Avengers: Endgame got a lot right for Marvel fans, but there was one element that rankled with a lot of dedicated MCU watchers.
Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark got the send-off he deserved as, after he sacrificed his life to defeat Thanos once and for all, the closing moments of Endgame focused on his funeral where everybody – even Harley Keener – was in attendance to mark his tragic passing.
Everybody, that is, except for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, who had sacrificed herself earlier in Endgame so that the remaining Avengers could get the Soul Stone. Beyond one conversation after her death, her sacrifice wasn’t marked in the same grand way as Tony’s – and Marvel fans weren’t happy.
After all, shouldn’t it have been a joint funeral? Given that if it wasn’t for Natasha’s sacrifice, Tony wouldn’t have been able to go all “I am Iron Man” and save the day. But no, Natasha didn’t get a funeral and as far as we could tell from Endgame, nothing to mark her death or dedication to the Avengers.
With the release of Black Widow though, this major error has now been corrected to ensure that Marvel fans know Natasha’s sacrifice has been remembered.
At the time of Endgame‘s release, co-writer Christopher Markus justified the lack of a funeral for Natasha in the movie because of who she was.
“Tony gets a funeral. Natasha doesn’t. That’s partly because Tony’s this massive public figure and she’s been a cipher the whole time. It wasn’t necessarily honest to the character to give her a funeral,” he said.
Co-director Joe Russo followed it up by saying that since Natasha had another MCU movie to come and Tony didn’t, they had to “bring closure to Tony Stark” and there was the opportunity for Black Widow to do the same for Natasha. Since it was already telling a lot of story, Endgame just didn’t have the time for both.
Given that Black Widow was taking place earlier in the MCU (since Natasha was, you know, dead), it felt unlikely that her long-awaited solo movie could bring the closure and recognition that her character deserved.
But as well as filling in the blanks in her backstory, Black Widow does rectify Endgame‘s mistake and marks Natasha’s sacrifice. It might not be the Avengers-packed event that Tony gets, yet it feels more fitting for the character.
The moment comes in Black Widow‘s credits scene that takes place after Endgame in the MCU timeline. We see Yelena (Florence Pugh) visit Natasha’s grave, but it might not be anywhere that the Avengers would expect to look.
It’s not specified exactly where, but since Valentina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) jokes that she’s “allergic to the Midwest”, we could assume that it’s in Ohio where Natasha and Yelena grew up with their ‘parents’, Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei (David Harbour).
“Daughter. Sister. Avenger,” the grave reads and whether it’s Yelena who arranged it all or Natasha’s fellow Avengers, it’s a sign that she hasn’t been forgotten and those who want to pay tribute can.
It almost feels like a direct response to that Endgame criticism and the scene was actually part of reshoots for Black Widow in winter 2020. (The rest of Black Widow was shot between May and September 2019.)
“I know the reaction that fans had to Scarlett’s death in Endgame,” director Cate Shortland told Variety. “The fact that we got to see that moment between her and her sister, it means that to me, she is eternal, you know?”
The apt choice of location for Natasha’s grave actually came from Scarlett Johansson herself, in case you were worried that having her memorial somewhere unexpected went against her character.
“Scarlett talked to me about it: Her character would have hated a public funeral,” Shortland recalled. “So I felt like the fact that she’s buried in a really private place, in the boondocks somewhere, is perfect.”
So, yes, it might not have the epic scale of Tony’s memorial, but at least now we know that Natasha has been remembered for her sacrifice – and will continue to be so by her ‘sister’ and anybody else who knows where it is.
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