In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Avengers: Endgame co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo discussed the film’s controversial Black Widow arc. And as we delve into their thoughts, be warned that some major spoilers lie ahead.
As you’ve likely seen by now, Black Widow meets a tragic end on Vormir, where she ultimately “wins” her fight with Hawkeye over who gets to sacrifice themselves for the Soul Stone. The sequence has been criticized by some viewers as an example of the “fridging” trope, where a female character’s death is used to motivate the male characters. If you ask Joe Russo, however, Natasha Romanoff’s final scene shows the heroine making a noble choice to lay down her life for the sake of the universe and her friend.
“The theme of the movie is, can you change your destiny, and what does it cost to do it? And are you willing to pay that cost?” Joe said. “It’s a resounding yes from the Avengers. In [Infinity War] they said, ‘We don’t trade lives,’ and there was a desire to protect. And in this movie, there’s now a desire to sacrifice in order to accomplish the goal.
The filmmaker went on to argue that Black Widow’s demise extends organically from the saga’s themes of sacrifice.
“I think that that’s a natural progression, right?” he added. “‘Well, the first thing we’re going to do is try to protect everybody.’ And then when you realize it can’t work that way, then true heroes step up and are willing to sacrifice for the greater good.”
As for why Hawkeye wasn’t the one to lose his life, Anthony Russo acknowledges that Clint Barton’s family factored into their decision.
“We open the movie on [Hawkeye’s] family,” Anthony said. “She reminds him of it in the scene. They both may have the mission in that moment where, ‘I’m not going to let you kill yourself,’ but Hawkeye has mixed agendas there, which I feel takes the edge off his focus in a way that she doesn’t.”
The controversy around Nat’s passing was further fueled by the movie’s notably different treatment of its other dead hero, Tony Stark, whose big funeral sequence at the the conclusion of the film makes Black Widow’s death look downplayed by comparison. But for what it’s worth, while Iron Man’s story ends with Avengers: Endgame, Scarlett Johansson’s character will be getting the spotlight all to herself next year when her long-awaited solo debut hits theaters.