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Yep, this year’s Marvel kickoff film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, due out April 4 (which is a little weird considering the studio historically releases its films the first week of May, giving Free Comic Book Day a boost), so we’re starting to get that media blitz a-rollin’ with teaser trailers, Super Bowl spots and the like. However, nothing will be seen as consistently or as widespread as the movie posters.
Keep in mind, posters are a little boring these days, especially for action films. There’s a certain color palette used, that gray-blue shine and airbrushed effect that has become shorthand for “cold and hard.” You know, like an action hero. But I digress. The movie posters released for Captain America: The Winter Soldier have the traditional “‘people walking at you from a horizon line,” two different profiles of Cap with headgear on or off, Nick Fury looking like Samuel L. Jackson looking mean and, the one a lot of people are talking about: Black Widow.
There’s just something about Natasha. Everyone has an opinion about Black Widow as a character, about Scarlett Johansson’s body shape and about what the retouching of photos does to our perception of beauty and realistic expectations of women. A single image has caused so much of a stir, I can only imagine what people will do when she actually shows up in the film. Because we can’t talk about Johansson’s performance and Natasha’s place in the storyline, let’s focus on the poster.
WARNING: No spoilers, but if you’re sensitive to body issues, I understand if you’d want to skip this one today. Everyone is beautiful, Photoshopped or not, voluptuous or rail thin! Now let’s go complain about a celebrity.
Right off the bat, there’s that stupid blue overlay I hate in posters like these. Oh, everything’s all cool and blue and deadly or something. I don’t get it, I don’t like it, but we’re not here for the color tones. We’re here for Natasha, seen here with some pretty obvious Photoshopping. Honestly, most posters like this are Photoshopped to some degree, as when you blow up someone’s face to be plastered on a billboard or side of a bus, blemishes and imperfections are going be airbrushed out to make people look better. The Avengers movie poster was Photoshopped to a similar extent, but while that movie poster went out of its way to show of Johansson’s assets, shall we say, this poster is fairly straightforward. We’re also looking at her from a kind of funky angle, just a little bit downward so we see the underside of her chin. Her body language is big and open despite the Hellicarrier and fighter planes behind her, not exactly the most accurate depiction of a Russian super-spy assassin. It might not even be that accurate a depiction of the actress herself.
Should it be? One Tumblr user noted that Black Widow’s pose was reminiscent of Botticelli, and now when I look at the poster, I sort of imagine The Birth of Venus, but with more aircraft and guns, and it makes me smile. Shouldn’t these posters look a little weird to get your attention and spark debate? Aren’t we talking about Captain America: The Winter Soldier right now?
At the same time, it’s a character poster, with no “backup” dancers to make sure we care that this is Cap’s movie. No twisting spine poses that overtly sexualize her position when juxtaposed with her co-stars. If anything, it proves she’s a major draw for the film, and considering how many of these Marvel Cinematic Universe movies she’s been in compared to the rest, she could probably get her own movie down the line. Another Tumblr user, fuckyeahblackwidow, put it extremely well when she said she didn’t think there was enough Photoshopping.
All in all, it seems like a lot of noise about a static image that isn’t immediately offensive. Was she Photoshopped to look thinner or better-looking? Most likely. Will this reflect on Black Widow’s role in the film? Not int he slightest, unless there’s a scene that involves walking openly along the Hellicarrier while jets fly by. Images aside, what does she actually do?
Black Widow carries a gun. Two guns, in fact, and I was rather surprised I wasn’t as upset by this as several well-respected friends and colleagues of mine were. I do understand their position the more we talked about it: The gun isn’t the most heroic of weapons, and seems shortsighted in the wake of real-life gun-related tragedies that kids are seeing superheroes wield them. It also takes a little something away from the fantastic-ness of the Avengers world; a god of thunder, a living legend, a monster and a woman with a pistol. I mean, it puts her one ahead of poor Hawkeye, but I understand the disconnect. These movies, despite being PG-13 for the most part, are aimed at kids and when the heroes use lethal force it sends the wrong message.
But on the other hand, does Natasha really execute anyone openly in the films? She’s an assassin and talks openly about the “red in her ledger’, things she’s done in her past that she’s not proud of and is openly working to make amends for. She’s trying to be a better person and will use everything at her disposal to do what’s right, including the skills that got her in the red to begin with. It’s actually pretty cool to see someone who is a mere mortal in a leather jumpsuit stand tall next to Thor and Captain America and be considered their equal. She is part of that awesome Marvel element of humanity woven into their story themes, that everyone can make a difference regardless of superpowers. Or of how wrong they were in the past.
Black Widow is awesome; she’s had a dynamic MCU showing and has a surprisingly deep background for a supporting character. She’s incredibly versatile, standing side by side with gods and legends as well as working behind the scene in black-ops fashion. Let’s face facts: Natasha is completely ready for her own film; spy movies are popular, Johansson is a fine actress and has done good work as Black Widow, and it would be neat to see yet another style of film come out of Marvel Studios. Also, how much would people flip out if Black Widow had a movie before Wonder Woman? Am I right?
This movie poster doesn’t break the Black Widow or send out any new messages about her strength or her character. I, for one, can’t wait to see what she’ll do in Captain America: The Winter Soldier! So maybe it’s content and actions we should be judging rather than appearances and marketing. Then again, Quicksilver’s costume for X-Men: Days of Future Past is atrocious …