After a triumvirate with Marvel Studios’ mega-releases in 2019 and a severe pandemic that neutered every possibility of true box-office success in 2020, 2021 has officially started opening its doors back up with the theaters, and the summer releases are ready to embrace the moviegoers once again.

A Quiet Place 2 has brought back the theater experience we all craved with its fantastic usage of sound and performances many got a taste of with its predecessor in 2018. F9 soared around the world (literally) with an admirable 500+ million gross so far (in its second weekend) and some “Ludacris” action-packed sequences. This weekend will see Marvel Studios return to the theaters (as they implored many with their recently distributed video on the upcoming future of Marvel Cinematic Universe films). The Black Widow solo film is finally here, after over a year of delays and anticipation. Usually, most of us question if the movie was indeed worth the wait. But coming off the tail-end of the pandemic and the explosion of streaming services on demand does have the public questioning if the movie theater experience has returned.

Let’s get straight to the point: Nearly every MCU die-hard fan has waited for so long for Scarlett Johansson’s onscreen hero to have a solo film of hers one day. Ever since she was cast for the role and joined the franchise in Iron Man 2, folks clamored for her to get her chance to shine without playing the sidekick in the Avengers or Captain America films.

The character’s interesting dark backstory was slightly explored in Avengers: Age of Ultron via mental distortions, and they could have followed up right then and there to do so. But the company instead opted to move forward to their big projects (a la Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, and Thor: Ragnarok). Heck, even Johansson, in an interview, explained she never felt interested in doing a solo film until after Civil War’s release because her character stays “operative” and embraces a family within the Avengers group until they broke up.

Now, she finally gets one, with co-stars Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz joining her. Another prevalent issue is we know of the character’s fate in the present day. Spoilers, but in Avengers: Endgame two years ago, her character sacrificed herself for one of the Infinity Stones so the Avengers could undo the Snap. That result alone means the narrative will have to overcome this painful fact, even if it is set years before Endgame; otherwise, the plot and action could become filler and unnecessary in the grand scheme of the MCU’s storytelling.

The most distressing part is the film could become perceived as an obligation rather than a statement of empowering female characters to take the primary role of the superhero genre. Honestly, this solo film could (and should) have been released right after the first Avengers film. Since that did not happen, it allowed the DC Extended Universe to take advantage and their first step in giving Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman her solo story in 2017. The result was an unwavering success that spawned two sequels, and her character becoming more integral to the Justice League stories.

It took seventeen (?1?) MCU films before we got a female villain in the form of Cate Blanchett, and then twenty-one to debut a female lead in Brie Larson. And it took till Endgame, the former highest-grossing film of all time, to include a beautiful shot of the women heroes banding together to take on Thanos’s army. But that lasted less than two minutes. Not to forget, Black Widow, the one character who stood next to the male heroes when they battled the Chitauri army during the Battle of New York and fended off robots with Star Wars lightsabers, somehow could not get her proper sendoff. Her sexualization in her initial debut back in 2010 highlights a much clumsier Hollywood back then, but now eleven years later, it finally gives her a chance. And it might be too late.

Then again, this is Marvel we are talking about then and now. The MCU is the highest-grossing franchise of all time, with some of the best superhero films. The Black Widow film, receiving a positive word of mouth for its cast and action, stands walking in the right direction. Still, it is a shame this movie is releasing in 2021, not in 2013. Sometimes Marvel, giving the fans what they want at a much earlier time after such mind-blowing success, is not a bad thing.  

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