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Delaying ‘Black Widow’ is a shame – but it’ll raise anticipation for phase four

First, it was No Time to Die that pushed back its release date. Then, Peter Rabbit 2 and A Quiet Place Part II followed suit. By now, it’s no longer a surprise to see the once-stacked 2020 film release calendar now completely empty. That is, until mid-July, when Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Tenet and the pushed-back Mulan are currently scheduled to come out in cinemas.

So, it wasn’t a shock at all, when Disney announced that Black Widow, the next film to come from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was to be moved from its early May date. In fact, the whole MCU has been pushed back a movie date.

To quickly give a run-down of the new dates for their upcoming motion pictures: the Scarlett Johansson-led movie is now set to be released on November 6, which was the date that The Eternals was scheduled for. Instead, the cosmic ensemble film will be landing on February 12, 2021, while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been bumped back to May 7, 2021. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness will now be in screens on November 5, 2021, while the Taika Waititi-directed Thor: Love and Thunder will arrive in February 18, 2022.

This wasn’t unexpected news. If we’ve learnt anything from the previous three phases of the MCU, it’s that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his team plan their release calendar very specifically to enrich the central narrative of the MCU. The films are released in a precise order to ensure that the overall story is told exactly how the studio wants to tell audiences, which has worked out tremendously given the success of the ‘Infinity Saga’.

But since their last motion-picture release, it’s been quite a challenging time for the studio. There was the revenue-dispute with Sony Pictures, which threatened to completely take Peter Parker out of the MCU. Then came the Martin Scorsese comments in October, that caused an eruption of debates centred around if Marvel movies could truly be considered ‘cinema’.

Black Widow was projected by many industry experts to make over $100 million on its opening weekend, and certainly would come close to making $1 billion overall

And now, on the verge of releasing their first Phase Four film, the coronavirus pandemic struck, and pushed the release back another six months. This is certainly a blow for the studio, as well as Disney, with it being one of their first live-action blockbuster releases of the year. Indeed, Black Widow was projected by many industry experts to make over $100 million on its opening weekend, and certainly would come close to making $1 billion overall.

Is it a blow for fans and those involved in the production? Absolutely. There’s been no MCU content since the Spider-Man sequel in July, making it nine months since we’ve got a glimpse of what’s to come in a post-Endgame world. Yes, I know Black Widow is a prequel. But with the additions of Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova and David Harbour as the Red Guardian, who knows what they’ve been up to, during the events of the previous films?

And once November eventually comes around, it’ll be a total of sixteen months, making it the longest gap between the release of two MCU movies, since the 23 month-long wait between The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2.

Undoubtedly, this pause could have a detrimental effect on the interest in the MCU. After all, the trailers looked to have delivered on its promise, that the Cate Shortland-directed picture was going to be a ‘more grounded, pure action and spy film’, similar to the John Wick franchise and the Charlize Theron-led Atomic Blonde movie. It could have certainly convinced the more casual action picture fans, to give the Marvel juggernaut a go. And, it also did much to persuade those who had proclaimed that they were ‘done’ with watching the Marvel films, to instead commit to viewing the 24th entry in their ever-growing catalogue.

Now, momentum has slowed. And the Internet will continue to speculate, questioning if the MCU has hit its peak, and whether we even need Phase Four at all.

And with Wonder Woman 1984 now on-course to be the first major superhero release of the year in August (sorry, Bloodshot), it puts extra pressure on Marvel to deliver and produce a long-overdue film that champions their first female hero, while also showcasing some high-quality fight scenes that gets the casual observer hooked.

But, let’s not get too carried away. The sky isn’t falling, and Marvel know what they’re doing. If anything, it’ll make fans more excited.

it will still spark huge interest, among the legions of fans, who have watched the universe grow ever since the first Iron Man picture came out

The Black Widow film has the advantage, that it revolves around a character that’s been established for a long time. And with rumours that there might be a cameo from an old friend of hers (you didn’t think Tony would be completely gone, did you?), it will still spark huge interest, among the legions of fans, who have watched the universe grow ever since the first Iron Man picture came out.

Who wouldn’t want to see how a Phase Four universe might look like, even if the film gives us the tiniest glimpse of that future? And with the possible insertion of the Fantastic Four and X-Men still a topic of intense gossip, supporters will definitely turn up to the screenings, in anticipation of any hints or ‘Easter Eggs’ that Feige and his team will set up.

And the trailers for the film looked good. No, really good. If we get a film that’s just as good as Captain America: The Winter Soldier (some fans’ favourite MCU movie, including this author), with the same tone and quality of action, which looks to be the case – then, there’s no doubt that Black Widow will be a success, critically and commercially.

Hence, the delays to Black Widow won’t damage the hype around the MCU at all. Simply, it’ll crank up the anticipation to fever-pitch levels. Bring on November!

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