Avengers: Age of Ultron could never have measured up to the original in my eyes, so I'm happy I enjoyed the sequel as much as I did. I ate up The Avengers, lay under it in coital bliss, have wallowed in it for three years, and at minimum all I begged of the sequel is that it not fuck up my characters and my OT6 too much and for Hawkeye to not fucking die please. At most I begged for a few buttonpushing moments of joy and a movie that made me say, "I wanna see that again!" I couldn't allow myself to ask for more.
Looking back, I feel as though bringing the Avengers together in the first movie was a fabulous unique accomplishment and the job of trying to give the viewers the same feels for the same six characters without just telling that story over again is hard-to-impossible (and thankless). Whatever follows could not possibly measure up. So what can you ask of a sequel? I can ask that it be a cool, plotty episode in their adventures, and fun, and funny, and respectful to the characters, and whatever changes happen should be in-character and reasonable. And for me Avengers: Age of Ultron was a huge relief. No, not as good as the original, but it did not suck, and for me and my expectations that's saying a lot. Not sucking was probably the greatest hope possible after a movie where the characters charmed me to the point of becoming my obsessions. I think it's pretty great that AAOU still managed to please me after all that.
I realize now that even the baseline of what I expected from this movie was unrealistic: I wanted the original core six Avengers to be the feature, and Whedon et al knew that and yet could not really give that because that's what the first movie was about, okay? This movie belonged to Ultron and Vision, Wanda and Pietro as far as the story goes (and they were wonderful, I really did love them). And of course Whedon also knew the film could not possibly sail, could not possibly respect its fans, without giving us the strongest possible six-core-Avenger-background to set those four new characters against. Which means there was just no way to get as much of those six core because they had to be background, but the film did do its best, yeah, I really think it did. And it did a nice job with making the whole turn respectful and fun and funny and (mostly) in-character.
I mean, let's be real; what I really wanted from this film was two hours of Avengers sitcom, of Avengers fanfiction featuring bonding, banter, sustainment of all my OTPs (fortunately I subscribe to the Everyone Is Poly Because Avengers shipping faction on this one), and get all that nasty peril stuff out of here and don't kill anybody and don't leave any of my babies mad at each other you mean scriptwriters! Of course I knew I wasn't gonna get it. I knew there would be change and that I wouldn't care for all the change, and that there would have to be actual plot, duh, and peril and death too. And going in I didn't realize at the time that the story for this film wasn't even going to be about the six core Avengers themselves, and now that I get that I'm feeling huge relief and acceptance and I'm essentially kinda zen about not feeling the same degree of love for this one. I did enjoy it though.
(The Avengers was also unique in that it took my most invested-in character and aimed at my heartbuttons (and kinkbuttons) by making him the most tortured and vulnerable. Loki/Clint in all its non-con glory still rules me. How's anything going to measure up after that when it has no Loki? I ask you.)
I loved Ultron. I had no idea that making him a crueler version of snarky quippy Tony Stark was what it needed, but I'm so happy that's what he was. I'm a fan of The Blacklist so I knew that James Spader voicing a villain was going to be a great move, and he was freaking perfect. Nor did I understand how even more perfect Paul Bettany was going to be as the Vision! Story-wise his creation was beautiful, from his origin in JARVIS to the Mjolnir twist to the way he earns his name, but the execution by Bettany was astonishing.
And I loved the twins. This surprised me a little because Elizabeth Olson looks nothing like my concept of Wanda Maximoff, but she owned it from the first. And I loved Pietro and his dickishness. I kind of 'ship him and Hawkeye now. (Hey, if Coulson's death couldn't kill three years of Clint/Coulson fanfiction out there, Pietro's fate can't keep that 'ship down, either.)
And what about my babies?
Well, you can't kill my favorite 'ships, you just can't. OT6 for evah, and you can't kill my slashgoggles (even Natasha 'ships Tony/Steve, bwah ha ha), and you can give Clint an entire family (d'awwww, daddy!Hawkeye, and kissing!Hawkeye, and Renner Laugh!Hawkeye!) and this movie can Natasha/Bruce all it wants, I will still cherish my Clintasha, and I'll tell you in passionate detail why it isn't as much of a conflict for me as it might look.
(I still find myself thinking that Laura was Barney's pregnant abandoned ex and Clint decided to step in and make things right, to the tune of ten years of a good life and two more kids. Hey, my head, my rules.)
The Natasha/Bruce 'ship? Awwwwww. Yes I count Natasha/Bruce among my OT6 ships, but...I think Natasha's lack of subtlety is a little out of character. You cannot convince me that Natasha's unspoken stop-in-her-tracks concern for Hawkeye (in both movies!) is anything other than soulmate-level affection, so don't try, I won't let that go. But I understand that Joss is among the "stories must change from movie to movie or they are boring" storytellers (and of the "and if they don't I'll have to start killing people to avoid romantic stagnation" storytellers, too) so I see why he couldn't keep going in that direction. Natasha/Bruce is a theoretically delightful 'ship in my eyes, but because I can't put down my "every Avenger loves Natasha and she loves them but if she belongs to anyone it's Clint" theory, here's how AAOU's take on it plays out for me:
I see a Natasha who is not going to let herself come between Hawkeye and his wife (and let's talk about how Laura is not jealous of Natasha to the degree of "Aunt Nat" and "Little Natasha/Nathaniel"? Yowza. More of that, please?) and who has been influenced by Steve's friendship to think, I can actually have friends, can't I, I deserve to act like someone who can have more than just friends, can't I? I've become friends with Bruce and I like Bruce, we match, he's a great guy but let's face it, we're the two monsters on the team; he's someone I can have, he's the only one I should have because he's the one I can't possibly hurt physically. --I do think Natasha has genuine affection for him, it's not just a game, but I do think she works herself up to pursuing him rather than it being a "he makes me feel all wibbly inside like no one else has!" love. And she does this to the point where it genuinely hurts to have him say no to her. But I don't think that makes her and Bruce soulmates. When I watch her actively flirting with him in this film I think her active flirting is how she thinks she should act--she can't separate "this is how I act to attract my target and this is how I act to attract someone I really like" and that's why it's not subtle.
I also get why there are people unhappy that Natasha's main plotline was Romancing the Hulk--that her agency is somewhat reduced to being a romantic interest this time around. I feel a little of that, but since I find Natasha so splendid every moment she's onscreen, from bonding with the baby Bartons to taking out Ultron drones and, yes, to deepening her relationships as a human being (which is huge for Natasha), I don't resent the romance storyline as much because of that.
So AAOU doesn't negate the Clintasha I saw in The Avengers: the "Barton's been compromised," the "they've started the face trace," the "along with one of ours," the "Love is for children," the "Barton told me everything...not 'til I've made him kill you, slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear," not the fight, not the infirmary scene where they carefully carefully do not touch each other. Nah. You can't tell me they're anything but soulmates. But I can resolve new canon into interpretations that make my OTPs interesting, and I can also shrug off new canon and keep wallowing in my OT6 little universe, quite happily. Pbbbthhbbbt.
Okay, let's move on to things about the movie that are less MY BAAABIEEEES and are just things:
So many great lines but I still think my favorite is Tony's tiny little "Yay" after finding the secret door; to this day I worship Jon Favreau for insisting RDJ = Tony Stark. Other standout bits include:
"I am Thor Odinson and as long is there is breath in my breast and the strength of Asgard I'M RUNNING OUT OF THINGS TO SAY."
"You think you're the only one who's stalling?"
"Did the whole mind-control thing. Not a fan."
Ultron trying to apologize every time he does mortal harm to someone.
The whole "didn't see that coming" callback run. The first time Pietro said that to Hawkeye I whispered, "Oooh, you DICK" out loud, no one disses my Hawkeye like that.
The "Language" callbacks were sorta funny but Nick's "You kiss your mother with that mouth?" was priceless.
Pietro needing to rouse civilians to action with the machine gun. Perfect humor beats on that one.
Is it okay that I found the twins' accents to be perfect for them? Whether they were accurate or not? I loved how they sounded and how that solidified their characters for me.
I so badly need to see the scene where Thor goes back to Chez Barton post-apocalypse and apologizes for leaving the kids so abruptly and stays with them for a day and plays with them because KIDS LOVE THOR, DAMMIT.
The S.O. had to explain to me that at the party Tony and Thor were not awkwardly explaining the commitments that their girlfriends had to explain their absences in a "I don't really know what she's doing and she's probably going to break up with me any minute" way, which is what it sounded like to me, but rather that they were playing "I have the cooler girlfriend ha ha." I totally did not get that and would never have got that on my own. I never will get male head-butting, I guess.
Maria Hill, the 70s called and wants its party hairstyle back. No.
And: best Stan Lee cameo to date. EXCELSIOR.
I was so emotionally fragile after this movie--not sad, but processing the relief combined with the wish for still more and the "over at LAST" and dealing with the changes--that I had to go for shawarma as comfort food the next day.
This entry was also posted at http://amanuensis1.dreamwidth.org/309238.html. Feel free to comment at either location.