Winter Sunlight

Okay, I have more to say about Age of Ultron

There are two things I wanted to talk about in more depth, one thing I liked and one I did not.

Things I liked: Wanda!

It took me a little while to warm up to her, but by the end, Wanda was one of my very favorite things about the movie, possibly my single most favorite thing, and I was so shocked by that! I went into the movie feeling very uncomfortable and weird about the movie aging her down to barely-out-of-her-teens, and making her the victim of skeevy experiments to boot. It just felt kind of icky and awful. And she wasn't even a character I was particularly attached to in the comics, so basically I went in without much interest in her, and expecting to feel uncomfortable with a lot of what the movie did with her.

But Wanda in the movie was SO GREAT! I loved that ultimately, her arc was so central, and she got so much agency in it. It's all about HER choices and what SHE wants. She starts off letting her hatred of the Starks rule her, and kicks Tony off onto his creation-of-Ultron path because of it. She and Pietro get to have revenge on Strucker for torturing them (off camera, but still). And then she's the one who recognizes what Ultron really is, and has a change of heart, and goes to stop Tony and then ends up reluctantly working with him. (On the same side, at least.)

Then during the battle, she ends up getting overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what they're up against, when Clint finds her hiding and offers her an "out", and then she makes that choice to be an Avenger, and gets her wonderful hero's entrance with the dramatic mood wind, flinging Ultrons left and right. And at the end, she loses the thing that's most important to her, and she's prepared to go down with the ship, but the Avengers won't let her. It almost breaks her, but not quite, and somehow she gets back up and she's ultimately part of the new team, moving forward with the new SHIELD.

I wish we'd gotten to see more of her at the end of the movie, after Pietro's death. But the movie gave her really excellent, solid characterization, and set her up beautifully for exactly the kind of "rising from the ashes" character story that I adore.

Like I said in my last post, I want all the Wanda fic now. ALL THE WANDA FIC. Because there is so, so much story to tell with her! She's only ever been a weapon, and she's only ever been close to one person, and now she has to learn to live without that person and to be something more than a weapon.

And I want ALL the fic about Natasha helping Wanda because she's been there herself, and Wanda making friends with the Avengers and learning how to be part of a team, and Wanda taking college classes to try to figure out if maybe being an Avenger is just a stop along the way instead of her end goal, and Wanda and Vision figuring out how to person together, and Wanda bonding with Bucky over their shared background as Hydra experiments, and Wanda and Tony learning how to be proper allies. Wanda fic! Wanda vids! Pretty much just ALL THE WANDA FOREVER. (Also a Scarlet Witch movie, plz. MARVEL, HERE IS MY MONEY.)

Things I did not like: the Natasha/Bruce storyline.

Which I only disliked mildly while I was watching the movie (aside from a moment or two of pure knee-jerk DO NOT WANT during the scene in which they talk about having babies) but the more I think about it, the more my hatred for it grows. Like I said in a comment to the last post, really the only things I liked about Natasha in the movie were the Natasha + Clint stuff (which nailed my Natasha-Clint headcanon dead on) and the little bits of Natasha + Steve we got. And that's so frustrating! I love Natasha, in both the MCU and the comicverse. But her storyline with Bruce ended up being all the worst things that a canon romance can be. It felt terribly shoehorned in, flat, and graceless. Even her final scene with Fury is about Nat and Bruce, not about Nat and Fury, who really need some closure on their relationship but ended up not really getting it BECAUSE BRUCE. And it ended up sticking Nat into a stereotypical female role -- she's literally the person who is responsible for calming his rage, and she's suddenly out of nowhere torn up about not having kids ... and the thing is, THIS COULD ALL WORK, for a different character or with some graceful tweaks to Nat's existing characterization, but the way it came across in the movie, for me anyway, was just a general pile of awful and DNW.

It's sort of like ... I can see how, with different writing, it could have worked? Like, maybe Nat has worked through enough of her childhood trauma, thanks to her friendship with the Avengers and slowly stabilizing self-concept, to the point where suddenly she's getting hit with a whole new set of trauma, previously obscured by the rest of it, wherein she's realized that she wants all the things she was denied (children, a family, a stable life). But we never got the setup for that. Or maybe getting into her first serious relationship since changing sides has made her want things she never wanted before. But she and Bruce aren't even really a couple yet!

Not to mention the sheer ick of having the Red Room's "graduation ceremony", the thing that all the girls' training is pointed towards, being ... taking away their ability to reproduce. Not that forced sterilization isn't awful, because it is! But there's just something about the way the movie made it central to the Red Room, and to Natasha's memories of the Red Room, that I absolutely hated. I generally dislike plotlines that center around reproductive horror, and while the existence of Red Room-related reproductive horror is entirely in keeping with both the comics and the whole Red Room concept, the sudden central-ness of it is not.

And aside from all of THAT, I am still deeply, deeply frustrated about the scene between Natasha and Bruce in the Bartons' home. Spun in a slightly different way, it could have genuinely hit the notes of poignancy and healing that it was apparently going for. A lot of the emotional notes from that scene are the exact ones that Steve and Tony's final scene at the end is actually hitting, with Steve talking about how he is no longer really the person who wants stability and family. And yet, it was such an amazingly tone-deaf scene. What possible reason has Natasha EVER given Bruce to think that she cares about having babies except that she's female? For a different female character, that's entirely something that might be a central issue with the relationship. But nothing in Natasha's past characterization even hints at it. And, speaking as a woman who worked through a lot of ~feelings~ about infertility and never being able to have kids, I can't quite do justice to the gut-punch of Natasha's "We're both monsters" to Bruce. Her later dialogue softens the blow a bit, talking about her fear that she'll never be more than what the Red Room made her -- because that, that is the Natasha we've been given in previous movies. These are concerns she has! But the whole scene just came across so, so ... aargh. It's like MCU!Natasha, as established, has been replaced by a pod person whose life suddenly revolves around relationships and kids. The thing is, you could put her into situations where those things come up for her, or gently lead her there with subtlety and restraint, but this had all the subtlety of Thor's hammer to the face.


On the bright side, the movie did nothing irredeemable to destroy Nat for me, and since the relationship never really got off the ground and they're separated at the end, it can easily be handwaved or ignored if future writers don't want to deal with it. Which I rather hope they don't, at least if they can't do it in a way I'm more comfortable with.

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Wanda bonding with Bucky over their shared background as Hydra experiments

*meep* *drowns in feelings*

I hadn't even thought about this. Wow.

I went into the movie feeling very uncomfortable and weird about the movie aging her down to barely-out-of-her-teens, and making her the victim of skeevy experiments to boot.

I think, that's a good thing about my "haven't read the comics" state. I don't know what they changed and therefore I'm not dreading stuff before watching the movie. I'm already way too angsty before going into them.
I'm kind of glad it's the Russo brothers directing the next couple of Avengers movies, not Joss. They did a pretty good job with Nat in CATWS.
God yes, everything on the subject of Nat/Bruce. I mean, I just closed my eyes and went lalala for all the scenes with them so I had actually MISSED the awful having kids stuff (because yes, that makes it infinitely worse) but even just the idea that Natasha would be the vehicle for Bruce to "feel good" or "calm" or whatever is just SO ICKY ugh. I'm just forgetting that part of the movie even existed,
I thought part of it was that Bruce was projecting onto Natasha his own distress at not being able to have kids. They're in a house with two kids and a third on the way, and everyone but Clint (and maybe Tony) is hit with "Look what we don't have," and I don't think that Natasha has ever suggested to Bruce that she wants kids but that Bruce wants kids and so assumes everyone else does.

Maybe I'm downplaying it because that aspect of the Red Room really upset me too, but it seemed one of several aspects of the Red Room replaying over and over: the ballet, having to shoot a man, and her concern over the younger girls.

I feel very conflicted about Natasha in the movie, because the Lullaby worked for me, except that it seemed to be reducing her to an adjunct of the Hulk rather than an amazing hero, and yes, a very specifically female adjunct. That also, however, allowed us to see that they'd spent lots of time training and working together, so their romance didn't seem entirely out of nowhere—except that I still kind of felt it was out of nowhere, and I wish they hadn't done that.

I think Brilliant Husband put his finger on what's going on there: we can't have Avengers appearing on Agents of SHIELD, or even in each other's movies, for practical reasons. So we always have to have reasons why they're not available, and, as fanfic has shown, if you don't give us reasons, we'll make up our own: why didn't Steve call Tony and Bruce in The Winter Soldier? We make up our own. Well, if we've been wondering why the Avengers haven't been helping Coulson in the wake of the fall of SHIELD (assuming that they know Coulson is alive!), we now know they've been busy looking for the scepter ever since SHIELD fell.

Now when they continue not to show up in each other's movies and on the tv shows, we have fresh reasons: Steve and Natasha are training the new Avengers (New Avengers?), and when they're not, each has a missing person to find (Bucky and Bruce).

But yes, I mostly agree with your points. I'm just trying to make you—and me—feel a little better about Natasha in the movie. Perhaps she has seen Fury in the intervening time as they went after the scepter, although I'm disappointed not to have that scene. But she had her ridiculous motorcycle scene, and she pushed Bruce into a giant pit when she needed the Other Guy, and Clint is her best friend, and she knows about his secret family! I found a lot here to like about Natasha, and I'm clinging to it.
It's all about HER choices and what SHE wants.
Yes! I am not familiar with her from the comics and so didn't realize they altered her age or her backstory. I did not like her at first but was won over by her dedication to fixing what she'd done.

ALL THE WANDA FOREVER. (Also a Scarlet Witch movie, plz. MARVEL, HERE IS MY MONEY.)
I am with you on Wanda. Not being a comics fan I knew nothing about her and was a blank slate with no expectations. That actor is utterly fabulous. I found Wanda compelling and interesting and, on a shallow note, exquisitely beautiful. Really looking forward to seeing more of her.