For such a well-known and successful actor, Scarlett Johansson is rarely ever the lead in the movies in which she stars. She's usually the sidekick, the female counterpart, the love interest, the voice of a futuristic operating system ... you get it.
Even when Johansson is the lead, it's usually in romantic period pieces like Girl With a Pearl Earring or comedies like The Nanny Diaries, neither of which was very financially successful. To date, she has never played the protagonist in a summer action blockbuster.
So, while Kevin Feige and Marvel often play their resistance towards a Black Widow movie as being because it isn't necessary (since Widow's already such a big part of Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier), the more likely reality is that, because Johansson as a solo act just hasn't ever been that bankable, they don't buy that a Black Widow movie would be worth the 35mm it would be shot on.
That could change on July 25, when Lucy, a summer action blockbuster in which Johansson plays the lead protagonist, comes out.
To wit: I think Marvel is, in part, waiting to see how Lucy performs before they decide whether they want to drop coin to make a Black Widow movie. If a standalone Johannson movie with nothing to back it up can turn a solid profit, that all but guarantees Black Widow will make bank. And understand, that is all that ultimately matters to Disney -- what movies will net them the most money.
But as you might have guessed, Lucy has a bit of an uphill battle, and it has about a week to do it.
Here are Lucy's biggest challenges:
- It's a brand-new property. These days, the movies that turn a major profit tend to be sequels, remakes and adaptations of well-known material. Just look at Edge of Tomorrow, which was based on a relatively uknown manga. That movie had a hugely positive critical reception and stars one of the most bankable actors of all time, Tom Cruise, and yet it couldn't even break 2014's Top 10 grossing pictures. And speaking of critics ...
- Lucy's concept is dumb, and everyone is talking about how dumb it is. Fifteen years ago, you could have made a movie about someone getting superpowers because they gained the ability to use 100 percent of their brain, but in 2014 the most of the planet is one Google search away from knowing that's not how brains work. Then again, people see stupid movies in droves all the time -- just look at the seemingly endless Transformers franchise. And while we're talking about those robots in disguise ...
- Trans4mers is presently DOMINATING the box office. In just three weeks, it has easily become the top-grossing picture of 2014, with more than $750 million in the bank already. When Lucy comes out, Trans4mers will still be stiff competition. And then, one week later, Guardians of the Galaxy comes out. A week after that? Ninja Turtles.
So Lucy has one week in which to make its mark on the moviegoing world at large, make back its budget and then some, and prove that Scarlett Johansson is an action-movie-driving powerhouse all on her lonesome.
What we're saying is this -- you want a Black Widow movie? Then you should probably go see Lucy. Yes, even if it's incredibly stupid. Because if Lucy can beat those odds ... then so can Black Widow.