Truthfully, it has been a while since there was a sexy female comic book character on the screen. Elektra was a pouty-lipped flop, Storm had a silly wig and Susan Storm just looked… weirdly Caucasian. So hopes are high that Iron Man 2 will see the return of the sexy skin-tight eroticism that made Batman Returns so watchable. The name of the actress chosen to play role has been something of a hot potato since it entered the casting arena. Both Emily Blunt and Dollhouse’s Eliza Dushku were at one time contenders, but both were sadly just red herrings. Actress Scarlett Johansson will be donning the black cat suit in the action-packed sequel that is sure to turn plenty of heads in the summer of 2010.
Johannson (also of the dud Spirit flick), is in my opinion an iffy choice. As an actress she is more comfortable with dramatic parts rather than action flicks (see the Spirit). She also has very little ‘presence’ that would be necessary to make the audience believe that she is a Russian super spy (Hell, I’ll be surprised if she nails the accent!). But enough of the actress, what about the fictional character?
Initially introduced in the series that spawned Iron Man, Tales of Suspense, The Black Widow was a reluctant assassin saddled with the duty of killing that flithy American Tony Stark. Using her femenine wiles, she duped the archer Hawkeye into being her weapon of choice, but that went badly and Hawkeye ended up becoming an Avenger. Left with the deed of killing the weapons manufacturer, Natasha Romanoff donned the Black Widow costume and tried her own hand as hired killer. Able to cling to smooth surfaces by small suction cups attached to her hands and feet and armed with a wrist-mounted dart gun on each arm, she was certainly capable of becoming a menace to the forces of freedom. But she too turned on her Soviet oppressors and defected to the West.
After giving up the evil gun for hire business, Black Widow became a hero, at one time serving as leader of the Avengers and dating Daredevil. So great was her influence, that she and the blind crimefighter shared the title of his comic! More recently, she worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. (before it was dismantled) and she even received a complicated revised origin story that made her the subject of an elaborate Soviet super spy program which not only trained her in espionage and combat but also enhanced her physically. This would put her in the same camp as Wolverine, Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Nick Fury as characters who look far younger than they actually are. Cap has the Super Soldier Serum to thank, Nick the Infinity Serum, and Logan his healing factor. Natasha is apparently also of an indeterminate age due to the biological engineering done to her as a child.
She is recognized as somewhat of a friendly female and has sat on the arm of many a super hero over the years. Currently she is the main squeeze of the new Captain America, Bucky Barnes. While she may seem devious and shifty, she is a prime example of Stan Lee’s practice of taking a villain and making her a hero, causing the line between good and evil to soften into a blur (which is pretty sophisticated for an artform blamed for creating social deviants).
In the feature film, little is known about the character of the Black Widow, but it is a possibility that she will be the cause of sexual tension between Whiplash (played by Mickey Rourke) and out hero Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr reprising his role). There has been some rumbling that Hawkeye will make an appearance and while that would make for a crowded movie, I am a big fan of the crotchety archer and it would make a smooth lead-in for the Avengers film.
In any case, we’ll all find out next summer.