First ‘Avengers’ Clip: Joss Whedon Perfects Black Widow

On 'Talk Nerdy,' the resident MTV Movies nerds debate the first 'Avengers' clip, tackle Liam Neeson's 'Dark Knight' return and more!

Five films and years upon years of buildup later, “The Avengers” is finally happening.

The movie that was first teased back in 2008 will assemble in front of theatergoers everywhere May 4, less than one month from now, though several questions still linger: Who are the aliens Loki’s bringing to Earth? What’s the deal with that massive dragon-spaceship thing tagging along? Which of our beloved heroes is going to die? (Because, as I already wrote elsewhere, this is a Joss Whedon movie; we’re all but guaranteed to lose someone along the way.)

What’s less unclear, however, is how Whedon plans to approach some of his characters — specifically Black Widow. The fiery-haired S.H.I.E.L.D. agent first introduced in “Iron Man 2″ now has full-fledged membership among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and the very first “Avengers” clip, released earlier this week, shows exactly how actress Scarlett Johansson and her director plan to tackle the heroine: by fully embracing her inner (and outer) badass.

In the clip, Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) is on the receiving end of a harsh interrogation, tied to a chair and seemingly helpless. Her captors allow her to field a phone call from fellow agent Coulson (fan-favorite Clark Gregg), who wants to pull her from the current situation, implied to be something of a deep-cover assignment. When he explains the severity of the circumstances demanding her attention, Widow promptly places Coulson on hold and, still confined to her chair, proceeds to beat the ever-loving daylights out of her interrogators. All in a day’s work for an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Personally speaking, I applaud the choice to have the first “Avengers” clip showing us something beyond the core four heroes we’re most looking forward to: Cap, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk. Instead, we’re treated to something firmly in Whedon’s sweet spot. As the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dollhouse,” Whedon is nothing if not an expert in crafting badass women who can stand shoulder to shoulder (if not taller) than any man. Buffy, Echo, even River Tam of “Firefly” fame stick out as some of the greatest heroines in recent popular culture. Under Whedon’s vision, it looks as though Johansson’s Widow — a character who didn’t have much impact in her previous “Iron Man” appearance beyond one truly memorable hallway fight scene — will have a big personality to back up her butt-kicking superspy skills. I approve.

Then again, that’s just my opinion. On this week’s “Talk Nerdy,” co-hosts Brian Phares and Eric Ditzian both admitted to feeling lukewarm about the Widow-heavy “Avengers” clip, with Ditzian describing the scene as straight out of Drew Barrymore’s “Charlie’s Angels” playbook. Screw that — if anything, this is out of the Sidney Bristow playbook, and if that’s the rip, it’s more than OK by me. All in all, I am very happy with this briefly glimpsed Widow, and I think many an “Avengers” fan would agree with me.

“Avengers” was a heavy point of conversation in this week’s “Talk Nerdy,” but it wasn’t the only topic to come up. Other highlights include:

» The confirmation of Liam Neeson’s involvement in “Dark Knight Rises” moved our panel to a rare unanimous decision: No matter how Ra’s al Ghul resurfaces, having Neeson back onboard is nothing short of excellent. Ditzian likened his return to the burrito philosophy: Tasty though it might be on its own, a burrito is always enhanced with the addition of hot sauce. Ladies and gentlemen, Neeson is that hot sauce.

» Speaking of food, we’re always hungry for more “Hunger Games,” though some of us are more worried about the sequel than others. That’s because director Gary Ross is reportedly not locked for “Catching Fire,” the planned follow-up to the massive Lionsgate hit. Will salary disputes stand between Ross and Panem? Perhaps the fire is not as dire as you think …

» Finally, at the box office this weekend, everything old is new again: “American Reunion” brings the East Great Falls gang back together for one more hard-partying weekend. (New addition to the cast: Jason Biggs’ penis . This is not a joke.) In other revivals, “Titanic” is back in theaters as well with an all-new 3-D twist. Just like Rose, “Nerdy” co-host Ditzian still hasn’t been able to let go — find out why in this week’s episode.

Tell us what you think of this week’s “Talk Nerdy” in the comments section!

Check out everything we’ve got on “Marvel’s The Avengers.”

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Likes pizza, punch and pie. Dislikes the Chitauri. Find him on Twitter @roundhoward — like Ron Howard, but rounder.