Digression Girl

Let's Talk Comic Books & Genre Media!

I’m Agent [Redacted]. I’d tell you my name, but then I’d have to kill you. At least, that’s what movies would have you believe. People making movies make some interesting choices, and I LOVE talking about those choices!

For Instance, Let’s talk about the new “Black Widow” film, and one of the major choices they made for The Taskmaster! ***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

 

There was a missed opportunity here. The Taskmaster that the film created is a big departure from the comic book version, and I think that hurts the film.

What makes Taskmaster fun in Marvel Comics is that he is a professional who takes pride in his work; in many ways, that makes for a much more interesting film if pitted against Natasha in the MCU, (who depending on the timeframe of the film would be set in), loved being a mercenary/assassin/spy or hated it. It’s a better set of opposing forces, and could have worked with the way the character is already written, instead of trying to plug in a very artificial ‘personal’ connection.

Black Widow is a cool character, but was never an “A-Lister” in the Avengers, at least until Kevin Feige started putting together the MCU and cast Scarlett Johanssen in the role, and gave the role a founding member position in the film, “The Avengers”. Even though she guest starred in Iron Man 2, being a founding member of the world’s greatest heroes in the MCU gave her a higher profile status than the character ever really had before.

Yes, Black Widow had been an Avenger in the comic books. Yes, any fan of Iron Man, Daredevil, Hawkeye, and more knew who she was because she frequently was the femme fatale/love interest to a ton of characters.

But she was never on par with Spider-Man, the X-Men, or the other big-name draws in the comics.

(Although I, for one, was a huge fan of this particular look. Simple and awesome.)

This gives her a logistical problem: she’s never really had a long run of her own in the comic books to develop a real nemesis. So, Marvel borrowed one from their long list of bad guys.

In the comics, Taskmaster… well, let’s say he ranges from ‘pestering’ to ‘monumentally difficult’ to fight depending on the writer.

But overall, he’s usually a very solid villain who fights with a super power that still keeps him somewhat on better-than-even footing with most of the non-powered super heroes.

As a bonus, he’s pretty much fought EVERYBODY. Because of that, (pre-MCU), I’d wager almost as many people knew Taskmaster from comics and video games as they did Captain America.

So, on paper that’s a good pick. If you don’t have a nemesis, borrow one.

BUT…

I think ‘he’ should have been more like the comic book version.

(To me, this just looks like the Crysis Suit in live-action format. That was my first issue.)

Suit and gender issues aside, Taskmaster in the comics has a real personality. He’s a character who is mostly a mercenary, but isn’t just some wordless rando with a lot of skills.

He’s a really creepy guy to fight and has serious skills. Again, depending on the writer, he’s a great, “run for your money” villain for a lot of heroes who get a little uppity about their own abilities.

A Taskmaster that was more in-line with the comics, competing with Black Widow as a mercenary-for-hire, would have been an insanely cool movie. As it is, the movie version is really just falls flat on having any real connection. The writers tried to write one in by making the Taskmaster a woman that Natasha had hurt in the past, but it came across as a mostly dull attempt at being clever instead of having true connection.

You can write that a character means something to someone else, but just writing it doesn’t mean it actually will work.

Let’s compare: In the classic, “Die Hard”, John McClane and Hans Gruber never met before the night at Nakatomi Tower.

However, within just a few hours of their lives colliding, they have a SERIOUS enmity between them that continually gets more and more personal. Why? Because their immediate needs and wants are in direct conflict, but so are their personalities. John is a hot mess, but he’s a man of honor pitted against a man who wears the trappings of sophistication but is really just a well spoken, ruthless thief. Even though they never met before now, these two have real nemesis chemistry.

What we see in Black Widow doesn’t really work the same way. The enmity feels artificial, and worse, I think there would have been a MUCH better chemistry on screen had they stuck more to the comic’s version. Instead of a hurt, mostly silent soldier for a goon, we’d have had a mouthy, arrogant, but able-to-back-it-up villain who gives verbally to Black Widow as much as she does.

Using the original, comic-appropriate version of the Taskmaster an ideological opposite: she hates her old life as a spy and mercenary, he embraces it. She worked hard and suffered to be the best, he does it effortlessly due to an innate skill. She had a change of heart after meeting Hawkeye and embraced the path of a hero, while he would scorn that path entirely and fight heroes.

See what I mean? And since he’d just as skilled as she is, (actually, likely more), and physically stronger, faster, and more durable, her defeating him would be a test of her willpower, creativity, and resolve. That’s a lot more interesting than what we got in the film.

So, as an Agent myself, I was a little disappointed that Marvel didn’t pull the trigger and let Taskmaster be a loud, brazen, opposite to Natasha, letting her meet her match and defeat him for the sake of moving on from her past.

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