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon). As for the 2021 film, "Black Widow" is expected to explore the missing chunk of Natasha's life between these two films, which eventually sees her join up with Steve and Sam.

Who's fighting alongside Natasha Romanoff?

Natasha Romanoff will link up with some of the most important people from her past in "Black Widow." This will include her surrogate family members Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), and Alexei Shostakov, aka Red Guardian (David Harbour). From the trailers, it looks like Yelena is going to be the biggest supporting character of the bunch, serving as Natasha's "sister" who was also trained in the Red Room.

Yelena is a spy just like her sister, and she's also gone by the Black Widow moniker in the modern era of Marvel Comics. Many are suspecting Pugh's character to become a bigger presence in the MCU after "Black Widow," given her character's rich history in the comics and due to the fact that she's set to appear in the upcoming "Hawkeye" series on Disney+, according to The Direct.

Melina and Alexei are the mother and father figures to the girls, but they aren't their biological parents. Both are also highly trained and skilled in combat, which was apparent in the trailers, despite Alexei putting on a little bit of weight since his glory days. The duo's roles in "Black Widow" are a little more mysterious, and while they're suspected to be on Natasha's side of things, it really can't be confirmed since we've been given so little on their roles.

But as for what we know about their comic book origins, Red Guardian first showed up in 1967's "Avengers" #43, where he was the Soviet Union's answer to Captain America. Weirdly enough, he was originally Black Widow's love interest, although that's obviously changed for the film. As for Vostokoff, she goes by the name Iron Maiden in the comics, and she made her first appearance in 1983's "Marvel Fanfare" #11, where she was incredibly resentful of Black Widow's legend and eventually became her sworn enemy.

Who are some of the other supporting stars?

There are a few other stars who've joined "Black Widow" in some pretty noteworthy roles. For example, Ray Winstone has joined the cast and will portray Dreykov, a name MCU fans might remember from "The Avengers." When Natasha Romanoff is trying to lure information out of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) while he's imprisoned on the Helicarrier, the God of Mischief refers to her as "Dreykov's daughter." The mention of the name makes Natasha go wide-eyed, instantly letting viewers know the mystery man is bad news from her past. And from the "Black Widow" trailers, we've learned Dreykov is the superior of Taskmaster — more on him later — and oversees the notorious Red Room

Additionally, O-T Fagbenle will be playing Rick Mason, someone we assume is pretty important given he was honored with his own character poster for the film. Rick is one of Natasha's only allies, and he apparently has a romantic interest in her. Anything else we can expect from Rick in the movie is a mystery, but Fagbenle has commented on the role of his character in a special "Black Widow" book (via Cinema Blend). "Mason is a finder for people who aren't so affiliated with armies, like people who are part of the underworld," the actor noted. "He can find anything you need as well. He's had a relationship doing that work for the Black Widow, and they have a bit of a vibe going on. There's a sense that there's more to their relationship than it being purely work-related, so that's always in the mix."

Who's working behind the camera on Black Widow?

The talent behind the camera on "Black Widow" is just as impressive as the talent in front of it. The MCU film is directed by Cate Shortland, who's mostly known for her films "Berlin Syndrome," "Lore," and "Somersault." "Black Widow" is easily Shortland's biggest feature to date, given its $200 million budget (via Variety). Plus, Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson make up the writing team of "Black Widow," marking the second official MCU project for Schaeffer. The writer famously penned all nine episodes of "WandaVision," which was praised by critics and fans alike. (It's also been reported she did uncredited rewrites on "Captain Marvel.")

"Black Widow" marks Benson's first project with the MCU, and it's the newest addition to his rather short Hollywood resume. The writer is mostly known as the scribe and director of "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," which is basically three separate films that focus on different perspectives of a single relationship (with characters played by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy).

Serving as the composer on the Marvel film is Lorne Balfe, and if you're unfamiliar with the name, some of the films on his resume should have you very exciting for the musical stylings of "Black Widow." Balfe composed the scores for "13 Hours," "Mission: Impossible – Fallout," and "Bad Boys For Life," to name a few. This is the second MCU credit for the composer, who also worked on additional scores for "Iron Man" in 2008.

Who is Taskmaster?

While we know the aforementioned Dreykov is going to be playing an important role in "Black Widow," the movie's true villain is Taskmaster. Somehow, after leaks and multiple release date changes, the identity of Taskmaster is still a mystery, but fans definitely have their theories on the masked baddie's real name.

First appearing in "Avengers" #196, Taskmaster was a former SHIELD agent turned assassin, whose birth name was Anthony "Tony" Masters. Taskmaster has the ability to mimic any opponent's combative skill, which almost always gives him the upper hand in a fight. In the comics, he has ties to many famous characters including Maria Hill, Iron Man, Baron Zemo, and Captain America. Plus, his photographic reflexes make him one of a kind, and he'll truly be a force to be reckoned with against Natasha Romanoff and company in "Black Widow." 

However, we're not expecting the "Black Widow" Taskmaster to be Tony Masters but rather someone Natasha already knows. This person appears to be some sort of Russian agent who's also in charge of the Red Room, and we're suspecting it's someone we've already seen in the MCU or possibly one of the newcomers we meet in "Black Widow." Is it Rachel Weisz? Could it be O-T Fagbenle? We'll find out soon enough.

Taskmaster has some serious moves

So, Taskmaster's whole thing is mimicking the moves of other superheroes, and by watching the trailers, we've discovered that the big baddie has been doing his homework.

In one of the trailers, we watch Taskmaster wield a bow and arrow, kinda like a certain Avenger we all know and love. It also looks like the villain is taking his copycat cat skills even further than simple combat moves. How so? Well, in one of the trailers, Taskmaster can be seen doing the cross-armed "Wakanda Forever" pose made famous by Black Panther. Whether Taskmaster has adopted the moves of T'Challa himself remains to be seen, but we know he can memorize anyone's skills just from watching a video, meaning he doesn't have to have encountered T'Challa in the past. 

It also looks like he's learned a few moves from Captain America when it comes to throwing a shield. In fact, when Taskmaster kicks and catches his shield in one scene, it's eerily reminiscent of a similar moment from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Taskmaster also mimics a famous Natasha move from "Iron Man 2," when she lands impressively on one hand and one knee after her hallway battle. How he learned her move is a mystery, but Natasha definitely has her work cut out for her if she's essentially fighting herself.

Will there be any MCU cameos?

Based on the trailers, we know Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross will be showing up in "Black Widow." William Hurt appeared to be de-aged in his brief trailer appearance, which makes sense given the last time we saw him was at Tony Stark's funeral in "Avengers: Endgame," which was set in 2023. Given the timeline of "Black Widow," Ross will be around seven years younger. What exactly his role is in the new movie remains to be seen, but he could be trying to track down Natasha after "Captain America: Civil War." It's also a possibility we'll see flashbacks in "Black Widow," with an even younger Thaddeus.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is also expected to make an appearance in "Black Widow," based on a report from Deadline back in 2019. Downey's cameo in the movie is expected to be just that, so fans shouldn't expect much of a storyline from the now-deceased hero

Someone else we suspect could show up in "Black Widow" is Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who we met in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." According to Vanity Fair, Valentina was first set to appear in "Black Widow," but with premiere dates being pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things had to change. Whether Dreyfus will appear is still a mystery, but we know Marvel Studios does have "big plans" for Valentina moving further into the MCU.

We're going to learn a lot about Black Widow's past

With "Black Widow" constantly being delayed over the last year, in an effort to keep fans interested, Marvel Studios gave us additional trailers, sneak peeks, and featurettes. All of these were majorly dissected as fans did their best to spot all the Easter eggs they could. And there were definitely quite a few moments, people, and objects that stood out in many of the clips we were shown, some of which might hint at the movie's biggest reveals.

One of the cityscape shots in the 2021 trailer was that of Budapest, a famous city in MCU lore that we've never visited before in the franchise. The Marvel fandom knows the Hungarian capital well, solely based on comments from Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) in "The Avengers" and "Avengers: Endgame." We know the friends have a history in Budapest, but just what went down between them — or whatever mission they might've been on — is still a mystery. 

We also got our very first sneak peek at little Natasha Romanoff, which saw her alongside a young Yelena Belova and their adoptive father, Alexei. This was well before the girls were went to the Red Room, which we learned about in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." From this Easter egg, it looks like we might see the terrible moment where the young girls are sent off to be mind-controlled against their will.

Eagle-eyed fans have also noticed that a vest Yelena Belova is wearing in the trailer is the same one we see Natasha sporting in "Avengers: Infinity War." This suggests that "Black Widow" will directly lead into the third "Avengers" film, with not much time in between the two.

How might Black Widow shape the future of the MCU?

When it was announced that "Black Widow" was going to be a prequel, some fans were disappointed since it might not bear any weight in the MCU. But remember, this is the first movie in Phase 4, and you can expect it to introduce us to new characters who will stick around moving forward. We're fully expecting Yelena Belova to be Natasha Romanoff's replacement in the MCU, much like we saw Anthony Mackie become the new Captain America in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."

We're also expecting a little more backstory on Clint Barton but still aren't sure about a possible cameo. Taking us to Budapest is almost a confirmation that Hawkeye will at least be mentioned in the movie, especially if Taskmaster has memorized his fighting style. This is all a great tease as to what we'll also see in the Disney+ "Hawkeye" series.

And while just a rumor at this point, "Black Widow" could also very well set up the Thunderbolts in the MCU. Both Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and Thaddeus Ross have ties to the group of reformed super-criminals, which is currently led by Taskmaster in the comics.

"Black Widow" is going to be so much more than a prequel, and fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe should be extremely excited for the film we've waited far too long to see.