Almost a year ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe closed the book on its “Infinity Saga,” defeating the threat of Thanos—and ending the story for some of the franchise’s most beloved characters. The emotional 3.5 hour film saw the deaths of two mainstay Avengers, Iron Man and Black Widow. But while Tony’s death was seen as meaningful and earned, Black Widow’s death has been met with more controversy, namely due to how she died as well as the failure of recognition she received after making her heroic sacrifice.
natasha's alternate death scene from avengers: endgame. i'm in tears. 😭https://t.co/fy2Bw6XxsR— romanoff (@scarlettjhssn) April 9, 2020
The unused cut is vastly different than the one we saw in theaters. Rather than soft emotional beats, it’s a fully-packed action sequence that sees Black Widow and Hawkeye battling some of Thanos’ minions, who have tracked Strike Team: Delta to Vormir and are intent on sabotaging their mission. After some initial fighting, Natasha takes matters into her own hands and runs straight into the fire, getting mortally wounded in the process while Hawkeye continues to fight off their increasingly overwhelming adversaries. Despite her injuries, she manages to pull herself to the edge of the cliff. Then, rather than Clint trying to save her, she lets herself fall. A consensus among social media is that most people wish this scene had been used in the film instead of the one we ended up with, largely because it feels like the focus is centered more on Natasha making a choice to sacrifice herself in a bold, singular move, similar to Tony’s “I am Iron Man” moment. But both scenes are meaningful and demonstrate Natasha’s agency and strength—just in different ways.
The scene used in the film feels like more of a closure to Clint and Natasha’s relationship, which is incredibly important in a film defined by goodbyes. Not only do we get that moving moment where it’s clear just how important they are to each other, their fight is a definitive staple of their characters, paralleling the fight on the helicarrier in
The alternate scene, by contrast, is mostly self-sacrifice driven. One of the most empowering things about Black Widow is that she’s always existed as a character without powers among a group of Gods and super soldiers, so seeing her hold her own in these final moments using just guns and hand-to-hand combat drives home how incredibly smart and powerful the character is. We do get a weighted look between the two characters before Natasha leaps to her death (Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner have always been excellent when it comes to selling their on-screen chemistry and this moment, even in the middle of chaos, is no different) and it’s clear how painful and hard the decision is. But because the nature of the scene has the characters separated, it forces the focus towards Natasha during her moment of sacrifice.
In an interview with
No matter which version you prefer, neither scene changes the fact that Natasha Romanoff is a hero. Although many have interpreted Natasha’s death as the character being considered “expendable” because Clint had a by-blood family that he could return to if they reversed Thanos’ snap, the decision was about Natasha knowing she could make the choice as someone who possessed true free will. That’s something both of these scenes clearly show. Instead of focusing on the manner in which she died, we should remember the meaning of her sacrifice: how her choice was a significant and poignant end to her arc, someone who started out in the world alone, who then got “this family”… and who was indeed better because of them.