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Avengers: Endgame's Vormir Scene Almost Ended Much Differently

The dusted may have been returned in Marvel's box office behemoth Avengers: Endgame, but it seems the dust still hasn't quite settled when it comes to one of the film's more heartbreaking scenes. The scene in question: the death of Scarlett Johansson's fan-favorite, O.G. Avenger Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. 

If you'll recall, the tragic moment comes about two-thirds of the way through the Infinity Saga-closing Endgame, and finds Romanoff paired up with Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye, or Ronin, if you will) on Vormir in hopes of retrieving the Soul Stone before big baddie Thanos can get his evil purple mitts on it. 

Of course, as we learned from Avengers: Infinity War, the Soul Stone requires a sacrifice from anyone who wishes to claim it. As it happened, it was Black Widow who willingly gave her life so that Barton could claim the stone, thus helping her heroic pals undo the dusty carnage of Thanos' infamous snap.

Even though most viewers ultimately found the scene deeply moving, and recognized Black Widow's sacrifice as profoundly noble, some still felt that Romanoff's untimely death served the story more than it did the character. While Infinity War and Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McNeely have continued to defend their decision to off Romanoff on Vormir, in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, the duo let slip that they almost ended the moment in a very different way — by sending Hawkeye over the cliff instead.

According to McFeely, the decision was every bit as complicated as you'd expect. "We certainly thought long and hard about it. We knew we were killing the first female hero of the Marvel Universe," the scribe explained. "We stupidly came up with these rules in the first movie — someone's going over that cliff. So we had to decide. By the way, you had to easily love the person next to you, so we couldn't send Steve Rogers and Hulk. So it's a puzzle of our own making, but it felt like it was the resolution of her arc, that if she could sacrifice herself for her new family and for half the universe, that was worth it to her."

McFeely added that the decision to send Black Widow over the cliff was actually influenced by several female members of the Endgame crew. "A number of women on the crew, when we said, 'Hey, we're thinking maybe Hawkeye goes over,' said, 'Don't you do that! Don't rob her of this!' And then it choked me up because I think we would have a much different conversation if Hawkeye had pushed her aside."

A very different conversation indeed — one that wouldn't have left fans pondering whether Hawkeye actually deserved another chance (and a possible reunion with his dusted family) after the murderous rampage he went on in the post-snap world, or whether Romanoff had compromised her own moral growth in helping deliver that chance.

While we can only imagine the torture Markus and McFeely went through in making their decision, we can't help but think that the bold choice to put Black Widow and her mortal sacrifice front and center on Vormir didn't just further raise the emotional and mortal stakes in Endgame, it also served as a fittingly heroic goodbye to a character who was too often relegated to supporting player status.

Did Black Widow's death change the story for her solo movie?

Naturally, the aftermath of that moment had many fans wondering how it would impact that long-in-the-works Black Widow standalone movie the MCU had been batting about for the better part of a decade. It's worth noting, of course, that Black Widow wasn't officially announced until after Endgame made its premiere. While it's now clear that the solo flick's narrative was already well in place prior to the character's heart-rending Endgame goodbye, the fact that the character was truly dead at the end of the film left Marvel diehards wildly theorizing how Endgame's time-traveling shenanigans and Soul Stone uncertainties might be used to set up the Black Widow movie

As it turns out, the character's death will likely not factor into the standalone movie's narrative at all. That's because Black Widow's story is reportedly slotting into the MCU via Romanoff's uncertain days between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War

As a quick refresher, Civil War saw Captain America (Chris Evans) and a handful of his superpowered pals facing off against Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his own faction of heroes in a full-on battle to decide whether or not the Avengers (or superheroes in general) should be registered with and monitored by the world's governments. That battle is further complicated by Cap's continued protection of his old pal Bucky (Sebastian Stan), who'd been re-programmed by a serious new baddie to take part in the assassination of the Wakandan King.

The aftermath of that battle found Team Cap either scattered and on the run, or headed to super-prison the Raft. Though she had initially been down with Team Stark, we next saw Romanoff flying around with Cap in the early stages of Infinity War, with her time in between a veritable blank slate. Black Widow will indeed focus on that part of Romanoff's story. Though little is known about what's in store for the character in Black Widow, the film will apparently find her on the run, and dealing with some of the nefarious characters from her KGB past.

Black Widow will also take a more grounded approach to its narrative, and should serve as a welcome respite from the intergalactic insanity Marvel has unleashed over the past couple of years, opting for espionage-tinged intrigue and visceral, small-scale action in lieu of big budget bombast. By all accounts, Black Widow will attempt to shed some light on Romanoff's Endgame sacrifice, probably by exposing some of that "red" in her ledger that she keeps bringing up. With any luck, we might even get a peek at all that crazy Budapest action Widow and Hawkeye referenced in The Avengers.

Directed by Cate Shortland, and featuring supporting turns from Rachel Weisz (The Fountain), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), David Harbour (Stranger Things), and possibly even the brief MCU return of RDJ himself, Black Widow will officially kick off Phase 4 of the MCU when it arrives in theaters on May 1, 2020.