Summer movie season, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE.
Nothing feels quite so decadent as spending a blistering summer day in the treasured air conditioning of a movie theater, sipping that giant Diet Coke I only allow myself on such occasions, and watching good-looking people kick ass and/or fall in love. Months of that practice were kicked off last week with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel’s much anticipated sequel to the 2012 original. Did we overreact to it like the slavish fangirls that we are? Would Jeremy Renner call your grandmother a “slut” without batting an eye? Of course we did!
ZOMG, Star Wars trailer!
Kim grasped my hand and we both let out a restrained squeal when the Lucasfilm logo materialized on screen. The guy sitting to the other side of us: “I like your style.” That’s good, buddy, ’cause you’re in for two plus more hours of the same.
ZOMG x 2, Jurassic Park trailer!
The Jurassic Park trailer is 10% Bryce Dallas Howard’s bob; 10% dinosaurs and stuff; and 80% Chris Pratt’s cleavage in that henley. I appreciate it when films are marketed just for me.
ANYWAY: Age of Ultron. As those of us who stuck with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. know, that week’s episode gave us a nice lead in to this movie, with Cobie Smulders making a cameo and Coulson directing her to call in the Avengers. We meet up with those guys almost immediately after. They’re on a mission to retrieve Loki’s scepter from a Hydra base in the (fake) Eastern European country of Sokovia. (LOKI, I MISS YOU. HOW’S ASGARD? DO THEY KNOW YOU’RE ODIN YET? SEND ME A POSTCARD.)
In the midst of the battle, Steve tries to banter along with his team and ends up saddled with the burn that never goes away. Stick to what you know, Steve: patriotism, ultimate disc, and looking great in pants. Ilu so much.
Nat and Bruce is totally a thing.
OKAY. You wanna get into this? We can get into this.
Of course, I shipped Widow and Hawkeye in the first movie and all the way through Winter Soldier. I’m not (wait for it) a monster. But as soon as Bruce and Nat started to show itself, I got it. People have opinions about this, which is fine, though they would be better expressed with the death threats edited out. I could write a whole post about why this ship made sense to me and why it didn’t diminish Natasha at all in my eyes. But I’ll try to keep it brief.
I watched Agent Carter. I’ve seen what the average graduate of the Black Widow Program looks like. Devoid of emotion; no loyalty to anything but the mission; with no higher aspirations for herself beyond getting the job done and (hopefully) dying in battle. Nat’s ability to fight and lie is in her bones. That was beaten into her. But her LIFE – her friendships, her desires, her capacity to connect with anything is WELL FOUGHT FOR. The fact that Natasha has a deep emotional life is her victory over the horrors of her childhood. It only cheapens or lessens her if you think that experiencing feelings is cheap and less than.
And as feminist, humanitarian, and haver of great hair Mark Ruffalo expressed to a disgruntled fan on Twitter: Bruce is the love interest. Natasha pursues him and rescues him. Maybe it’s not a perfect one-to-one mirror of the damseling that’s plagued superhero movies forever, but it is well-intentioned. Clearly, Nat would fall for Bruce, the guy who takes no joy in battle. She hates the part of herself that enjoys it. No matter how much we love to see Black Widow lay some suckers out, we have to remember that she had no choice in the matter. Her agency was taken from her long ago. Anyway, are we going to fault her for being attracted to a gorgeous, wounded genius with a gentle soul? Get outta here.
No, but really: it’s adorable.
Give into it. Let the Brutasha wash over you. Look at these nerds. I hate them.
“He’s fast and she’s weird.”
With a fuck-ton of characters in the mix, the Maximof twins weren’t actually afforded much screentime. But they were very sweet together, and, like a lot of people on this planet, have a valid reason to loathe Tony Stark. We can all agree that Scarlet Witch was cooler of the two, especially since X-Men: Days of Future Past kind of blew the wad on Quicksilver. Aaron Taylor-Johnson didn’t get to do anything as rad as that “Time in a Bottle” sequence.
The Secret Life of the American Clint Barton
Dry your eyes, Clintasha shippers. I know it hurts, but didn’t we LEARN a lot about Clint Barton here today? I love the characterization of Hawkeye as a serviceman going off to war. (He already has an appropriately military-sounding nickname, no?) He’s the only Avenger with a traditional family unit. It doesn’t make him more heroic than the rest by any means, but it does bring up themes of duty and sacrifice that don’t weigh as much on, say, a god or a scientifically-enhanced super-soldier. Also, I fucking love Linda Cardellini. She should be in everything.
Aunt Nat. Hold me.
Again: CHARACTER. Natasha was forcibly sterilized by Julie Delpy (JULIE, HOW COULD YOU), and yet she can open her heart enough to become Aunt Nat to Clint’s children. My Clintasha feelings easily transferred to the bro-iest of BroTPs, (“My best friend is alive because of you.”) and I’m just so glad that Black Widow is family enough to know that the Bartons always eat in the kitchen.
I still want to know what happened in Budapest though.
Thor is a precious puppy dog, as always.
Aside from the horrific vision of Asgaard (and handsome vision of Idris Elba, hello) that Wanda conjured up in his brain, Thor didn’t have much to do in AOU besides deliver some Thor 3 exposition about the stone-thingy and stress adorably over his mastery of Mjolnir. Regardless, a group of teenage boys in front of us turned around to give us the stink-eye because we couldn’t stop giggling about Chris Hemsworth’s arms. I regret nothing.
Also, “Well, if there’s too much weight, you lose power in swing,” won the biggest laugh in our theater. Human golden retriever, that one.
Peggy and Steve finally get their dance.
I knew it was coming and yet it still hit me like Cap’s shield to the face. The fleeting nature of this vision aside, Steve and Peggy’s love story is still alive in Agent Carter AND the MCU. It’s even more powerful now. The loss of each other continues to define them, even if they’re each coping in different ways. Peggy, we already know, will marry and have a family. Steve, meanwhile, “was a done deal long ago.” (Thanks, Love Actually!) and that’s fine too. Steve and Peggy deserved each other, and that’s the greatest compliment I can give either one of them.
Don’t worry about fixing the tractor, Clint. Just hire Steve. Multi-purpose farm tool.
Sassy robot villain!
Ultron was kind of beside the point, but the casting was spot on. If James Spader revealed himself to be an actual sassy robot villain, I wouldn’t even be surprised.
Someone get this woman her own movie.
Here’s the other complication, re: Natasha’s characterization:
It is not Black Widow’s fault that she’s the only lady comic book hero on our movie screens right now. She cannot and should not be everything to everyone. She should be a well-rounded character in her own right. If there were as many female badasses bopping around as male, first of all they’d be on the merchandise. Perhaps more importantly, we wouldn’t have to hang all our hopes and expectations on one heroine and Nat could just be Nat. (PS, how much do I adore that Steve only calls her “Romanoff”? They’re partners, first and foremost.)
Step one in making this equitable future a reality is greenlighting a Black Widow movie. (Plan B is storming the Capitol, but we’ll try this first.) Tweet, Facebook, blog, write letters to Marvel, get Ruffalo all riled up. Whatever you can do to show your support. We can do this.
The machine has become self-aware.
Okay, NOW he’s an interface. But we met the real Jarvis this year on Agent Carter and I’m prepared to rumble anyone who would harm any version of him, computer generated or otherwise. Killing off J.A.R.V.I.S. was a pretty raw decision on Whedon’s part, though it seemed inevitable that we’d get him back. And after all these years in the ADR studio, Paul Bettany gets to come out and play! Vision was weird and kind of preachy, but let’s be honest: so are these movies.
“You get hurt, hurt ’em back. You get killed, walk it off.”
Steve Rogers, ladies and gentlemen. I’ll just never live to get over him.
Pietro takes one for the team.
Pietro had about 4 minutes of character development in the whole movie, but STILL. What a guy.
Whedon laid on the hints about Clint’s impending doom pretty thick. Pregnant wife; plans for the house; “grooming” Wanda for Avenging. It all seemed to point to Hawkeye being the martyr this time around. Instead, Quicksilver saved him, in the process of saving a Sokovian child who almost certainly reminded him of his sister. The emotional note would have been stronger if an Avenger had taken the hit. It was a bit of a cop-out for me, especially since Hawkeye certainly won’t be needed for his own movie. (It would go like this: Fix the barn, shoot some arrows, emoji text with Natasha, repeat.) So farewell, Pietro, you poor son of a bitch. At least your sister will mourn you.
Bruce let’s the other guy take over. “The other guy” is man pain.
In place of an Avenger death, we got an Avenger going AWOL. Natasha’s love was just too much for poor Bruce, so he fucked off to who knows where. The true war we’re fighting is the one against man pain. And that’s one opponent that just won’t die.
Children. Still children.
Above all, my main source of enjoyment in the MCU films is cute boys doin’ stuff. And Avengers: Age of Ultron had that in spades.
How did AOU grab you, readers? Give us your review in the comments.