While Marvel Studios has yet to release a female-led superhero movie, Black Widow had a chance to beat fellow Avengers Iron Man and Thor to the big screen. And the reason it didn't happen is pretty rage-inducing.
Spinoff Online takes us back to the year 2004, before Marvel was making its own movies. David Hayter, who had just written the screenplay for X-Men and co-written X2, wrote a Black Widow screenplay for his directorial debut at Lionsgate. But once the screenplay was finished, Lionsgate decided it didn't want a Black Widow movie anymore. In Hayter's words:
Unfortunately, as I was coming up on the final draft, a number of female vigilante movies came out. We had Tomb Raider and Kill Bill, which were the ones that worked, but then we had BloodRayne and Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux. Aeon Flux didn't open well, and three days after it opened, the studio said, "We don't think it's time to do this movie." I accepted their logic in terms of the saturation of the marketplace, but it was pretty painful.
Marvel, for the record, did try to shop the movie around to other studios before getting the rights to Black Widow back and putting her in Iron Man 2.
Uh-huh. So one female-led action movie flops and it's because of "the saturation of the marketplace"—and not because Aeon Flux was a crummy movie? Look, I don't know if this Black Widow movie would have been as good as what's coming out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—or that it would have been as satisfying an interpretation of Natasha Romanoff. But it's frustrating to see this meme that audiences aren't particularly interested in female action heroes played out, especially when, a decade later, we're still clamoring for our female superhero solo movies.
Movie Legends Revealed | Black Widow Nearly Beat Iron Man to the Big Screen [Spinoff Online via The Mary Sue]