We've been hearing (from Kevin Feige and Scarlett Johansson) for years that a Black Widow solo spin-off movie was coming in the future. More recently, Guardians of The Galaxy's Nicole Perlman had scripted a new draft for the resurrected project (originally given the axe by Lionsgate back in 2008). I've also been hearing from fellow bloggers that Carol Danvers (Ms Marvel/Captain Marvel) will indeed appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon confirmed to HeyUGuys that we would see a fourth female lead in Age of Ultron. So, where is our announcement concerning a female superhero film from Marvel?
Marvel's Kevin Feige has finally come out and commented on the status of a female-driven movie at the studio. The statements via ComicBookResources includes the realization of the demand, but also points-out they might not be ready for that film to be put into production. Feige mentions other new franchises being their current focus, but they might have something else up their sleeves.
“I think it comes down to timing, which is what I’ve sort of always said, and it comes down to us being able to tell the right story. I very much believe in doing it. I very much believe that it’s unfair to say, ‘People don’t want to see movies with female heroes,’ then list five movies that were not very good, therefore, people didn’t go to the movies because they weren’t good movies, versus [because] they were female leads. And they don’t mention ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘Frozen,’ ‘Divergent.’ You can go back to ‘Kill Bill’ or ‘Aliens.’ These are all female-led movies. It can certainly be done. I hope we do it sooner rather than later.”
“But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have — which is a very, very good thing and we don’t take for granted, but is a challenging thing. You may notice from those release dates, we have three for 2017. And that’s because just the timing worked on what was sort of gearing up. But it does mean you have to put one franchise on hold for three or four years in order to introduce a new one? I don’t know. Those are the kinds of chess matches we’re playing right now.”
We've seen a large upswing in female casting in recent Marvel films, so we should also point that out as well. Guardians, Winter Soldier, Iron Man 3 and Age of Ultron have a great number of female leads/supporting characters, who are more than just love-interests or eye-candy. Finally giving us a taste of female villains, mentors and fellow heroes. Feige sites hugely-successful female-led projects like Frozen, Aliens, Hunger Games and Kill Bill, as examples of successes, but also mentions the stigma from previous unsuccessful comic book adaptations. He gives the impression that they understand the demand, but just don't have anything to put out in theatres. This could be another reason why the studio didn't make title announcements for a majority of the new release dates. Because, they are still mulling-over which "new" franchises should come next. Inhumans (another cosmic team film with two major female leads) and possibly Black Panther are on-deck for the studio.
The level of development for both Black Widow and Ms Marvel, have never been made public. Trades have sited that the studio is working a Ms Marvel script, but it's writer and it's stage of development hasn't been revealed (it could still be in the extremely early stages). They could still be trying to outline stories for these characters, for their own feature films.
It's extremely difficult for writers of Widow, since they keep using her as secondary leads in films like Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron and likely Captain America 3. Adding updates from other scripts that feature her, mean that rewrites would be needed on a regular basis. Making it a very complex problem to give her own film, when she's getting strong character development and exposure as a supporting character/secondary lead. A prequel sounds like a way to break away from the tropes of the recent/future films.
Another reason for delaying a Black Widow film, is that Marvel could be thinking of killing-off Natasha in Age of Ultron or future films. In the Ultimate comics (MCU is inspired by these stories), she is revealed to be a traitor and is killed by Hawkeye, when it's revealed she was also responsible for the death of Barton's family. They've well-established her as a character with a dark-streak, and Whedon is known for manipulating are feelings for characters. Joss has teased that major characters could get bumped-off in the sequel.
They could be delaying for another reason, they want to focus on a superpowered heroine. Widow is great, but Carol Danvers (or Kamala Khan) has actual powers and could have more spectacle in a solo outing. Not to mention involving the cosmic-side of the MCU, something that could come in waves post-Guardians. First, placing her in Age of Ultron (I assume giving her origin there), then having larger roles in future films (Guardians 2?), leading to her own spin-off. A similar way Marvel ramped-up Natasha's role in the MCU.
The studio will be upping the yearly releases to three starting in 2017, so this could lead to more new films getting released. This move could lead to projects like a female-driven film fast-tracked.