Friday, May 01, 2015

Dear Charlie:

Wow, I haven't done a movie review on here in a dog's years. Oh, well! Back with a bang, right?

Because I'm absolutely gonna gush about Avengers: Age of Ultron. Can't help it. I should probably let the adrenaline fade a bit more before spoilering, but no. Not gonna do it.

There will, however, be spoilers. Be warned! I can only be so vague when I'm enthusing.

Now, because the movie was released overseas before it was here in the States, it was hard to miss hints and spoilers while waiting for May 1 to roll around. I resisted my curiosity, for the most part, by not reading anything labelled SPOILERS, and only watching "officially released" extras and information.

However, being on any social media means it's hard to miss when people start ranting about things. Some fans were calling for Joss Whedon's head, and it's hard not to try to figure out why my fellow nerds would turn on one of our own like that. Especially one who's given us so much entertainment and has advanced so many of our favorite things for so long.

So I cautiously nosed around a bit to see if I could figure out what everyone was so undies-twisted about without spoilering myself. I was... mostly?... successful.

The spoilers start here, folks. Ye be warned!

A few people were cranky that Captain America is suddenly a prude. After watching, he let one little rebuke about bad language slip, and the rest of the Avengers spent the rest of the movie making fun of him about it. It was beautiful. I have no gripe here. Nick Fury really put the capper on it, too.

A few other people were fussy that Cap's vision of his greatest fear was selling him short AND basically ignored his search for Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier. After watching, I think they might have missed the point of it. Or I have a completely different interpretation.

The vocal detractors seem to think it was about regret over not being able to live his dream life with Peggy, but... those visions were supposed to be about fear, not regret. Bleeding soldiers laughing it up and trying to celebrate in that big ballroom? Peggy sneaking up behind him instead of coming to him with a smile and open arms? Him turning around to find the whole room empty?

To me, that doesn't smack of regret. To me, that smacks of the same fear that Dr. Zola spawned in him when he said that Steve's life came to the same as his death on the Valkyrie: a zero sum. I think that empty room symbolizes his fear that, even with his superhuman abilities and even with coming back from the dead in the future, he hasn't been able to change anything or save anyone, and at the end of it all, the whole world might as well be an empty room.

Tony Stark's vision was about failing so badly that everyone he cared about died while he lived to mourn them in guilt. Steve's vision was about failing so badly that everything and everyone he's ever known and loved is just... gone. As if they never existed. As if nothing matters.

Again, I have no gripe here.

However.

There seemed to be one overwhelmingly loud denouncement that apparently stole people's joy, and that warcry was how Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff was character-assassinated in the movie. From what I could tell (without delving too deeply), the hate started before the movie was even released because trailers indicated a relationship developing between Romanoff and Bruce Banner and/or the Hulk. Also, it seemed to be the Hawkeye/Black Widow 'shippers making the most noise.

They, of course, swear they're not mad because their 'ship isn't sailing. After all, that 'ship didn't sail in the comics, either. But no, they wouldn't be mad if Romanoff had ended up with, say, Steve Rogers. But the Hulk? Bruce Banner? Really? BLASPHEMY.

Honestly, before I watched the movie, I was perfectly willing to write it off as a nifty idea in the same vein as Uhura and Spock getting together in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars reboots. It's a genius move, and if the lone woman in the group has to be 'shipped with someone, it might as well be someone unexpected but understandable.

After watching the movie and listening to her explain how, unlike all the other boys she's playing with who want to fight because they don't like to lose, Bruce REFUSES to fight because he knows he'd win...? Yeah. I can definitely understand it. He is completely outside her experience of life, and for someone with Black Widow's history, I can definitely see her being drawn in by that. By how different he is from everything she's known.

But oh, no. It's her characterization that's horrific and wrong. And the scene everyone with a beef seems most up-in-arms about is Romanoff's vision and her reaction to it. How she explains it to Bruce.

She calls herself a monster. Well, she relates the vision and asks Bruce if he still thinks he's the only monster, anyway.

The vision, by the way, was of her time in the Red Room, where she was trained to be a remorseless killing machine. Specifically, the "graduation ceremony" wherein she was forcibly sterilized. The beef seems to be: "Joss Whedon is saying that sterilized women are monsters! And reducing Natasha Romanoff to hating herself because she can't have children is wrecking her character!"

Honestly, that's kinda bullshit. See, the way she relates that little piece of horror-istory isn't that being sterilized makes her a monster. She haltingly, painfully explains that the Red Room in-charges knew that all the training in the world might not stand against even an accidental pregnancy arousing potential maternal instincts, so they remove that potential for hesitation, for doubt. They remove every last chance at rogue emotion stopping a mission.

Natasha Romanoff isn't bewailing that she'll never be a mother or that she's a monster because she can't have children. She's hating herself for swallowing that lie and letting herself become a remorseless killing machine because of it. She's saying she's a monster because she believed them, and now all of the blood she shed because of that lie is on her hands.

It's the same red in her ledger that has always been, but now it's even more terrifying and unbearable because she did it on a lie.

And she's telling Bruce about it because he needs to hear that what he'd just done -- Hulking out, attacking a major city, and doing God only knows how much damage in human life and infrastructure damage, not to mention shitting all over the Avengers' already shaky world image -- didn't make him any more a monster than anyone else.

She's saying that they all have red in their ledger. All they can do is try to balance it out.

So... honestly? To me? It all comes back to coming up with reasons to be mad that aren't "But Bruce/Natasha?? Really??".

Fans can be weird like that. They get passionate about their 'ships, and even though they know they'll never be canon, they really really want them to be. And when there's only one woman to go around, there are a whole lot of 'shippers who are bound to be disappointed when said lone lady gets around to picking.

I'm tempted to be sad that the woman is always expected to pair off with someone at all, but hey. I've written plenty of romance, so that's a little too "glass houses" for me, and I'll let it go.

In all, I absolutely loved this movie. I have no gripes. I enjoyed every moment on the screen.

I was a little saddened by there not being much mention of the open-ended fate of the Winter Soldier, other than an oblique reference to Sam Wilson still looking while Steve's off Avengering, but I'm also well aware that integrating everyone's stories into a group film simply isn't possible, time-wise. Also, I'm sure they'll pin that down in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which they're filming now.

Other than that? Pure gold.

The fight scenes are spectacular. The banter is snicker-worthy. The overall continuity is so nerdtastically pleasing that I'm still grinning about chatting it up with complete strangers on the way out of the theater. Ragnarok this and Civil War that and Infinity Gauntlets and Thanos and two-more-infinity-stones-to-go, oh my!

I had so much fun watching this movie. And... really... that's what it's all about, right?

I enjoyed it. To me, that makes it a success.