Taskmaster is set to be the villain of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, but there may be a surprise to who is behind the mask. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff has long been a fan-favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, after supporting roles in a few different sequels and all four Avengers movies, Marvel Studios is finally giving her a solo film. Officially confirmed at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Black Widow hits theaters on May 1, 2020.
As expected following the events of Avengers: Endgame and Natasha’s heroic sacrifice, Black Widow is confirmed to be a prequel story – but not an origin one. The movie will take place after Captain America: Civil War, where Natasha went against the Sokovia Accords after signing them, and before Avengers: Infinity War, where she returned as a Secret Avenger. The placement of the film in the larger MCU timeline gives Marvel Studios a chance to show an unexplored portion of Black Widow’s story, but also introduce other characters who could be involved in future films.
Joining Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow‘s cast will be Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, and Rachel Weisz. So far, only Pugh and Harbour have been confirmed to be playing characters from Marvel’s comics: Pugh is Yelena Belova, a sister figure to Natasha and a fellow graduate of the Red Room training program. Harbour will be Russia’s answer to Captain America as Red Guardian.
But, one of the other major Marvel characters who will get their MCU debut in Black Widow is Taskmaster. After speculation over his possible inclusion following the release of some set photos, official concept art for the movie showed Black Widow fighting Taskmaster. Despite this confirmation, Marvel has not yet said who is under the mask – and we have a theory that it could be Rachel Weisz’s character.
What We Know About Rachel Weisz’s Black Widow Role
When Marvel confirmed Rachel Weisz’s inclusion in Black Widow at SDCC, they did not reveal any information beyond her name, Melina. Once this was established, many Marvel fans started to point to her potentially playing Iron Maiden. The Marvel villain’s real name in the source material is Melina Vostokoff, a Russian assassin who lives in the shadow of Black Widow and grows to hate her as a result.
Following Marvel’s panel, Weisz and her fellow Black Widow cast members have started to open up about their roles in the film. While speaking to EW, Weisz teased a backstory that is incredibly similar to Iron Maiden. She revealed that Melina has been cycled through the Red Room program five times by the time we’ll meet her in Black Widow and describes her as “quite a seasoned spy and assassin.” Thos lines up almost perfectly with what comic fans know about Iron Maiden and has, rightfully so, brought many to believe that this is the character Weisz will play. But giving her an antagonistic role to play in the film surely ties her into Taskmaster’s mission as well.
What We Know About Black Widow’s Taskmaster
As of now, Marvel has barely shared any information on Taskmaster’s role in Black Widow. We know that the character will be the film’s main villain and that the suit will be incredibly comic book accurate, but not who is under the costume. Footage shown exclusively at SDCC revealed that the MCU’s Taskmaster would also keep the same comic skillset. In the comics, Taskmaster is born with the ability to replicate any physical skill or fighting style just by seeing it. This makes Taskmaster, essentially, the ultimate fighter and opponent who can only be beaten by something he’s never seen before.
The Black Widow footage Marvel debuted included Taskmaster and Natasha fighting, with the villain using the same moves Black Widow is doing to fight back. There are few possible explanations for Taskmaster and Black Widow using the same movements: Black Widow and Taskmaster could have fought before; Taskmaster may have fought other Red Room trainees in the past and learned these moves through that experience. But, there’s also a third option that would put a completely different twist on Taskmaster: the person below the suit was also from the Red Room. If that’s the case, Weisz’s Melina is the best contender.
Theory: Rachel Weisz Is Playing Taskmaster In Black Widow
Rachel Weisz playing the MCU’s version of Taskmaster may seem like a reach, but the footage Marvel showed may have spelled this out all on its own. The video opened with Natasha finding Yelena and it breaking out into a fight, which shows them use the same move to disarm the other and all-around try the same moves. This is because they are both products of the Red Room and have gone through this training. Weisz has confirmed that Melina is no different, but she’s failed to complete the training at least four times.
This would explain how Taskmaster is using the same fighting style as Natasha: she could theoretically have even been in the Red Room at the same time. This would give the hero and villain of Black Widow pre-existing ties, with flashbacks to Natasha continuously besting Melina during training being used to explore the resentment Melina has for her. Melina’s repeated attempts to graduate from the Red Room could even mean she was around years later when Yelena went through the program as well. This could make Black Widow a story about Melina wanting to wipe out the entire Red Room program and everyone who came from it.
Sure, Taskmaster’s mimicking abilities coming from the Red Room would be a significant departure from the comics and limit them, but Weisz may have also accidentally revealed a way for them to grow. During the previously mentioned EW interview, she said Melina is “deeply involved in a kind of scientific experiment which I cannot tell you about.” While Weisz tried to stop herself from revealing too much, just knowing that Marvel deems them spoilers is telling.
What Black Widow could do is have the reveal that Melina is from the Red Room, but her repeated entries indicate that she keeps failing in some form. It is possible that she takes part in some experimental procedure that increases her physical ability and mental capacity to remember several different moves. This experiment could even be tied to the same one that creates Red Guardian, and one Melina partakes in after suffering another defeat from Black Widow.
Alternatively, Could Rachel Weisz Create Taskmaster?
Even if Weisz doesn’t wind up playing Taskmaster, her character could be involved in the creation of Taskmaster in the MCU. While Taskmaster is born with these abilities in the comics, Weisz dancing around a top-secret scientific experiment could be what gives the character his powers here, even if they aren’t for Melina. For Black Widow‘s story, it is feasible that Melina’s hatred for Natasha is a driving force, but she uses this as motivation to create someone she, and no other Black Widow, can defeat.
Melina isn’t a scientist as far as we know, but it is confirmed that Black Widow includes Red Guardian, who is a product of experimentation himself. If Melina isn’t Taskmaster, then the two of them plus Red Guardian would give Black Widow three villains. In that case, it is difficult to imagine their stories not all being connected in some way. The movie could see Melina and Red Guardian unite their Russian forces and experiences to create the ultimate fighter in Taskmaster. What their plan could be beyond that is unclear, other than taking down one of Russia’s most legendary assassins for how she abandoned them and became a global hero. If this is the case though, then it would appear Marvel still has a major role left to cast or announce.
Whether it is making Melina Taskmaster or having her be tied to the creation of him, Weisz will likely wind up being the real villain of Black Widow. She would follow in the long line of top-tier Hollywood stars Marvel recruits to play their villains, and her Red Room experience could give her direct ties to Natasha, and even Yelena if the conflict continues beyond this movie. That said, this is still a theory at this point and one that, if it is a twist, may remain so for quite some time.
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