We all know that the standalone Black Widow movie is long overdue. Since her introduction in 2010’s Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff has consistently been one of the most fascinating characters in the MCU, and Marvel has just as consistently refused to give her the solo adventure she deserves. However, what you might not know much about is Cate Shortland, the Australian director who’s been tapped to helm Black Widow. As usual, Marvel is drafting a hugely talented independent director into the big leagues, but looking through Shortland’s filmography will quell any doubt that Black Widow won’t (or can’t) live up to expectations.
Shortland got her start directing a couple of Australian television shows, including ten episodes of a popular series about twenty-somethings called The Secret Life of Us. Her debut feature, Somersault, was released in 2004 to critical acclaim, including 14 wins at the Australian Film Institute Awards, which is more or less the Australian Oscars. Shortland’s film was awarded for directing, writing, acting, and was named the Best Film of the year. It took Shortland eight years to direct her follow-up, Lore, in 2012. The film ended up being a minor success in the US, and was nominated for a handful of AACTA Awards (formerly the AFI Awards).
Most recently, Shortland directed 2017’s Berlin Syndrome, a kidnapping-themed horror film starring Teresa Palmer (Message From the King) and Max Riemelt. What all three of Shortland’s films have in common is the idea of a sheltered young woman thrust into an unfamiliar world, forced to deal with it as it comes. Somersault saw star Abbie Cornish (Jack Ryan) as a 15-year old girl who runs away from home, only to be confronted with the harsh realities of an unfamiliar world; Lore deals with a young German girl (Saskia Rosendahl) who’s exposed to the harsh realities of what her people were responsible for during World War II; and Berlin Syndrome has star Teresa Palmer come to the realization that not everyone is who they seem when a fling rapidly develops into an unhealthy, and potentially deadly, obsession.
With that in mind, I’d love to see a Black Widow movie that doesn’t even see ScarJo for much of the first act. At the risk of sounding like I’m lumping all female superhero movies into one category, I could see Black Widow being similar to Wonder Woman in that we could see Romanoff’s childhood, the brutality that came to define much of her young life, and how that shaped the way she sees the world around her. This is familiar terrain for Shortland, and it’d be great to see these themes make their way into her big-budget debut, especially since Natasha Romanoff isn’t all that different from these other protagonists. Except, you know, she can obliterate a human being with almost no effort.
Images: Marvel, Lionsgate