SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS INFINITY WAR AND ENDGAME
Of all the Infinity Stones, the Soul Stone has been the key to the plots for Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Whoever wants to find the stone in Vormir can’t just dig it up. A sacrifice has to be made off a very high cliff. That way, the searcher always knows he (or she) stopped at nothing to get it. That includes the pain from realizing what had to be done.
The moment someone tries to get the stone has been a major moment in both movies. The only difference has been the motivation. Thanos wanted the stone for his Infinity Gauntlet and his plan to “benefit” the cosmos with his idea of restoring balance….by erasing half of creation. Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) wanted the stone to undo what Thanos did. In both cases, someone had to die. The only difference is why the death took place.
First, let’s take a look at Thanos’ search for the stone in Infinity War. Gamora knew it was in Vormir after finding a map, but made sure no one else found it. However she told Nebula, and Thanos tortured Nebula to force Gamora to reveal what she knew.
Once there, they were met by a strange guide… who we’ve met before. It’s the Red Skull, who’s now doomed to be on that planet after he tried to get the stones during WWII and failed. He tells Thanos he can get the Soul Stone, but at the price of something he loves (turns out to be Gamora’s life).
Even though Thanos always had a soft spot for Gamora, is her life worth his goal of “restoring balance”? Are the benefits of using the Infinity Stones to “save” the universe worth her life?
Sadly, he thinks it is.
After getting the stone Thanos sheds a tear. He feels the pain over what he has done and probably will never forgive himself. Still, he thinks exchanging her life for a better universe is worth it. He seeks the power of the Soul Stone, not for just having it but for a cause he thinks is right.
Once he uses the Gauntlet and erases half of creation, he doesn’t check to see if he’s right. He retires to a planet rather than see the full effects. Evil or not, he should have made the effort.
He would have seen the universe hasn’t improved, and a lot of people have been severely traumatized by losing family and friends. Clint Barton is one of them. When Thanos snaps his fingers with the Gauntlet, Clint loses his family. He winds up being Ronin, a cruel and soulless assassin. It’s something Natasha doesn’t like.
Clint and Natasha go to Vormir to get the Soul Stone, and are told the bargain that has to be made. They both wind up fighting each other, but not to win. This time, both want to sacrifice themselves so the other could get the stone. It’s quite different than Thanos having to kill Gamora.
They both wind up going over the cliff but not falling.
It’s Natasha who eventually makes the decision to fall. She knows being part of the Avengers gave her the family she never had. She is trusting Clint will get all six Infinity Stones and get his family back. She’s doing this for him and his soul. Like Thanos, Clint will shed a tear for Natasha, but it’s up to him to make sure it was all worth it.
(Spoiler alert: it was all worth it, when Clint’s wife called after the Gauntlet was used by Hulk… and then more people got un-dusted).
The importance of family also plays a part when Thor meets his mom Frigga just before she dies in The Dark World. Even though she figures out why he’s there, she lets him know he’s still a hero even though he’s turned into the Big Lebowski. For Tony Stark, Tony turns that around when he meets his dad in Camp Lehigh in 1970. He’s the one who gives parenting advice, since by this time he has a young daughter. It’s a nice touch, and may have had an impact.
The point in looking at the two Soul Stone scenes is that Natasha sacrificed herself for love. It was her choice. Gamora didn’t have a choice when she had to be sacrificed, even if Thanos shed a tear to get the power he wanted. Natasha understood the need for family more than Thanos ever did. That’s the lesson.
Maybe the second time around, the stone shone brighter.
One more thing: ComicBook.com has more on Natasha’s Choice, why she made it, and why she didn’t get a funeral.