This time I went in without the first-time stress jitters, and this time I got to appreciate what a clever complex plot this was. Everything flows and goes just a teensy bit faster than what you anticipate, so that it's never talking down to you. I will always choose a "Keep up" plot over one where I can guess what's coming. *cough cough* nearly every other action movie on the planet *cough cough* I think it's as intricate as the story of The Avengers, but it's less joyful, darker. Ultron may be entertainingly bitchy but he's much more evil a villain than Loki the trickster. Different darker agenda. There couldn't be any funny end scene of the Avengers exhaustedly chomping down on shawarma in this one.
I still don't buy that Natasha has deeper feelings for Bruce than for any other guy on the team, but if I could get past that I wouldn't have too many quibbles with the way their not-romance was shown. I absolutely won't argue with anyone who thinks that giving her a romance this time around reduces her to a romantic object and takes away from her role; I won't deny that that's a fair way of looking at that. I'll just say that I thought it was respectfully done, and Natasha trying to carve out a happy space in her life is not something I'll condemn. And if it saved Whedon from having to write more Widow/Hawkeye to the tune of stagnation (what I think he'd believe--not me), then okay. Whatever keeps him from killing off either half of a couple. Even her line to Nick, "Did you know this was going to happen?" and Nick's failure to reply "...that I was setting you guys up to date, are you seriously asking me if that was even in my head at that moment?!" I can rationalize by thinking, if anyone would be sent to tame the Beast, it would be Beauty, so, Natasha's question and the idea that Nick would have thought that too doesn't seem completely out of left field.
In fact on the second watching I saw the Clintasha hints even more. If Clint is injured/imperiled, Natasha is right there. If Natasha is injured/imperiled, Clint is right there. This time, I realized that Clint takes the jet to his home for Natasha's sake first--knowing that Natasha being with his kids and his family will heal her after her encounter with Wanda's head games. The others are just lucky to be on the same jet, because I don't think he'd have put his family in potential jeopardy for anyone but Nat. Laura teases Clint about not noticing Nat's connection to Bruce (which to be honest I don't buy; I don't believe Natasha had time to show that connection to Laura during that time), which hadn't gone unnoticed by others (Steve at least), which suggests to me that Natasha consciously wouldn't let herself show it in front of Clint.
(Notice how in the first movie it was two "Tasha"s to one "Nat." You can retcon all ya want, Joss, I'll still remember!)
On the second watching I also caught how Hawkeye was set up red-herring style; yes, every fan thinks that if any Avenger is expendable it's gotta be Hawkeye. (I've been making "shut up shut UP" hands for three years.) And Hawkeye meets just about every narrative mark for death in this movie, what with his line in the sick bay: "Nah, I'm gonna live forever," and a family with two kids and a freakin' pregnant wife that already has a name for the unborn baby--he even tucks a picture of his family into his shirt before he goes into combat and has the line, "I'm going back out there, because it's my job," and turns back to save an overlooked child. As the S.O. put it, "if this had been a Michael Bay film he'd've been offed in the first reel." And because Joss loves to flout this kind of cliché instead he saves Hawkeye by (in another classic Joss move) offing one of a set of twins ha ha your tears are delicious. Ouch.
Once again, Hawkeye is the first Avenger you meet in this movie. He only beats out the others by seconds this time, but he's the first. *hearts*
Note to self: IMAX is great but you miss some lines because things are so very very loud in an IMAX theatre. For the second showing, do go 3D, but skip the IMAX. This time I around I got to hear the "Will you let me hold my own?" "If you do this I'LL hold your own." "Oh, you had to make it weird, didn't you?" plus Hawkeye's mutterings about how no one would know if he took out Pietro. And a few other things.
I'm thinking the reason Tony left at the end was daddy issues. He was father to Ultron who went as bad as could be, and now the child he would have liked to create in the first place is here and is so far beyond him, not needing him at all, nobler than him, and Tony can't even look at that confrontation yet. The Vision doesn't need him and that hurts.
Anyone out there read Janet Kagan's book Hellspark, where one of the tests of sentience is art? Anyone doubt The Vision's sentience, just check out his, "You know, I think I'd like a cape too" moment.
HOW DID I FORGET TO MENTION THE END CREDITS. Oh, do I ever need a revolving screensaver of that gorgeous Grecian tableau statue. Perfectly rendered Renner mouth, mmmmmm.
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