As the Marvel Cinematic Universe grows, new generations of talent are brought in to star in and helm these larger-than-life projects.

While each MCU installment has its own identity, everything feels a part of the one connected universe. This is largely thanks to the fact that Marvel Studios has been producing pictures for over a decade.

Aside from the embarrassment of riches for the fans, Marvel's expansive content collection gives those new actors and directors plenty of material to take inspiration from.

A FAMILIAR TONE FOR BLACK WIDOW

Black Widow Blonde Hair
Marvel

The espionage genre in the MCU lives on.

Speaking with FandangoBlack Widow director Cate Shortland noted that Natasha Romanoff's upcoming solo venture took inspiration from numerous gritty films. Shortland also revealed that early viewers of the Scarlett Johansson movie are being reminded of the second Captain America movie upon watching.

"We looked at things like No Country for Old Men. And then we looked at things like Thelma and Louise. And the Marvel film — people that have seen it have said it reminds them of it — [is] Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

While the MCU is known for its humor, not every installment has an equal amount of comedy. Similar to how Captain America: The Winter Soldier took a very serious approach to its storyline, Shortland says her film will be grittier than most Marvel flicks:

"I think it's, in some ways, darker. But it's got a lot of love in it. And I think that lifts that — and a lot of humor — so we weren't ever on the fence. What we knew was — the film was going to dictate what it wanted to be, and that comes from Black Widow. She's incredibly nuanced. She's frightened to show the world who she truly is. But once you see that beautiful heart, you're sort of intoxicated by it. And that's kind of what we wanted the film to be."

Shortland expanded on the tone, emphasizing that there's a strong balance of "heart" and "emotion:"

"It's got great action. It's got a lot of heart, it's emotional. And at times, it can be a little bit dark, but then it opens up again. And it's really exciting. So I think that's like this film. This film has fantastic action sequences, which we're really proud of."

PERFECTLY BALANCED IN THE MCU

The best films have that ever-illusive it factor, and Black Widow is striving for that. Harmonizing action with emotion and that trademark Marvel humor is a tall order, but being aware of it is half the battle. Knowing Shortland went into production with these goals in mind shapes Natasha Romanoff's solo debut up for success.

If she's striving for that perfect balance, there's no better place to look than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sorry, Thanos.

2014's Steve Rogers sequel finds its way on most fans' top five lists for good reason. The political thriller set within the confines of the fantastical Marvel Cinematic Universe not only redefined the character of Captain America but reshaped what the MCU could be. Rather than make superhero films, Marvel Studios was able to successfully create a gritty spy flick with superheroes in it.

Considering she's the world's greatest spy, it's only appropriate that Black Widow would be a bit of a spiritual successful to The Winter Soldier. Fans got their first in-depth taste of what Romanoff can do as a secret agent in 2014, but the main course is coming next month.

Black Widow hits theaters and Disney+'s Premier Access on July 9, 2021.