Nobody needs to tell movie lovers that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become one of the most successful franchises in the history of film. While there have been bigger movies, in terms of raw box office dollars, 2012’s assembly of “The Avengers” remains arguably the most important movie in the franchise, if not one of the most pivotal blockbusters of all time. That all may sound hyperbolic, but it’s true. The idea of uniting several individual franchises in one, epic event had never been attempted before, and not only did it work, but it worked like gangbusters. However, it could have looked a whole lot different if certain pieces hadn’t fallen into place.
Specifically, Scarlett Johansson, who made her debut as Black Widow in 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” almost wasn’t able to make it back for “The Avengers.” Had that happened, the movie, and perhaps the MCU as we know it, would have looked quite a bit different.
oss Whedon, coming off of hit shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” as well as the cult hit “Firefly,” was tapped to direct “The Avengers.” It was a Herculean task, as Whedon had to pull together a lot of moving parts, yet make a standalone feature that could satisfy audiences all on its own. As one might imagine, the story went through several drafts to get it just right. As reported by Collider, Whedon revealed that, at one point, they weren’t sure if Johansson was going to be able to return as Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow. What was Whedon’s solution? Bring in The Wasp.
“We went through a lot of insane iterations of what might be. At the very beginning, I wrote entire drafts that had no bearing on what I would eventually film. There was a moment where we thought we weren’t gonna have Scarlett [Johansson], and so I wrote a huge bunch of pages starring The Wasp. That was not useful.”
The Wasp Could Have Reshaped The MCU
While Whedon admits that those early pages were not at all helpful, it is interesting to consider that Janet Van Dyne, AKA Wasp, could have entered the MCU years before she ultimately debuted in “Ant-Man,” played by Evangeline Lilly. Given that all of the MCU movies are connected, whoever Wasp would have been played by in “The Avengers” (Whedon himself wanted Zooey Descahnel in the role) would have carried through to the “Ant-Man” franchise. Plus, it would be an established character helping to usher in a new character, in this case, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. It would have totally reshaped that movie’s destiny. Would Edgar Wright have stayed on board to direct? Or would he have left even sooner?
Aside from the implications of bringing Wasp into the fold, we must consider what this would have meant for Johansson’s Black Widow. Ultimately, she became one of the key characters in the entirety of the MCU, going on to return in “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and last year’s “Black Widow.” Would that still have been the case without her appearing in “The Avengers?” Or would Wasp have become the breakout star? This potential shake-up opens up a whole host of questions that exist firmly in the land of “What If…?” storylines.
We can wonder all we like, but in the end, everything worked out. While it’s not precisely clear why Scarlett Johansson almost missed out, it’s been said that it may have been due to her other commitments on movies like “Hitchcock” or “We Bought a Zoo.” Thankfully, Johansson returned, Black Widow became a cinematic icon, and “The Avengers” was an unprecedented success.
At the time of its release, “The Avengers” became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, taking in $1.5 billion at the global box office. To date, the only Marvel movies that have made more are “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” And neither of those movies would have been possible without the 2012 film that proved the whole crazy idea behind the MCU could work. It exists as we know it thanks to a million minor miracles, and that includes Johansson sorting out her schedule is just one of them.