Some Notes on Avergers: Age of Ultron

by criticalhit009

A blogging friend of mine recently gave a glowing review of Mad Max: Fury Road, reminding me once again to never settle for less out of exhaustion. I now feel compelled to write about the latest Avengers flick, only to feel a but nonplussed. What’s there to say? A few observations may help my line of thinking:

1. While the film has a few anti-Bush jabs nestled within (“Every time someone times to stop a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time.”), the film supports hegemonic bourgeois ideology that all military forces exist to do good by its citizens.  The globetrotting Avengers brush against various police and military functionaries trying to protect their nation’s citizens as superhero antics threaten their communities. Especially in the wake of many documented deaths of unarmed black men by police in the U.S., the upholding of police as active do-gooders is upsetting, but unsurprising.

This is contrary to the first Avengers film, which explicitly had law enforcement officials gaze bewildered and borderline incompetent, until Captain America comes to give them direction. Perhaps Marvel want some of those sweet, sweet Pentagon assets, which it was denied for the last Avengers film. As reported by Wired:

“We couldn’t reconcile the unreality of this international organization and our place in it,” Phil Strub, the Defense Department’s Hollywood liaison, tells Danger Room. “To whom did S.H.I.E.L.D. answer? Did we work for S.H.I.E.L.D.? We hit that roadblock and decided we couldn’t do anything”

S.H.I.E.L.D. acting without accountability, using advanced technology to surpass citizen privacy and fight “evil”? Surely only America is allowed to do that! Meanwhile, Avengers: Age of Ultron realigns its overarching theme of “superheroes protect people” with a notion that cops do too. A much more palatable notion for the hegemonic powers that be.

2. Monstrosity and Infertility

“You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilized me, said it was one less thing to worry about. You think you’re the only loner on the team?”

There is a slippage that occurs in a scene where Black Widow and Bruce Banner discuss being monsters. Widow calls herself a monster, though whether it’s because she was an assassin, or because she is infertile is unclear. Of course, the two are combined, as sterilization was the final trial to undergo for her assassin training.

While infertility of various kinds is a potent subject to mine, it’s a trope often suffering misuse and abuse in mainstream entertainment. The minimal hype I had for seeing the film as a fun exclusion drained when I heard infertility would be Black Widow’s subplot. It’s really more of a minor character moment, not egregiously mishandled, but concerning nonetheless.

3. Convergence Culture

Disney-Marvel is capitalizing on our advanced technologies of our age to do what The Wachowski siblings tried to do with the Matrix franchise a decade ago: tell an intersecting narrative through various media to satiate rapacious appetites and draw new fans into their media empire. Age of Ultron loses some of its austere characterization from studio mandated scenes to set up further stories down the line. This is a new era of content creation and distribution, where media-savvy consumers are the new norm.

Now, would I recommend the film? For an enjoyable blockbuster experience, yes. It was certainly a sweet indulgence I don’t normally partake, and I have no regrets. Now to marathon the Mad Max films.