#Avengers: Age of #Ultron: The Flip Side of the #MCU Power Curve @JeremyRenner @lindacardellini

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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

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.

Black Widow

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.

Unrelated Note

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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Travelling through the #MCU: Phase 2 @GeorgesStPierre @realmichaelpena @kesseljunkie #IronMan #Thor #WinterSoldier #GotG #Avengers #AntMan

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3

In an earlier post, I pointed out a few things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) that I really enjoyed. Since that post, I’ve started to watch the entire MCU in movie-chronological order: Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, etc., and will continue through the entire MCU that’s on Disney+ or otherwise available to me. This probably excludes the Spider Man movies and the Incredible Hulk.

There’s been so much ink on these topics that it’s rather pointless to try to leave an impression. These will be short observations of the things that either I liked the most about them or suspect many people didn’t really notice. I’m going to avoid most of my major dislikes. There’s no sense in raining on anyone’s parade (including my own). In case you have the time, I found it fun watching these movies knowing where these characters wound up.

Iron Man 3

This was a weird superhero movie. I remember reading an article stating that Tony was in the Iron Man suit for only 15 (or whatever) out of 120 minutes of movie time. This never bothered me because I didn’t notice. This movie was about Tony Stark’s emotional issues, not Iron Man, and somehow it worked for me. Besides, one of the best action sequences in the MCU was the Mandarin’s attack on Tony’s home (10880 Malibu Pt., Malibu, CA 90625).

According to various sources, Chattanooga gets 2 inches of snow per year. According to Iron Man 3, it all comes on one night, and that happens to be the night Tony arrived. That’s a hell of a coincidence. 🙂

Holy crap! Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie!

Thor: The Dark World

I know this is the bottom of the MCU barrel for many people, but as I’ve stated before, Thor is my favorite MCU character. There’s no way I’m going to hate a half-decent Thor movie. Loki’s stubborn insecurity, Frigga’s death (funeral music!), its impact on Loki, and Sif’s feelings for Thor are reflections of what exists in ourselves. Being able to connect with the characters is the heart of drama. This movie had a few such moments.

The stakes were high, with the entire universe at risk, and that was the opening needed to introduce the third infinity stone to the MCU. It also served as a reminder how powerful Thor is, though he clearly hasn’t reached his full potential yet.

Question #1: How would you like it if your car was sent to another world?
No need to answer.

Question #2: Malikith’s ship. How does that thing stay standing?
I know; I know. Drama.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This is easily my favorite MCU movie. It may have dragged at times, but it’s the only MCU film whose message is both important and relatable: liberty v. security. In my opinion the movie came down on the right side of that argument. Sure, we all want to be secure, but giving too much control to the government is inherently insecure. We all need to accept the fact that there’s only so much security we can have in the modern world. Life will always include risk, with the difference being who’s generating the risk. At some point more liberty becomes the only option.

George St. Pierre. MMA has taken over popular culture whether you realize it or not.

At one point, Nick Fury says, “Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” The implication in context was that the loss of the eye sprang directly from that trust. So, is Captain Marvel responsible for his lost eye? I don’t think so. Captain Marvel didn’t know that the cat was really a Flerken, so it’s not as if she could’ve warned him. So, is the Flerken to blame? As far as I can tell, it’s not an intelligent creature, and trust wasn’t a part of the scene in which the Flerken scratched Fury, so that doesn’t work. The MCU is a complicated weave of plotlines and references, so I hardly blame them for messing up. I just wish they had worked trust into that scene, which would have been easy to do. They clearly just forgot.

I always wondered how, in Civil War, Steve knew that the Winter Soldier killed Stark’s parents. I never noticed that he learned that in Winter Soldier. It was a quick shot while the digital Arnim Zola was showing Steve Hydra’s manipulation of world affairs.

“Who’s this guy?”

Ezekiel 25:17.

The one thing I didn’t like: Steve’s list of things to do included an entry for Star Wars and Star Trek. Star Wars was crossed out, but Star Trek wasn’t, which means he watched Star Wars first. Bullshit. Star Trek should be at the top of your list. For anything. He received some bad intel on that one.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1

Funny thing about the scene immediately following the title card. It shows a picture of space, and then you get text that indicates the current year of 26 years later. I did some quick math in my head from when the opening scene took place (1988) and realized we were seeing 2014, but there was a spaceship.  On my first viewing, because I had just seen a realistic opening scene from 1988, for just a moment, my brain farted and thought, “There aren’t spaceships in 2014.” In fairness to me, at the time I was suffering from a severe B12 deficiency.

This movie was the best one to watch looking backwards from Endgame. For example, on Morag, I kept looking for Nebula and War Machine in the background. 🙂

Great soundtrack, which matched the fact that this was a different sort of MCU movie than we’d seen to date.

“They got my dick message!”

A dance off to save the universe. 🙂

Dancing Baby Groot!

I guess I should admit this as well. I was very critical of Marvel for choosing the Guardians of the Galaxy for a movie. I had never heard of them, and movies need to appeal to more than just the base (i.e., comic book readers). I thought there was no way they were going to do well with an obscure and ridiculous group. A talking racoon? A tree that can say only “I am Groot”? But it wasn’t just good. It wasn’t just commercially successful. It was a great idea in the grand scheme of things. As I said, it was a different sort of MCU movie, and it represented a welcome break from all the heavy-handedness of the other movies. Despite being so comedic, it still introduced an infinity stone in the context of a severe threat to the galaxy. Mea culpa, and bravo, Marvel.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

“You expect me to fight this interdimensional creature with a sword?”

[Proceeds to strike the killing blow against the interdimensional creature with a sword.]

I already discussed Nebula’s transformation and how it led to my favorite bit of acting in the entire MCU. That began near the end of this movie, but the movie sure didn’t start that way. (Actually, it begins rather subtly when Quill, Gamora, and Drax are boarding Ego’s ship.) This is why I infer what I do from Nebula’s admission at the end of GotG2.

As I’m watching this, I’m beginning to think that these are the best acted movies of the bunch. Really. Maybe it’s just because I like that it’s more comedic than the others.

I really relate to Drax. I need to learn to lie effectively, but in many cases, the thought of lying doesn’t even occur to me. Worst. Lawyer. Ever. I also really relate to the importance given to the family you choose.

Sovereign.png

“It’s not ripe.”

Rocket gets mad that Quill calls him a raccoon, but that’s so much more accurate than “fox,” “rat,” “rabbit,” or “triangle-faced monkey.” He shouldn’t be so offended.

Thor remains my favorite MCU character, so I’m good with the fact that we’ll see Love and Thunder before Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, but I really want to see them both ASAP. Personally, I prefer movies where there’s a small set of primary characters. This is why I prefer Star Trek’s Original Series to all the others. That said, I think the Guardians series pulled off ensemble movies better than I’ve ever seen, in no small part because the characters believably showed more emotional and moral growth than any other characters in the MCU. That required sold writing and acting, and all parties delivered.

Good lord, the music!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Why would an ordinary human try to fist-fight Thor? Just give up.

Is Sokovia an English-speaking nation? Google says no, so why is the Iron Legion telling everyone to leave in English.

“It was a good talk.”
“No, it wasn’t.”

I love that this was Hawkeye’s movie. The family was a great touch. Also, he had some great lines. For example,

“The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.”

“Nobody would know. Nobody. ‘The last I saw him, Ultron was sitting on him. Uh… yeah, he’ll be missed. That quick little bastard. I miss him already…’”

I loved Vision’s “birth.” He was as confused as Ultron was at his own birth but got over it much faster. And of course, there’s also this.

VisionMjolnir.png

Some foreshadowing. Vision saves Wanda, and by Endgame, they’re romantically coupled. Despite how pissed Hawkeye was with the Scarlet Witch, those two characters formed a minor bond by the end of this movie. One of the final scenes in Endgame was Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye consoling each other. In the penultimate scene, Tony mentions building a farm for Pepper, which is what he does by Endgame. I love the connections. You can’t build such strong connections within the context of a single movie without it seeming rushed (see, e.g., Anakin and Padme’s relationship in Attack of the Clones).

There always must be a death in order to raise the stakes, but I wish Quicksilver had lived to be in other movies. Rumor has it that WandaVision will have Wanda bringing back the Vision. Maybe she’ll bring back Quicksilver as well.

Another favorite moment of mine from the MCU occurs in this movie. “Oh, for God’s sake!” James Spader stole this show.

“But if you put the hammer in an elevator….”
“Elevator’s not worthy.”

Ant-Man

This certainly cleansed the palate. Like both Guardians of the Galaxy volumes, this was the occasional higher-comedy movie that keeps things from getting too heavy-handed. Who better than Paul Rudd to play Scott Lang?

I’ve always loved Garrett Morris. I’m always happy to see him in a movie or TV show, even if it’s just a cameo.

Michael Pena should face a long jail sentence. He stole this movie.

At one point, Hank Pym criticizes the Avengers for “dropping a city out of the sky,” referencing the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is a familiar trope that I absolutely hate: Criticizing the good guys for not saving the world in the most convenient way possible. Anyone with an IQ over 40 knows that Ultron tried to drop a city out of the sky, not the Avengers. Ultron was a fairly competent enemy, so it was able to do a lot of damage before the Avengers could save the world. It makes no sense to blame the Avengers for that. (Maybe just Stark and Banner.)

Side Note

It’s easy to blow off the MCU as just a bunch of action movies or, even worse, superhero movies, but that’s enormously unfair. Marvel has done something remarkable, the likes of which I’ve never seen. It’s probably best to express my current thought by example, so consider Iron Man 2. Taken in isolation, it’s my least favorite Marvel movie. Also, Pepper Potts is my least favorite protagonist. Your mileage may vary; not the point. I nevertheless enjoyed Iron Man 2. It was important in the grand scheme of things, and it’s impossible for me to watch Tony and Pepper’s relationship start without gaining an appreciation for how much was lost near the end of Endgame. It’s all connected in a way that, as I said, I’ve never seen before. Moreover, any one of these films could stand on its own. You absolutely can’t say that with Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit Series, or Star Wars. Only the first Star Wars (A New Hope) could truly stand on its own, but even so, you’re still left wondering what happened to Vader? The bad guy shouldn’t survive unless there’s a sequel, right? Marvel did something incredible with the MCU, and I look forward to what’s next.

And then there’s those moments of acting and story that are remarkable, which makes it even better. I don’t understand Scorsese’s, Coppola’s, or @KesselJunkie’s 🙂 hate. It’s been a lot of fun re-watching these.

What’s Next?

Phase 3 is up (less Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 and Captain Marvel, which have already been discussed).

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