Black Widow May Highlight a Spy-Centric Turn in MCU Music

Black Widow soundtrack | CuttingRoomMusic

Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanoff is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most fascinating, complex, and human characters, which we know doesn’t say a lot because a bunch of them are essentially not human, but Black Widow is a very strong figure, regardless. The Russian-born spy has a cinematic legacy that goes back as far as the third entry in the MCU, Iron Man 2, and a comic book history that ranges back to the mid-60s─Natalia Alianovna Romanova first featured in Tales of Suspense #52 in 1964. 

The reformed KGB agent with a checkered past was recruited to the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (fine, we’ll call it S.H.I.E.L.D.!) by fellow superspy turned Avenger, Clint Barton. Their bond remains strong throughout the events of the films, until Black Widow’s ultimate sacrifice to retrieve the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame, a small European film dealing with personal and professional loss within a group of work friends, five years after a traumatic event changed their lives. 

Black Widow is Coming to a Marvel Universe Near You

Now, 11 years after the character’s introduction to the MCU, Black Widow is slated to have her very own showcase, a film that aims to explain Natasha’s murky personal history, ongoing internal conflict and her hesitation to establish personal relationships. The fact that her only romantic onscreen relationship is with Bruce Banner is very telling. If you’re attracted to the mother of all inner conflicts involving a Gamma ray demon who’s also a walking Jekyll/Hyde metaphor, it’s clear that your personal history is something of a thrill ride.

The challenge to portray Black Widow in a standalone film is significant, due to her already very established presence within the MCU and is seen as a culmination of Scarlett Johansson’s profile as the character for more than a decade. Director Cate Shortland has built a career on smaller-scale psychological thrillers before taking on a $150-$200 million tentpole, hinting at the production’s significant focus on building Natasha’s complicated profile and eventful past. The screenplay is penned by Eric Pearson, a MCU mainstay responsible for three different One-Shot shorts, as well as Thor:Ragnarok and several episodes of Agent Carter. It is no surprise that Pearson’s involvement with one of the MCU’s main female-led projects led to his addition to the team responsible for the Avengers’ most iconic on-screen member. In the music department, first-time MCU composer Lorne Balfe has been appointed to score the first entry in Phase Four. 

What Will Accompany the Superspy’s Solo Debut?

The music of the MCU has ranged almost wildly from classic hero themes like Alan Silvestri’s Avengers Assemble theme, to charged musical drops like Iron Man’s AC/DC and Black Sabbath samples, to the why-haven’t-we-thought-of-this-before notes of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in Thor: Ragnarock

However, we can start deducing some elements of the music that’s to come in Black Widow. The character’s background and ethos beg for an action-heavy spy thriller soundscape. Natasha always felt more at home in the Three Days of The Condor/Marathon Man vibe of Captain America: The Winter Soldier than in the space epic that was Avengers: Infinity War. A more tethered and realistic approach is exactly what composer Lorne Balfe was brought in to achieve.

Action Film Pedigree for the MCU

Given the MCU’s penchant for turning out superheroes in increasingly genre-inspired films, the choice of Lorne Balfe as the film’s composer is poignant. If Cate Shortland excels at delving into the character’s psyche, Balfe is well equipped to set the stage for intense action. The Scottish music producer came up working with Hans Zimmer and has already taken on a significant slate of big-budget action films like Mission Impossible: Fallout, 6 Underground and Bad Boys for Life. But Balfe’s involvement with action isn’t just tied to films. He’s responsible for video game scores within the Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed franchises. 

Bearing the grandiose crescendos of Zimmer’s now omnipresent blockbuster work, Balfe has infused spy thriller elements into his more action-heavy work, often working with quick percussion motifs to underscore tension in films. Although speculative, it’s safe to say we may well get similar offerings in Black Widow. Balfe’s background in working on music for Netflix’s The Crown will come in handy as the film also dives into Natasha’s ties with her own spy royal family, fellow Red Room trainee and little sister-like Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), father-like Red Guardian (David Harbour) and mom-like Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). 

Following consecutive release date delays, Black Widow is slated for release on May 7, and will be the first film to usher in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  

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