Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo say Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) received an onscreen funeral over Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) because the super-spy will next headline her own prequel movie.
"Well, Natasha has another movie coming out. Tony does not have another movie coming out," Joe Russo told Entertainment Tonight at San Diego Comic-Con.
"When you're dealing with storytelling real estate in a three-hour movie, there's only so much of it, and someone else has another film coming, there's always the opportunity to bring closure in that other movie. In this movie, we had to bring closure to Tony Stark."
Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely similarly defended the decision not to show a funeral for Natasha outside a brief gathering of the mourning Avengers, saying it wouldn't have been "honest" to hold a funeral for a career spy.
"Tony gets a funeral. Natasha doesn't," Markus told The New York Times.
"That's partly because Tony's this massive public figure and she's been a cipher the whole time. It wasn't necessarily honest to the character to give her a funeral. The biggest question about it is what Thor raises there on the dock. 'We have the Infinity Stones. Why don't we just bring her back?'"
Added McFeely, "That's the everlasting exchange. You bring her back, you lose the stone."
Widow ultimately sacrificed herself on Vormir to claim the Soul Stone, later used to reverse Thanos' (Josh Brolin) erasure of half of all life in the universe.
But the scene, which ends with Widow winning out over longtime best friend Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), nearly went the opposite direction and had family man Clint Barton leap to his death to spare Natasha.
"Jen Underdahl, our visual effects producer, read an outline or draft where Hawkeye goes over. And she goes, 'Don't you take this away from her.' I actually get emotional thinking about it," McFeely told the Times.
"And it was true, it was him taking the hit for her," added Markus. "It was melodramatic to have him die and not get his family back. And it is only right and proper that she's done."
The Johansson-led Black Widow, due out May 1, 2020, will examine the founding Avenger some time after the events of 2016's Captain America: Civil War. Avengers: Endgame releases on Digital HD July 30 and on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray August 13.