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It’s about fucking time!
Though I won’t be seeing it until tomorrow night.
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Sundays are going to be lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work. Today, it’s one of the best sacrifices in the MCU. As I’ve said, I don’t know if the relationship between Black Widow and Hawkeye was the best thing in the MCU, but it’s pretty damn close.
I saw a video entitled Alien Movies on Netflix That Should Be Required Viewing. Some of the movies I’d seen, and a couple were on my saved list. I decided to give Under the Skin a shot. In the interests of avoiding spoilers, I’ll simply say that Scarlett Johansson plays a believable predator killing men. Her origins are in the real of science fiction.
I thought it was going to be a morality play, and it disappointed me that it wasn’t. While murder can never be justified, as I’ve discussed many times before, filmmakers often deal in extremes so that the less attentive in the audience won’t miss the point. So putting aside the inherent evil of murder, I was hoping her selection of targets would be based on their character. It wasn’t. She killed as many sympathetic men as she did unsympathetic ones. That soured me to the movie. A morality play could have resulted in an interesting ending, so unsurprisingly this one’s ending fell flat. It just … ended.
One interesting coincidence: It takes place in Scotland, and there’s a bus in the movie (during a particularly horrid but pivotal scene) that’s apparently from Lochgilphead. I’m planning a trip to Scotland and really want to visit the town. One of my paternal great-grandfathers was born there.
As always, YMMV.
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In yesterday’s post, I voiced my only serious complaint about the MCU: The incoherent power curve. While that certainly annoys me, Avengers: Age of Ultron keeps me from forgetting that the least powerful original Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye, were certainly very important to the team. If the choice I was given was having a screwy power curve or eliminating them from the story, I’ll take the screwy power curve with a smile on my face every time.
Hawkeye was instrumental in stopping Scarlet Witch from tearing the Avengers apart. He was the only one who avoided her powers, and he was the one to convince her, the person that would one day become the strongest Avenger, to join the team in a meaningful way. That was done with a speech rivaling any Captain America ever delivered. This was a believable effort on his part despite not requiring a superpower. Before that, however, he reinforced the message to the other Avengers of what they were fighting for by introducing them to his family. In fact, his non-hero wife, Laura, kept him from losing touch with his own importance. For a team that was falling apart at the seams, this was critical to the believability of the Avengers continuing to work well together.
I’ve written several times about how Black Widow is the glue of the Avengers. Except for Thor, she had significant, on-screen bonding moments with each of the original Avengers (as well as a few others) over the course of several films. This could explain her eventual inability to stick to one side in the Avengers’ “civil war.” With this movie, we saw the development of her most significant relationship, Bruce Banner, and the expansion of her most important one (from a story perspective), Hawkeye. I vaguely relate to Black Widow’s backstory, and how it shaped who she became, in a specific but personal way I won’t discuss; however, I think we can all agree that it’s compelling enough for her own movie. The story became a mission to rescue her, but not really. Far from the archetypical damsel in distress, she instead turned the situation around from the inside, leading the Avengers to Ultron. Without screwing with the power curve, Black Widow contributed in vital ways.
These two characters were as important to the Avengers as any of the others, and neither had a superpower.
In a cinematic universe filled with brilliant one-liners, one of my favorites comes from Age of Ultron.
“Oh, for God’s sake!”
James Spader is awesome.
Sometimes you must take the bad with the good. Black Widow and Hawkeye were really good.
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As you know, I love the MCU. Marvel Studios could have relied on the action and fantasy elements inherent to the source material to make a ton of money on crappy movies, but they didn’t. They spent a ton of money on special effects, but also on hiring highly talented writers, directors, and actors (some with Oscars under their belts) so that the movies had substance as well. No movie exemplifies that more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Like many MCU movies, it had the theme of establishing deep friendships that represented more than just coworkers or bar buddies. No, these friends were so close as to represent an adoptive family, replacing the biological families that Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanov, and Nick Fury lost, never knew, or never had. As wonderfully as it was executed, all of that is actually par for the course in the MCU. The Winter Soldier goes a step further.
Winter Soldier dealt with a political issue that is both timely and important: How do we strike the balance between security and liberty? Both are important. If we lax our security, we won’t have liberty for long, because nefarious forces from within and/or without will steal it. However, if security replaces liberty, then what kind of an existence are we actually fighting for? That’s why, when push comes to shove, liberty must win. In Winter Soldier, all of the good guys either fought for liberty or joined the fight after eventually realizing that they should have been all along. This decision shouldn’t be made naively, but those characters didn’t do that.
Okay, they sometimes did. The commitment to liberty was excessively idealistic, but this is a movie. Filmmakers must deal with extremes or risk losing the crowd. Many moviegoers aren’t observant enough to pick up key points being made unless they’re hit with it over the head, and a major theme is certainly a “key point.” This is why horrible characters that deserve the most serious punishment under the law can be forgiven and exalted by an audience simply because they’ve learned how to love a sibling. The movie world is different from the real world, and I’m sure you understand that. If not, movies must seem utterly ridiculous to you.
With that in mind, Winter Soldier dealt with an important and timely issue, came down on the right side of it (liberty) without being (too) naïve, and somehow managed to do that without pissing off members of any political party.
As a lawyer, how can I not get into that?
My favorite movie from the MCU is Captain America: The Winter Soldier because it deals with an issue — security v. liberty — that is both topical and important. In the end, it comes down on the correct side of that debate — liberty — without being naive. As I was watching it yesterday, it evoked a thought about Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a., Black Widow and why she had to be the one to sacrifice herself in Endgame.
As I’ve opined on Facebook and Twitter, I’m not sure if Natasha and Clint Barton’s friendship is the best thing about the MCU, but it’s really close. You couldn’t build that relationship in a single film. It was first introduced in Avengers, and continued in Age of Ultron, Civil War, and Endgame. However, as you know, that wasn’t the only relationship of Natasha’s that was developed throughout the movies. Almost all of the original Avengers had a one-on-one relationship with her developed by the writers.
In Iron Man 2, she was paired with Tony Stark. Being very shallow, Tony probably needed more time than most to let her in, so introducing them to each other very early in the MCU was necessary. Even though Tony was, for lack of a better description, very anti-spy, he eventually found himself on the same side as Natasha in the Avengers’ civil war. So, when I think about there relationship, I can’t help but think it’s strong, or at least as strong as Tony can have. That’s the impression I get.
… And the Rest
From there, the relationships get even stronger, both professional and personal. In Winter Soldier, Black Widow was critical in helping Steve Rogers discover and take down Hyrda, and she also established a relationship with Sam Wilson, who was part of the same mission. Topping it off, Natasha got Steve back into “the game” by insisting he start dating, so it wasn’t merely professional; they were genuine friends. Next, in Age of Ultron, Bruce Banner and she discussed their romantic feelings for one another, which Banner threw away. That would later come back to haunt him in Endgame, where he must have felt some regret over that decision. While not developed, you knew there must be some professional respect between Natasha and Rhodey, and perhaps with Vision and Wanda Maximoff as well, as she and Steve were responsible for training them. Even across so many films, there was only so much time to develop these kinds of relationships, so they appropriately focused on the original Avengers, but those seeds were planted elsewhere.
When the Avengers were standing around mourning her loss, it felt real. Tony’s death affected the fans, but I don’t know that any other character could have evoked such a sense of genuine loss throughout the ensemble of characters. Each of those characters had a direct connection to her. The only one that was forced was her relationship with Thor because they never had a mission together, or even a significant moment. However, the other relationships within the group, as well as the fact that we’ve seen them work as part of the same team throughout those films, amplified the credulity of Thor’s grief, which Chris Hemsworth acted well. It’s a shame she didn’t have a funeral, but they had no place to put it.
I’ve read plenty of resistance to her sacrifice online, but I thought it was perfect for her to be the one. Natasha was in a very real sense the emotional glue that held the team together, which also explains her role as leader of the Avengers at the beginning of Endgame. She (and similarly Clint) had no superpowers but certainly held a very important place on the team. Losing her was emotionally devastating for the others on a personal level, and perhaps because she’s gone, it makes sense that the team has now split (even though that’s really about actor contracts). Then there’s the fact that the character isn’t dead to us. We’ll all be watching her solo movie later this year, so she’s not really gone until the actor doesn’t want to play the character anymore. Maybe she’ll get a funeral in the credits.
Her death meant something internally to the script. It had to be her.
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I just finished watching Infinity War and Endgame again and have four more observations. Yeah, I talk about the MCU a lot, but I think it gets far too little credit for its writing and acting (especially Karen Gillan and Dave Bautista, who were both surprises to me).
As I’ve discussed in several prior posts, the MCU as a whole, like most individual movies, involved a lot of character growth. In the MCU, the common theme was developing a better sense of morality, but using familiar methods to achieve the evolved goals. For example, Tony was a self-absorbed arms dealer. As he evolved to a selfless peace-seeker, he still used the same methods. He used weapons to provide security, because that’s all he really knew. And near the end of Endgame, [spoiler alert] even the “self-absorbed” part came into play: “I am Iron Man.” Of course, as a friend pointed out on Facebook, at the time he was using the most powerful weapon in the universe.
Natasha and Clint
I don’t know if Natasha and Clint’s friendship is the best thing about the MCU, but it’s certainly near the top, and it’s an example of what makes the MCU fantastic. You couldn’t possibly build that relationship over the course of a single film, which means that their scene on Vormir couldn’t possibly have the emotional impact that it did if Infinity War/Endgame were a single film. The MCU is several independent films that collectively is greater than the sum of its parts.
After my 100th re-watch of Endgame, I’m certain that Bucky knew that Steve was going to live out his life in the past. I never really noticed that before now.
I hate cheese but still find it adorable that Tony’s daughter wanted cheeseburgers at the end of Endgame. The first thing Tony wanted after returning from captivity in Iron Man was a cheeseburger. I may have already mentioned this in a prior post, but there it is.
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