AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

AMBER LOVE 12-MAY-2015 Only because a friend gave me a ticket and actually wanted to know my opinion, is this being written. I had managed to avoid nearly everything about AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON by ignoring a lot of the frenzy and even the trailers. I knew a few things about the movie and a little more about the characters and plots from the comics. Today, it’s 93-fucking-degrees so the movie theatre wasn’t a bad choice especially on a Tuesday morning.

SPOILERS! Most of the ones you can’t predict are covered. But honestly, if you avoided spoilers into week one of this movie’s release, it’s kind of a miracle.

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WHAT I KNEW

People either loved or hated this storyline for Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow. There was a massive feeding frenzy of nothing but conflated rumors about writer/director Joss Whedon leaving Twitter all because of how feminists felt about Natasha’s portrayal. Since that’s what my friend most wanted to know my opinion on, it’s below in the accordions, so open and read on knowing there are spoilers.

THE ROMANCE TROPE

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The romance between Natasha and Bruce Banner was a sweet attempt at stuffing Natasha into one of the roles she absolutely had to play because through most of the film, she’s the only female member of the Avengers team. I’m not opposed to superhero romances. I like them, in fact. I would actually like these two together if it didn’t feel so forced. I love Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner. LOVE. HIM. There are not enough words for me to express how much I love Ruffalo in these films. So, seeing him get a romantic partner is great. But why Natasha? Because she’s the token female on the team and god forbid they bring Betty whatsherface back to the screen.

The romances were kind of interesting and had nice cameos, especially Peggy Carter and Captain America. However, the Hawkeye family… I’ll get to that later. Back to Natasha…

THE MOTHER TROPE

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Hmmmm….. how can a man write a woman that removes a trope? By trying to remove her uterus! Wait… what the fuck?

Is Joss Whedon that ignorant that he doesn’t understand how love works? I doubt it, but now I’m shaking my head. This subplot about Natasha being sterile has some things that I like and some things that I don’t. What I don’t like is the bullshit that she, by virtue of being a woman without a uterus, would be incapable of having a loving family. BLEW. MY. FUCKING. MIND.

How insanely ignorant! It’s like thinking men would be incapable of being loving parents because they don’t have a uterus. The womb is not the definition of loving mother. Period. We just celebrated Mother’s Day here in America and what’s interesting to me is how many of my friends posted about separating from their toxic mothers. Each one of my friends that chooses not have relationships with the women who biologically bore them, still have found loving family in other people.

Knowing what I know about Joss Whedon’s female characters from things like Buffy/Angel – he takes the mother role quite seriously. He made damn sure that Buffy Summers never got knocked up, but he did make it Cordelia’s only interesting quality because she barely served a purpose otherwise (on Angel). And of course, there’s Darla and Angel’s awful and badly written spawn. Whedon handled one mother well – Joyce Summers. In the episode The Body, it was particularly evident what her role meant to the entire makeup of the gang.

Clearly, Whedon knows a few ways to work motherhood into a plot so that it doesn’t suck. What happened here? Instead, he gave Clint Barton a secret family. This also made not a damn lick of sense. Barton flirts with Helen Cho and says “no girlfriend” then hangs up the phone later and tells his team it was his girlfriend on the line. And he not only has a girlfriend but they have two kids and one more about to pop from the great birthing machine – the extraneous woman who just appears from nowhere. If Hawkeye didn’t have a family and we see him save the little boy at the end, would that somehow mean less? No! He’s supposed to be a damn superhero after all.

Yeah, I had a ton of problems with this whole motherhood thing.

What I did like about filling in Natasha’s backstory this way was that it brings up the IRL practice of female genital mutilation (to remove sexual pleasure) and every country’s failure to give women any body autonomy. Women have no rights to decisions about their own bodies and that’s pretty damn evident if you read the news for a day. A ten-year-old girl in Paraguay was raped by her 42-year-old stepfather and has been forced to carry a pregnancy to term. Requests for an abortion have been denied. This is the cold hard truth about women’s rights to their own bodies. American women can be denied birth control, a right women in the 1970s fought for.

Because of these realities, I appreciate that Natasha, the leading female presence is part of that representation. She and the other girls in her training facility were forcibly sterilized upon their perverse graduation. I don’t mind one bit that Natasha cannot biologically bear children. I understand the idea here that, like men believe about the removal of the clitoris, that it would somehow magically prevent her from having a particular experience. In Natasha’s case, it allowed for “guilt-free” sexual intercourse without the risk of a pregnancy interfering with her mission. However, that does not mean that at some point in her career, she wouldn’t have met a child that she wanted to foster, adopt, or take under her wing. In any one of the many cities Natasha Romanoff has gone on a mission, she has met people who need help. Millions of those people have been children. And if Hawkeye – a person sans uterus – can have feelings of caring and being a human and want to save a little boy – then so can Natasha.

Bottom line – the sterilization doesn’t change who can be a parent.

THE SEX POT

The only other notable “thing” about Black Widow is that she’s treated like the parody version of female heroes, in particular GALAXY QUEST’S Tawny Madison, whose zipper comes down a little bit further in each scene. By the the epic fight, I have no idea how much tape was used to keep her boobs in place. Since none of the other women were written as having sex appeal (not to be confused with sexy because Wanda totally is), it was another crown for Black Widow to wear. And her suit looked like it came from the TRON wardrobe department. At least her hair finally looked better.

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WOMEN ON THE TEAM

In the previous film, Maria Hill was one of the worst characters I had ever seen, mainly because I thought her lines were delivered atrociously by Cobie Smulders who always looked like she had stage fright. In AoU, she finally had some confidence. There’s supposedly no more SHIELD, so I have no fucking idea what her role was supposed to be. I guess Marvel’s version of Oracle. I couldn’t tell. She was just there occasionally firing a tiny pistol at an unstoppable machine. The gun would’ve been fine if she was battling a human, but this was dumb and only served to show her shooting it. (The overpowering nature of their weapons was even addressed wonderfully by Hawkeye).

Once in a while, Hill was on the monitor. Her only reasonably decent scene was the cocktail party which is where I felt the cast came across as comfortable and the most diverse. I have no idea why Hill was then dressed in a pencil skirt and stilettos in the follow up scenes either. Eventually, she got into a proper SHIELD-esque suit.

I covered a lot about Black Widow under the cut above, but as far as non-spoilery things, I thought she was okay in AoU. She wasn’t fan-fucking-tastic like other people seem to think. She was just a superhero with nothing particularly extraordinary to offer without those flashbacks into her new, sordid backstory. Her romance with Bruce never amounted to anything so, there was basically a lot of let-down regarding this character. Although, I will say, I haven’t much been crazy for her in any of the films. I simply find her adequate which is how I felt about Catwoman in the Nolan movies. She’s there. Not terrible, but suitable.

I bitch and moan about the lack of toys and merchandise, because that is flat out bullshit on the part of the big box retailers (see, because Marvel says it’s not their fault and that they do design the stuff but the stores don’t order any of it). *insert eye rolling here*

Helen Cho was a great addition to the cast. I felt Claudia Kim was the stumbling block in being directed here just like Cobie Smulders was previously. Her first scene was clunky and pretty terrible in how her lines were delivered. She saved herself after the big turning point with Ultron and the “cradle” when her dialog came out smoother. But that line, “Will Thor be there?” was just … god fucking awful. It should’ve been cut.

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Wanda aka Scarlet Witch aka one of the twins. I loved Wanda and how Elizabeth Olsen portrayed her. She felt natural. She felt original. She wasn’t a Willow Rosenberg knockoff. The little I knew of her beforehand was that she was basically the most powerful mutant in the universe who could only be beaten by Doctor Strange. She destroyed the world or something at the end of House of M, maybe. This version was kind of “Wanda lite” though she got a boost to her powers at a dramatic turning point where, yes, I teared up. We have to accept that they needed to nerf her a bit or there’d be no movie at all.

She was by far, the best of the female characters in AoU. But why the freaking hell is she from an experiment and not a mutant? More stupid corporate bullshit that removes part of this character’s identity. The main problem with Wanda’s part is that for a long time, there’s no need for her and she’s obviously absent. Once Ultron has Loki’s scepter, Wanda needs something else to do. By the third act, she finally gets that purpose and Hawkeye talks her into joining the team.

I think the reason Hot Topic keeps their Marvel licensing is specifically because their consumers already look like Wanda. Plus, she and Pietro had killer faux-slovak-Sokovian accents. Also, an incredible breakout role for Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her twin brother Pietro. Loved him! New massive nerd crushes for me.

Laura Barton – utterly useless.

WTF DID THEY DO TO WAKANDA?

Okay, I’ve been talking a lot about feminism and gender issues here. There’s a helluva massive problem with this entire fucking story and that is Wakanda. This is the fictitious African country which is ruled by Black Panther (in the comics) and the only place in the world to get vibranium. (I guess they couldn’t include adamantium with some sort of rights issue between Sony and Marvel since Cap’s shield contains both).

Wakanda was nothing but a Lego set here. It’s supposed to be this amazing country and instead it’s set dressing for the Hulk to destroy. You know how people ranted about MAN OF STEEL and all the destruction? Imagine that done in a horribly racist way. That’s Whedon’s Wakanda and it’s appalling.

Of the roles that cast people of color, War Machine (Don Cheadle) had the most to do and was vital in one fight. Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) were pretty much cameos and served no purpose beyond that. So the only people of color you got to see besides War Machine was the little bit of Helen Cho and the millions of terrified citizens of Wakanda. They couldn’t have the ruler of Wakanda? I know Black Panther is slated for his own movie, but isn’t it sad that the unnamed minion in the vibranium mine was the most we saw of Wakanda people?

FAIL.

THE PLOT – ULTRON

I think anyone into the comics knows that Wanda and Vision could’ve equally wrecked Ultron in the first five minutes. The plot was fine and understandable most of the time. They use Wanda as they do Rogue. But to be perfectly honest, I hated it because of James Spader voicing the character and because of the juvenile lines written for him. It was so bad. It was like Joss gave a teenager the script to write as a school project. The dialog for “the biggest of the bad” was terrible.

The smartass camaraderie of the team was worthy of some laughs. Black Widow’s weird little memorized poetry for the Hulk — also in the realm of shitastic dialog. “Hey, Big Guy, something-something sun going down…” Ugh. Garbage.

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The Infinity Gems, the gauntlet and Thanos – Thor’s strange part where he leaves the team to go explore his vision started the plot about the gems. He eventually gets to an explanation much later. Much, much later. His vision-pool-swimming quest was poorly timed and poorly written. Not enough to really understand what the freaking hell was going on unless you actually know before the revealing scene what the Infinity Gems are. Had I not known, I would’ve thought that my benadryl kicked in and took me for a wild hallucination. Luckily, I knew a little about them.

Just as there are huge gaps where other people disappear – Thor’s quest and Wanda’s absence – so does the Vision. Here they create this beautiful creature that can save the world and then… where the fucking hell did he go? I have no idea. He just wasn’t on screen for a long time then comes back to save the world after Wanda beats the hell out of Ultron.

THE HAWKEYES

 

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Ugh – there was a lot of drivel which served no purpose. I truly would’ve been more vested in Hawkeye if they had shipped him with Pietro. They were great together in scenes. There was far more to offer than the magically appearing wife and kids. Hawkeye and Quicksilver, OTP.

Hawkeye didn’t get a whole lot of attention outside this new proud father role, but when he was on the scene for fights, he was excellent. The conversation felt like a real team between Tony, Cap, and Clint. Their lines were easy, smooth, and felt like actual spoken lines instead of rehearsed lines. Thor even had a couple good ones.

 

MARK RUFFALO AS BRUCE BANNER

Not much more to say but, I have never loved this character more. I barely found the previous actors interesting. There’s just something about Ruffalo. He has even more of what Bill Bixby had as Dr. David Banner. In my head, they’re totally related. More Mark Ruffalo, PLEASE.

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