(This article contains a huge spoiler for “Avengers: Endgame”)
I’ve got a little bit of a beef with how “Avengers: Endgame” handles the story of Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). This beef stems from the fact that I believe that Natasha is really the glue of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — she may not have any movies with her name on them so far, but she has been just as crucial a part of the Avengers and the MCU in general as Captain America, Iron Man or Thor. I’d argue, really, that she’s the true heart of this franchise.
With Captain America and Iron Man on the way out after “Avengers: Endgame” — something we’ve known for a while because Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr had already talked extensively about how they’re out after this one — we came into this thing watching to see who the movie would set up to take their places at the de facto leaders of the Avengers. It would make sense for someone who has been around as long as they have and has played just as central a role in the franchise to fill that void, and presumably such a person would begin shouldering that burden in this movie.
So why not Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)? After the big five-year time skip early on in “Endgame” she’s the one maintaining ties between the various remaining superheroes. She is, in this film, becoming the leader that the Avengers will need moving forward. And honestly, she’s been as big a part of this franchise as any of the other Avengers, and I’d argue has been the true heart of the group for a while now.
But then “Endgame” sees her and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) head to Vormir in the past to retrieve the Soul Stone during the big Time Heist sequence, and they have to make a sacrifice in order to get it. And Black Widow chooses to kill herself so that Hawkeye can be with his family again after the Avengers get all the stones and save trillions of lives.
Yes, they really fridged Black Widow for the remainder of “Endgame,” and she doesn’t appear to be coming back, even after Captain America returned the Soul Stone at the end of the movie by some means. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) even mentions that he tried to bring her back when he did his reverse snap, but that didn’t work.
And yet Marvel Studios has a solo Black Widow movie on the way next year, and there’s only two real possibilities for what such a movie could entail: it could be a prequel, or it could be a “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” type of thing. Or, I guess, it could be both. We don’t actually know anything firm about the movie yet, so right now we’re left to make guesses.
A prequel seems like the most logical answer, except that would be a strange way to usher in the beginning of the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would depend on what the actual plot is, I guess, but there’s no big cosmic stuff in Black Widow’s backstory that we know of. A Black Widow origin story or something would be an exceptionally strange concept to roll with after she’s dead in the present. Especially since Scarlett Johansson is set to star in the film, which would mean just de-aging her like Samuel L. Jackson in “Captain Marvel,” but to her teenage years for the entire film, maybe? It’s a headache just thinking about it.
The “Search for Spock” scenario, meanwhile, would likely involve Hawkeye and Hulk and whoever else embarking on a quest to retrieve her from the Soul Realm, which is presumably where the people who are sacrificed to the Soul Stone go when they die, judging by Thanos’ brief conversation with young Gamora after he did the snap in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
But it would also be exceptionally strange for a movie about “Black Widow” to focus largely on two male characters. So a combination prequel/”Search for Spock” thing, perhaps with some time travel thrown in, would make more sense. Remember, the Avengers just have a time machine now, so while on the quest to find Black Widow they could interact with past versions of her. But even then the story would be focused on the men, which would not be ideal by any means.
Until we know more about the movie — a post-credits scene after “Spider-Man: Far From Home” seems like the most likely place for a hint — it’s basically impossible to try to figure this out accurately. So guess away.