Late last year, Forbes magazine released its list of Hollywood’s Highest Grossing Actors. The top ten actors on the list were dominated by stars of various comic book blockbusters, whose solo films have raked in billions of dollars in box office returns. While you have your Robert Downey Jr’s and Ben Affleck’s firmly in place, the top of the list is held by an actor whose role in some of the biggest blockbusters committed to film continues to garner endless fan and industry speculation: Scarlett Johansson.
Scarlett Johansson’s rise to the top of the Forbes list has been long fought for and well-earned. She is an actress that can open and sustain a film in a climate of franchise blockbusters and that is not easy. She has also diversified her resume by taking smaller independent films as well as voice over roles in films like Disney’s The Jungle Book and this year’s Sing. It’s her role as Marvel Comics hero Black Widow that has garnered the most speculation. Everyone has been asking, since her breakthrough performance as Super-Spy Natasha Romanov in Iron Man 2, when we would see a Black Widow solo film on the big screen. I submit that Scarlett Johansson has made three Black Widow films so far and no one has noticed.
My first example might be a little esoteric, so bear with me while I make my argument why this film has connections to Marvel’s titular spy heroine. The first example I have is Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 film Under the Skin. In the sci-fi film, Johansson’s character has no name and no discernible back story but is obviously not human. She lures men into supposed sexual encounters and then kills them. The film itself is subtle in its pacing and plot, but its Johansson’s performance that drives everything. She portrays a character that has a mastery of deception and seduction, but struggles with human interactions. All elements that are present in Black Widow.
Under the Skin grossed $8 million dollars at the box office with a $13 million dollar budget.
The next example I have is Luc Beeson’s 2014 action thriller Lucy. In the film Johansson plays an unwitting drug mule who is given super human abilities after one of the bags of drugs in her abdomen bursts. As she begins to develop her abilities both mental and physical, she is hunted by a drug lord and his mob. The film is strewn with action and gun play that is almost a little too on the nose in its connections to Black Widow. International travel, escapes, disguises, car chases and gun fights pepper the landscape of this movie. Slap a black leather cat suit and red wig on her and your next Marvel movie is ready-made.
Lucy grossed $463.4 million dollars on a $40 million dollar budget.
My last example is this years Rupert Sanders helmed live action anime film Ghost in the Shell. In the film, Scarlett Johansson plays “The Major” an enhanced cyborg counter-terrorism agent who leads a task force called Section 9. Besides the action and gunplay that will surely dominate the plot, there are also indications of the lead characters feelings of disconnection from the rest of humanity. There are also elements that speak to being controlled and her desire to learn about her past. All of these spy movie tropes are present in Black Widow’s history in the “Red Room”, including the memory manipulation and enhancements.
Ghost in the Shell will be released March 17th.
Rumors have started up again about a Black Widow film with Jeremy Renner even chiming in that a Black Widow/ Hawkeye movie would be something that appeals to him. While it might be a while before we get to see a Black Widow solo film, Scarlett Johansson has certainly gotten plenty of practice.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.