How the 'Black Widow' Opening Titles Set Up a Different Kind of Marvel Movie
After a delay of over a year, Black Widow has made it to theaters, the first MCU film released since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. The movie — which focuses on Scarlett Johansson’s titular character, Natasha Romanoff (AKA Black Widow) — is also different from the Marvel films that came before it.
Black Widow establishes that difference in the first 10 minutes of the movie, something Marvel head Kevin Feige said came about later on in the production process. Read on for how those first 10 minutes set the stage for the film.
Warning! Spoilers for Black Widow reside below!
The Not-So-Typical American Family
Black Widow starts out in mid-90s suburban Ohio. There, we meet two children who don’t seem like undercover Russian assassins. We soon find out, however, that their parents — Rachel Weisz and David Harbour — are Russian spies, just like the Jennings family in FX’s The Americans.
Their spy-work is done, however, and the family flees the Midwest for Mother Russia (via Cuba). There, the two daughters, Natasha and Yelena, are ripped away from each other and sent to Dreykov’s (Ray Winstone) Red Room.
The scene where soldiers pull the two girls apart is a wrenching one. It also, as Feige shared in a press conference, establishes the core of Natasha and Yelena’s relationship and also how truly evil Dreykov is.
The Red Room Is Bad. Really Bad.
“We needed to set the stage for what both of these women — all of these women and characters — had gone through in their past and exactly what Ray Winstone, the villain of our piece, had done,” Feige said at a press conference for Black Widow that /Film attended, referencing the opening sequence that showed the disturbing images of Dreykov’s soldiers mistreating and brainwashing several girls, including Natasha and Yelena.
The idea to showcase the horrible treatment of the girls during the title sequence came about later on in the production process. During additional photography, the creative team came up with the images to viscerally convey what happened to Natasha and Yelena after they left Ohio. “It was tremendous and ended up being one of our rare sort of pre-opening title sequences that really helped set the tone and the backstory for Natasha’s character,” Feige shared.
The images were haunting and stuck in the back of my mind every time Natasha and Florence Pugh’s Yelena were together on screen. Those first 10 minutes conveyed all they’ve been through, both together and apart. The intro also affirms that Dreykov is unambiguously a bad guy — something that’s hammered home as the movie continues.
All that setup makes Black Widow — major explosions and fight scenes aside — more intimate than other Marvel movies. It’s about ending a secret mind-washing program, yes. But it’s also about family, even ones that were never meant to be real.
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