Cate Shortland Tapped to Direct 'Black Widow' for Marvel

Captain America Civil War Black Widow

After nearly a decade of waiting, this Black Widow solo film looks like a reality.

After an extremely extensive search to find a female director to helm the first Black Widow solo adventure, Marvel has chosen Cate Shortland out of the three finalists to take the reigns. While Shortland did not make our own original wishlist of possible directors, we should take solace that she is a filmmaker of tremendous ability. She is best known for her 2012 historical drama Lore, in which five German siblings flee their homes after their Nazi parents vanish in the wake of Allied victory. The film is a richly complicated and thought-provoking experience where morality forever exists in shades of grey. Bingo.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Marvel spent the last half year combing through more than 70 possible female filmmakers and nearly gave up before settling on Shortland. They even began contemplating a male director at one point. What was the hang-up? Why was finding a woman for the job so difficult? From our perspective, Deniz Gamze Erguven, Chloe Zhao, Amma Asante, Maggie Betts, and Angela Robinson could have all made a fascinating exploration of Cold War assassin-turned-Avenger  Natasha Romanoff.

A lack of confidence might be the easiest answer to Marvel’s struggle. While they have made great headways in recent years with films like Black Panther and the upcoming Captain Marvel, the company has faced multiple criticisms for their lack of diversity over this past decade. The success of Wonder Woman and Black Panther revealed to the suits that there is money to be had in embracing representation, and only now are they ready to reach beyond their usual process of creative elimination.

Shortland made her way to the top of the heap because Scarlett Johansson, who will reprise her role as the titular Avenger, was pulling for her. Natalie Portman reportedly attempted the same feat for Patty Jenkins on Thor: The Dark World, but now Marvel is ready to listen to their actresses after suffering obvious regret with that critically abysmal and financially mediocre failure at the hands of Alan Taylor. The MCU learns from its mistakes both in front of and behind the camera.

Putting our “long time coming” frustrations away, Shortland is an excellent fit for Black Widow. Lore shows a storyteller eager to explore the moral anxieties living inside humans existing in extreme situations. With what little backstory she has been given so far, Natasha Romanoff has revealed great regret for the sins she committed on the road to The Avengers. The red on her ledger stains deep, and given a proper runtime; the Black Widow might actually be able to free herself of that misery while kicking butt in the process.

The Hollywood Reporter implies that this Black Widow film could be a prequel. I hope not. For some reason, female superheroes keep getting stuck in the past, and I would like to see Natasha deal with her inner turmoil without being far removed from the contemporary horrors of the superhero game. This could simply be Aveners: Infinity War subterfuge on Marvel’s part, but while I’m happy for flashbacks to the Red Room briefly seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, I would prefer Black Widow to prove her worth as a modern agent of the team.

The good news is that Black Widow is getting some space to stretch herself, and Shortland is a filmmaker concerned with character more than great big blue beams of light penetrating the skyline. With the next MCU phase reaching its conclusion, the time for true comic book experimentation is upon us. Don’t go big with Black Widow, go small, go internal.

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Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.