Reason Why Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Could Be A Huge Box Office Hit
Marvel’s Black Widow could be a revelation to the sorts of moviegoers who don’t see movies like Atomic Blonde, The Raid or even John Wick.
Because I guess Marvel and Disney couldn’t let MGM and Universal go first, we now have the teaser trailer for Black Widow. Thus begins the flurry of pre-Jumanji/Star Wars theatrical trailers. We’ll get a No Time to Die teaser tomorrow and we might get a teaser for Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters sequel this week as well. Oh, and we’ll be getting the first Wonder Woman 1984 teaser this Sunday along with (speculation) another Dolittle trailer with Cats, another Birds of Prey trailer, the first look at A Quiet Place 2 and the teaser for Fast & Furious 9 (unless they wait until the Super Bowl).
But you came here to watch (or read about) the first Black Widow trailer. Yes, it’s a post-Civil War (and pre-Infinity War) prequel to kick off Marvel’s Phase Four, starring a character for whom fans have wanted a stand-alone movie for years and yet now gets one just after that character gets killed off. Whether Black Widow’s onscreen demise in Avengers: Endgame will make this prequel flick more enticing or more bittersweet is an open question. And, yeah, as a seemingly stand-alone family melodrama (Florence Pugh co-stars as her sister Yelena, David Harbour is her dad, Alexi/The Red Guardian and Rachel Weisz is her mum Melina), this could be the lowest-grossing MCU summer kick-off movie since Thor back in 2011.
Cate Shortland’s Black Widow seems to be the first MCU movie that can be classified as a straight genre film as opposed to a superhero appropriation of a genre flick. This flick looks and feels, thus far, like less male gaze-y versions of Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow ($151 million on a $69 million budget in 2018), Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde ($100 million/$30 million in 2017) and Sasha Luss’s Anna ($31 million in 2019). That’s not a criticism, as I liked, to varying degrees, all three of those “young and attractive Russian woman ends up working as a covert KGB assassin” flicks, and this one will obviously deal with its protagonist long after she broke free from the “programming.”
On one hand, this “just a movie” notion could make Black Widow less of an “event” compared to previous MCU films. Think, relatively speaking, Solo: A Star Wars Story ($394 million on a $275 million budget) whose greatest artistic asset (it was just a space western/heist flick that happened to be set in the Star Wars universe) was its biggest commercial flaw. Now, there’s a big difference between “some guy” (Alden Ehrenreich) who isn’t Harrison Ford playing a young Han Solo versus Scarlett Johansson reprising her defining franchise role in an MCU flick. If audiences want to specifically see Johansson as Black Widow in an MCU spy actioner, then they’ll show up.
Yes, depressingly, the very folks who ignored the other movies noted above will likely show up to this one specifically because it’s starring a popular comic book character. And, truth be told, that could be a commercial advantage. Just as Joker (which just passed $1.05 billion worldwide) looked like the most unique thing ever to moviegoers who have spent their moviegoing lives not venturing beyond the familiar franchises, Black Widow could play like an action movie revelation to those who don’t generally see the likes of Atomic Blonde, The Raid or even the John Wick movies (this could easily out-gross all three John Wick movies combined). It could be a kind of “new to you” revelation. The only caveat, and it’s a minor one, is that Black Widow will open a month after No Time to Die (April 10) and three weeks before Fast & Furious 9 (May 22). To the extent that Black Widow’s comparatively real-world/grounded action will be a selling point, it’ll be stuck right in the middle of the two biggest franchises which offer the genuine article. That said, I’m guessing that Black Widow cost a lot closer to Spider-Man: Far from Home ($160 million) than Captain America: Civil War ($250 million), so grosses comparable to the Ant-Man movies will be just fine for this MCU prequel/palette cleanser.