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Marvel delays Black Widow and Eternals for second time; Pixar's Soul sticks to November debut

By Josh Weiss
Black Widow & Soul

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on studio release schedules.

Disney confirmed today that Marvel Studios has decided to delay Cate Shortland's Black Widow film for the second time. Originally scheduled to debut in early May of this year, the first entry in the MCU's Phase 4 is now slated to arrive on May 7, 2021. The first postponement initially shifted the project to Nov. 6, 2020. 

This news comes in the wake of Warner Bros. delaying Wonder Woman 1984 (originally scheduled for early June and early October respectively) to Christmas Day: Dec. 25.

Set before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow takes a deep dive into the murky origins of Natasha Romanoff (played by the returning Scarlett Johansson). On the run from the government following her actions in Captain America: Civil War, the ex-Russian assassin reunites with her old Soviet family:  Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), and Alexei Shostakov, aka Red Guardian (David Harbour). Together, they'll take on the villain known as Taskmaster, a baddie who can mimic all the super-powered moves of the Avengers. Written by Eric Pearson (Godzilla vs. Kong), the movie's cast also features O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, and Ray Winstone.

In addition, Chloé Zhao's Eternals was also shifted for the second time, vacating the February 12, 2021 slot for Nov. 5. 2021. It was originally scheduled to open in theaters this November. Written by Ryan and Kaz Firpo, the film centers around a super-powered alien race (created by Jack Kirby) that has secretly been living on Earth for thousands of years. They're forced to come out of hiding and save the world when their mortal enemies, the Deviants, rear their ugly heads. 

Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Angelina Jolie, and Kit Harington make up the ensemble cast.

Eternals official logo

And here's one more Marvel change: Destin Daniel Cretton's Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been moved from May 7, 2021 to July 9, 2021. Production recently picked back up in Australia for the flick, which revolves around a master of martial arts. Simu Liu plays the titular hero, leading a cast that also includes Awkwafina, Ronny Chieng, and Michelle Yeoh. Tony Leung is playing the actual Mandarin, who was none too pleased with being impersonated by Trevor the actor (Ben Kingsley) in Iron Man 3. David Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984) wrote the screenplay.

Shang-Chi official logo

If theater troubles continue to persist as a result of the global health crisis, Disney could make the bold decision to drop Black Widow or Eternals onto Disney+ for a premium fee like it did for Mulan. Right now, however, there are no such plans to do that. While some posited that Pixar's Soul would transition to a streaming rollout, the animated feature is still set for theatrical release on Friday, Nov. 20. Coming from co-directors Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up) and Kemp Powers (Star Trek: Discovery), it was initially heading toward a June 19 debut, which was inevitably delayed by the pandemic.

Written by Docter, Powers, Mike Jones, and Tina Fey, Soul explores the existentialist question of where our personalities (or souls) come from. Jamie Foxx stars as Joe Gardner, a New York City music teacher with dreams of becoming a professional jazz musician. Just as he gets his big break, Joe falls into an open manhole and dies. Due to a mix-up, his soul is sent to The Great Before, a place where human souls are imbued with character before being sent to Earth. Working with a cynical soul named 22 (voiced by Fey), Joe goes on a grand celestial adventure in order to be reunited with his body.

Pixar Soul

Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, Questlove, Richard Ayoade, and Cody Chesnutt also lend their voices to the project, which enjoyed its world premiere at the virtual Cannes film festival.

Disney enacted date changes for several other major releases, too, like The Empty Man (moved up from early December to Oct. 23, 2020), an untitled "event film" (removed from its July 9, 2021 slot to make room for Shang-Chi), The King's Man (moved up from Feb. 26, 2021 to Feb. 12, 2021), and an untitled Fox film (removed from its Aug. 13, 2021 slot).