(Warning: Black Widow spoilers will be found below….)
Black Widow looks to be on the road to financial success after endless pandemic-related delays. Although the film was Scarlett Johansson’s so-called “solo outing” in the MCU, Florence Pugh won over even more hearts than she’d already captured in various other projects. Yelena Belova should carry the torch well in future outings, perhaps starting with Disney+’s Hawkeye series. Sure, there were a few complaints about the movie here and there; one overriding remark concerns the reveal of the Taskmaster’s identity.
Part of the issue there is that the Taskmaster character felt heavily teased in early promotional materials, including the D23-revealed footage that previewed back in fall 2019. The mysterious, unidentified antagonist was able to mimic opponents’ fighting styles, and the fan theories ran amuck about this character’s Hawkeye moves and (in another trailer) apparent King T’Challa salute, which suggested that this person had fought other Avengers at some point (and yep, Masters did travel to Wakanda in the comics). Well, none of that really got discussed in the movie, and fan theories about the Taskmaster being Rachel Weisz’s character turned out to be wrong. Likewise, the comic version, Tony Masters, was not underneath that armor. Instead, Drekov had resurrected his daughter (who was killed by Natasha in Budapest) as Taskmaster, and the presentation felt a little bit jarring, which led to disappointed tweets like these.
Taskmaster gets more depth and character development in the side missions of Spider-Man PS4 than in the entire runtime of Black Widow….. pic.twitter.com/2mTaVGGBnD
— The Moonlight Warrior 🌙 (@BlackMajikMan90) July 9, 2021
If you’re watching Black Widow for Taskmaster; I really wouldn’t. 💀 pic.twitter.com/j0i4451XQo
— 𝕯iana. (@HailMother) July 7, 2021
Yes, the Taskmaster twist in Black Widow fits the themes of the film, but they still CHOSE to adapt a known character for the sake of fan appeal and completely butcher them. All they had to do was not make the character Taskmaster in the first place, so the criticism is valid. pic.twitter.com/baAnv8dOdi
— Neb | 🏳️🌈 (@NebsGoodTakes) July 11, 2021
every reaction to black widow I'm seeing is "nice movie, taskmaster sucked though" 😭
damn right now stan the real taskmaster pic.twitter.com/f6ZlZbrIxK
— Neb | 🏳️🌈 (@NebsGoodTakes) July 7, 2021
“I made the mistake of looking in direct message requests and someone said, ‘I don’t mean to be out of line, but Taskmaster was the biggest betrayal of my life.’ I got mad for a second and then I was like, ‘Well, you’ve had a pretty good life then.’ If that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, then you should be psyched because someone in a movie wasn’t who you wanted them to be,” Pearson shared.
Well, the Taskmaster that did appear in Black Widow, contextually speaking, did make sense. It lent more of an emotional depth to Natasha’s journey and allowed her to scrub a lot of red from her ledger. Still, that depth came at the expense of disappointing some fans because, yeah, they wanted to see Tony Masters, and they got Dreykov’s daughter instead. And as Pearson explained to Comic Book, he couldn’t logistically draw a connection between trying to tie Taskmaster’s identity to what Natasha needed to do in order to finally put the Red Room to rest. Yep, what Pearson says does make sense. However, it’s also understandable that people wanted to see Tony Masters, and perhaps that there should have been more emphasis on explaining why Taskmaster had seen all those fight moves from the other Avengers… instead of watching the character watch a TV screen to learn them. That part felt like an afterthought in the film as a whole.
You can read more of Comic Book’s interview with Eric Pearson here.