It sends Avenger-on-the-run Natasha on an espionage-tinged quest as she unravels a conspiracy linked to her past, in the wake of 2016's Captain America: Civil War.
Black Widow was directed by Cate Shortland, whose previous movies include the dramas Somersault and Lore, as well as the 2017 thriller Berlin Syndrome. Black Widow is her first MCU project, and I stayed up late in London to talk to her over Zoom as she started her day in Australia.
We steered clear of spoilers, but we touched on the pandemic's impact on production, the collaborative aspects of Marvel Studios and how a Coen brothers classic influenced Natasha's first encounter with one of the movie's villains.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie -- I didn't want it to end, which I guess is the highest compliment. Did it change at all due to the delay? Or has it been in the can since 2020?
Shortland: It's been in the can. It took longer to finish because we were in separate houses; we couldn't be in the same room. And all the digital effects labs started closing because of COVID, so we were shuffling visual effects around to different people. The whole process took longer because of it. But we finished and we just haven't touched it for a year.
How do you feel about the simultaneous Disney Plus and theatrical release, since that wasn't the original plan?
Ultimately, I want people to watch it in a cinema if they can do it safely. These films are designed to be enjoyed in a cinema with an audience -- a community -- with beautiful sound. That's the ultimate. But because of the situation we find ourselves in, it's great that some people can watch it at home on Disney Plus.
Which action movies had the most influence on you as you made Black Widow?
The film that I watched the most was No Country for Old Men, even though it isn't an action movie. But it's so beautiful how the Coen brothers create suspense in stillness and the rhythm of it. That was really influential for the Taskmaster moment when he pulls up on the bridge and he's walking towards her.
I also love [Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Fallout director] Christopher McQuarrie's work, and he was really generous. He spoke to me on the phone when I was in pre-production, about working with choreographers and second-unit directors -- how to make it a team and make sure that everybody's making the same film.