Much of the discussion surrounding Marvel’s Black Widow right now is related to the ongoing legal dispute between Scarlett Johansson and Disney over the film’s simultaneous rollout in theaters and on Disney+.
Given the high-profile nature of the contract dispute, as well as its greater relevance to an industry in the midst of major transition when it comes to the financial particulars of theatrical versus streaming releases, it’s not hard to see why so much attention has been concentrated there.
On its own terms as a film, however, Black Widow mostly succeeds at spotlighting its titular character, who spent most of her on-screen tenure as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most undervalued figures.
However, a deleted scene reveals just how close Black Widow came to honoring Natasha Romanoff’s MCU legacy in a more potent and emotionally moving way.
A Trip Down Memory Lane — Ahead of Black Widow’s digital and Blu-ray release, a new deleted scene from the film has leaked online. The scene is set near the film’s end, with Johansson’s Natasha having already dyed her hair blond by the time it starts. The sequence sees Natasha briefly returning to the suburban Ohio neighborhood where she spent several years during her youth.
It’s a largely wordless sequence — visually mirroring how the film’s opening was shot and cut together — and it culminates with an unexpected moment between Natasha and a little girl who lives in the neighborhood. Recognizing the Avenger, the little girl breaks out into a wide grin and raises her arm, showing off the DIY bracelet on her wrist that’s meant to look like Natasha’s iconic gauntlets. Smiling, Natasha raises her arm back at the girl and pretends she’s wearing her gauntlets.
It’s a small, touching moment, successfully expressing the positive and inspirational impact Natasha’s heroism made on the world at large.
Black Widow’s Uneven Ending — One of the best elements of Black Widow is that it manages to simultaneously spotlight Johansson’s Natasha and set up Florence Pugh’s Yelena as a major presence in the MCU moving forward. The relationship between the two characters is moving, funny, and surprisingly complex, which further emphasizes the strengths of both women.
Where Black Widow goes wrong, however, is in its final two scenes. The film’s theatrical cut concludes with Natasha meeting up with O-T Fagbenle’s Mason to pick up the Quinjet that she, Steve (Chris Evans), and Sam (Anthony Mackie) were seen using in Avengers: Infinity War.
This is a strange way for Black Widow to end, one that chooses to focus on connecting the film to the greater MCU instead of sending Natasha off in an emotionally moving and fulfilling manner. To make matters worse, the film’s post-credits scene similarly focuses more upon setting up a future MCU title than it does upon truly celebrating Natasha’s legacy.
These issues wouldn't be nearly as noticeable if the deleted scene mentioned above were included in the Black Widow theatrical cut. While it’s still an undeniably weird choice to have Natasha’s final MCU scene be one of her picking up a Quinjet, taking a few moments to see her revisit her past before that meeting with Mason would have worked as the kind of full-circle moment that the film’s theatrical ending lacks.
The Inverse Analysis — Black Widow’s ending could have been improved in many ways, some of which have to do with its climactic set-piece; one of the more criticized sequences in the film, it could have benefitted from a smaller scale and less CGI. But it’s the way that Black Widow’s final two scenes fail to bring Natasha’s story to a moving end that feels like the most disappointing and avoidable of the film’s flaws.
Not only would this deleted scene have added more emotional weight to the film’s closing moments, but it would have worked even better as Black Widow’s ending than the one we got. At the very least, the scene better acknowledges the character’s emotional journey than a quick shot of lightning bugs in a tree.
Black Widow is in theaters and available on POVD now.