Is Black Widow Really Just An Afterthought In The MCU?

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame
(Image credit: (Marvel) .)

So, it’s no secret Avengers: Endgame brought in some serious record-breaking cash at the worldwide box office, becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time. But, if we added up all the tears Marvel fans wiped away in the theaters – now that’s mind-blowing. The movie delivered some incredibly emotional goodbyes for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. The two sides of the same coin were given bittersweet send-offs. Iron Man sacrificed his life like a hero to save the universe, and Captain America finally got a little selfish, going back in time to catch a lifelong of dances with his girl, Peggy.

There’s one other death in Avengers: Endgame, and it leaves more of a sour taste. Looking back, Black Widow perishing on Vormir during her and Hawkeye’s quest to get the Soul Stone is actually quite a forgettable moment in the jam-packed movie. How exactly does that work? She’s one of the original six Avengers. She’s spent about a decade on the big screen like her fellow teammates and she’s an intriguing character as well.

The problem here is Scarlett Johansson’s MCU hero has been riding in the side car since the beginning. She’s been utilized as a device to push the story forward, instead of being developed into a full-fledged character. What’s up with that? Oh, and can her upcoming Black Widow solo flick go back and fix it all? Let’s dig into it... you know, like some kind black widow! Here we go:

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Avengers 2012

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Black Widow’s Role In The MCU So Far

Black Widow first appeared in Iron Man 2 with some badass action scenes, and that debut planted the seeds for The Avengers, two years later. She’s always been this kind of mysterious type who dryly says things like “I’m always picking after you boys” while the other heroes have all the fun smiling through catchy one-liners and their own story arcs. Speaking of, Natasha Romanoff never really gets a good one for fans to bite into.

She’s the trusty mission partner to Steve Rogers in Winter Soldier, Hulk’s random love interest in Age of Ultron and in a wavering middle to Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man in Civil War. The various filmmakers who have told her story have sprinkled in a troubled past that has made her who she is. But it’s never felt consistent enough to feel like a grounded character at the level of the other main heroes. I think this is because of her lack of a solo story for the past decade.

A character like Tony Stark was fleshed out in Iron Man with Jon Favreau’s vision and therefore able to become this resonating common thread in the MCU. Because there’s been so many cooks in the kitchen for Natasha (besides, of course, Johansson’s performance), she’s become an afterthought; this throwaway character who keeps getting experimented with. The situations she’s dealt with don’t feel in service of her as a character. If you think back to her big moments, they are all to serve the other storylines: Steve Rogers’ adjusting to the present, Hulk controlling his powers, the Avengers’ war and so on. Which brings me to Avengers: Endgame...

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame

(Image credit: (Marvel))

The Death Of Black Widow In Endgame

Natasha’s death in Avengers: Endgame was an underwhelming one. There are a couple understandable reasons for this. First off, she died in an already long movie that aimed to say goodbye to two other big names on the top of the call sheet and wrap up the Infinity Saga. Also, when Endgame was made, there were already plans for the Black Widow solo movie to start off Phase Four. When it came to cutting down the script, leaving out big moments for Scarlett Johansson’s character made a bit of sense.

Business-y movie things aside, for fans of the franchise, it rubbed them the wrong way. She’s once again used as a plot device. Black Widow is the means to the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame. Little respect is taken toward wrapping up her character within the context of the movie, even if she is coming back for a standalone adventure next year. Even if Endgame didn’t have time to give Natasha a funeral or didn’t feel like it gave Iron Man his moment, the way her demise was even shot felt unimportant and passed off instead of affecting.

No matter what’s coming next for a character, filmmakers should capture the moment being felt during the scene. This treatment shows further how much of an afterthought Black Widow's been in the franchise, despite being regarded as a main character in the series. She was greatly under serviced when it comes to her peers in Avengers: Endgame.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Captain America: Civil War

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Black Widow’s Upcoming Solo Film

Which brings us to the long-awaited upcoming Black Widow solo movie. Before Avengers: Endgame, when fans were theorizing about whether it would be a prequel or continuation of her story thus far, I was personally hoping it would be the latter. Now, we know Black Widow will take place after the events of Civil War, where she’ll meet up with another Widow played by Florence Pugh and face off against the Taskmaster. The movie does look extremely exciting, also with a cast including Stranger ThingsDavid Harbour and Rachel Weisz.

There is a little something that is taken away from the release since we all know when, where and how she dies. Where Captain Marvel used this way of storytelling to act as a precursor to a larger role in Avengers: Endgame, it’s almost certainly Black Widow’s last time as the hero. How can the character be redeemed for its plot-device-y diceyness? My guess is Black Widow will be very good and give us the character at the center for the first time in a satisfying way. However, it doesn’t cancel out how much of an afterthought Black Widow was over the years.

Marvel is more than capable of blowing expectations out of the water. It could very well pull off a way to make up for its misfires in Black Widow come May 1, 2020. The company is composed of master planners and have beautifully given conclusions to Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. But as it stands, Black Widow it looks as if she had writers backing themselves in a corner when writing for her movie after movie until they finally killed her off.

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.