Natasha Romanoff gets to test all of her driving, flying, and fighting skills in her solo movie
After 10 years and 20 movies, Marvel Studios has finally come around to giving its first female superhero her own movie. Black Widow features the titular character, aka Natasha Romanoff, as she confronts her past and charts her future path. Along the way, she reconnects with her long-lost family.
“Black Widow” (the movie, not the character) has a formidable mission of its own: to help reignite the US (and the world) box office, by attracting a wide audience back to cinemas after a long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. It has by most measures succeeded, pulling in $80 million and number one spot in the US during its opening weekend. This included $60 million in revenue as a premium extra-pay feature for the Disney+ streaming service. Worldwide revenue reportedly reached $215 million for the opening weekend.
The latest Marvel film starts out with in suburban Ohio, where young Natasha Romanoff lives the life of an ordinary American teenager, together with her “sister” Yelena, and “parents” Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz).
Fittingly for sleeper agents, Natasha’s adoptive family drives an all-American car, the first-generation Ford Explorer. The 1991 Explorer succeded the Bronco II and was designed as a more family-oriented vehicle, with a much larger body. The Explorer was powered by a 4.0-liter V6, which was also used in the Ford Aerostar and Ranger. The scene is punctuated by a frantic road-trip version of “American Pie” (the song, not the movie or the pastry).
Flash forward to 2016. After the events shown in “Captain America: Civil War,” Natasha is on the run from the authorities. She makes her way to stunning Norway. Her vehicle of choice is once again a family SUV—perhaps a subconscious desire to the comfort of her American childhood. This time, it’s not an Explorer but the Russian equivalent, the Lada 4×4. No doubt the Russian marque Lada would be familiar to Natasha after her extensive training in that country.
The Lada 4×4, despite it being a current model in some markets, looks like a 1970s design. Indeed, it now holds the distinction of being the longest-running four-wheel drive vehicle still in production in its original form, since the Land Rover Defender changed to a completely new body. The Lada 4×4 was envisioned as a “Renault 5 built on a Land Rover chassis.” Developed starting in 1971, the Lada began production in 1977. The only Soviet car sold in Japan, it reportedly inspired the creation of the Suzuki Jimny. Innovations in the Lada 4×4 include a unibody construction and coil-sprung independent front suspension, now common to almost all crossovers. The current Lada 4×4 is powered by a 1.7-liter gasoline engine with 82hp and 129Nm. Not enough then, to escape from mysterious new enemy Taskmaster, a masked (who isn’t these days?) villain with the capability to match anyone’s fighting style, including Black Widow’s trademark fighting pose.
After Natasha finds Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Budapest, the sisters power through a wild chase through the streets of the city. The pair use a BMW X3 to make their escape, while the Taskmaster is in hot pursuit in a 6-wheeled GAZ BTR armored personnel carrier. BMW provided 13 BMW X3s for the production. Stunt cars were fitted with auxiliary braking systems and a mechanically rebuilt handbrakes so that the X3s could do their extreme manuevers. They were also reinforced with roll cages and hidden roll bars to protect the actors and stunt drivers. One scene has the X3 spin through a 180-degree turn at full throttle, while grazing a street lamp, showing off the car’s agility. A BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe also makes a screen appearance, as does the R nineT Scrambler motorcycle.
British motorcycle brand CCM (Clews Competition Machines, named for founder Alan Crews) provided a Spitfire Scrambler for Natasha and Yelena to ride. The Spitfire is named for the famed World War 2 fighter plane. The motorcycle and plane apparently both use the T45 steel in their frames. The 600cc Spitfire produces 60ps and 54 Nm. CCM reportedly provided six motorbikes for filming. Naturally, a limited-edition variant based on the movie vehicle will be released.
The sisters execute a thrilling rescue with a Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter. The twin-turbine chopper was developed in the 1950s and is reportedly still in wide use around the world. The helicopter used in the film was borrowed from the Weston Helicopter Museum in the UK. The 25 meter long, 7-ton aircraft was transported to the famed Pinewood Studios
Black Widow (the character, not the movie) has piloted an interesting stable of vehicles within the Marvel universe. In Captain America: the Winter Soldier, Nathasa drives a Corvette C7 in one of its first onscreen appearances, and in Avengers: Age of Ultron, she rides the electric Harley-Davidson LiveWire, while wielding Captain America’s shield, no less. Now in her solo movie, Black Widow gets to test all of her driving, flying, and fighting skills, as well as show her intelligence and compassion. In this movie, as track title in the Lorne Balfe musical score suggests, Natasha soars.