Sunday, June 07, 2015

Age of Ultron Supplemental: Black Widow

Let's talk about that shitty Black Widow controversy!

I once said you could cut Avengers down and call it “Black Widow & the Wise-Cracking Dudes with Stupid Clothes.” I maintain that is true. Black Widow could have easily been the main character of that movie. That's the highest praise I can give that film or her.

There's no way to talk about how Avengers: Age of Ultron handled her character that is at once polite and accurate. I don't know if Joss Whedon was trying to piss off people who liked her character or if someone hit him in the head with a brick and the resulting concussion did...this.

Let's start with the good stuff. When she refuses to try and lift Mjolnir, it's a boss-ass move. It clearly shows she has nothing to prove. She has the supreme confidence afforded by knowing herself and her place in the universe.

When she makes a move on Banner, that's good stuff. Don't get me wrong, I'm tired of the incredibly hot woman making a move on the unassuming nerd bullshit storyline--

The most egregious example that springs to mind.

--because it's wish-fulfillment nerd bullshit that deserves a whole blog of its own, granted. But it's undeniable they have an emotional history. Every other member of The Avengers has a relationship.

Yes, asexual and aromatic characters have a right to be represented, but my point is that they aren't foisting a relationship on Black Widow because she's a female; they're forcing it on her because of a giant heteronormativity hammer and a the need for a plot involving her and Banner that can advance independently of the plot and explain Banner's absence at the end.

They're both emotionally closed-off. Neither one of them is getting a standalone movie any time soon. It's a relationship that works. Here are a few things that shouldn't happen to a global super-spy after she expresses her romantic interest in someone:

1. They do that thing where they fall together and he lands in her boobs.
2. She's captured by the villain and he has to rescue her.
3. He carries her in his arms when she's not even hurt.
4. They do that thing that anime does where they fall on each other and he lands on her breasts.
5. Black Widow says she's a monster because she can't have kids.
6. The thing where Banner and Romanoff and tits because clumsy.
7. Basically, those last two, repeated forever because what the fuck.

The “monster” bit retroactively takes her calm, confident refusal of the hammer and turns into an almost despair-laden resignation that she's not good enough. And that is bullshit.


SkilTao said...

Joss' biography said that he'd had to write her out of the script, on account of they didn't know if they'd have her for the film, and then later write her back in. I assume that's the root of all ills.

2 & 5: I grow ever more suspicious that Scarlett Johansson was originally written to become Scarlett Witch.

I find it plausible that her relationship with Banner has arced from terror to comfort, and (execution aside) I don't think an attempt to romance Banner is a half-bad way to get a look at other stuff going on in her head. I mostly regret that her relationship with Hawkeye (and everyone else on the team) got sidelined to do it.

1: The boob thing must have annoyed me however long it was onscreen, but I've got to say, there were so many one-liners and things flying by that I'd forgotten it by the time credits rolled.

3a: I do not recall this. I assume in Hulk form for sake of speed or verticality?
3b: Would've been funnier with Hawkeye (though that might've undercut the "one week from retirement" tropes).
3c: Presumably would have been best if Black Widow had needed Hulk as a vehicle so that Black Widow could save the day.
3d: So, Vision and Scarlett Witch?

VanVelding said...

Some serious last-minute writing would explain a lot of this. The theory that she was supposed to be the Scarlet Witch would cover a lot of it too. I seriously feel like if Joss Whedon had been able to sit down and crank out his own ideal Avengers movie w/out marketing, MCU, or etc. in, it would've been a great film.

I should've gone on more about how the idea of the relationship itself wasn't bad. I like the idea of them together. If this movie had been more about the groundwork for that instead of a headlong run into it, it would've been great. But then, it's easy for me to nitpick.

1. Same. I only remembered it when I was reviewing my notes later. It's not that I, personally, am "offended" by it. It's that it was written, shot, executed, and edited into this film--that the thought that went into it wasn't a half-second clip in a whirlwind of action. It was a deliberate choice. It was on a shooting schedule. They did multiple takes! That so many influential folks thought "this is a thing to do that will make our movie better" just leaves me angry.

3. It's after Ultron strafes them and he takes her to the helicarrier. Right before he jumps onto the quinjet. It's another half-second bit, and it that clearly conveys that she does need him as a vehicle to get to the helicarrier. I can't think of a better way to shoot that without losing brevity or clarity.

If there wasn't everything else floating around her in this movie, it would just be an odd but necessary set of blocking and imagery. But the context just makes it another piece that fits into the mosaic of "What the hell are you doing with Black Widow?"

But yeah, when Vision and Scarlet Witch do this, it makes sense. Scarlet Witch is a superpowered twentysomething teenage kid whose only family member and source of support was just murdered by the robot that betrayed them and she's willing to abandon Sokovia and DIE to get revenge on Ultron. Robot Jesus--I mean, Robot Superman--I mean, Vision is there to save this broken child from her own death wish. There is a power and role differential there which works for Scarlet Witch, but doesn't for Black Widow because to the credit of this movie they are very different people.

SkilTao said...

Scarlet = Scarlet would also explain where her interactions with Hawkeye went. (The theory isn't perfect, obviously, like would Vision still be saving her from a deathwish, and condensing the characters would mean one less woman on the team.)

Is it wrong for what's essentially a live action cartoon movie to retain cartoon sensibilities? I mean, if the boob thing is wrong, so is Hulk's "puny god" WHAM WHAM WHAM bit from Avengers 1. (Which, I should admit, wasn't to my taste either.)

I'm okay with the movie rushing headlong into a more decisive development between her and Banner, but yeah, I wish groundwork were more visible.