Unordered List

Thursday, 23 April 2015

What was up with that Black Widow scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron?

I was going to post an Age of Ultron review today, but since the movie isn't out in the U.S. until next week, I've decided to stick with one specific topic: that bizarre conversation between Bruce Banner and Black Widow.

SPOILER WARNING: This post (obviously) contains spoilers, but only for one scene between Bruce Banner and Black Widow.

If you've seen the movie, you may already know what I'm talking about. It's the scene where Natasha tells Bruce she was sterilized during her childhood spy training, and how this makes her a "monster" like the Hulk. "It makes everything easier," she says. "Even killing."

This conversation was so terrible that I actually double-checked with several friends to see if they interpreted it the same way. They did. So: let's unpack what the hell was going on in the mind of acclaimed feminist Joss Whedon when he crafted this masterpiece. (By the way, Scarlett Johansson was pregnant while filming this movie.)

Bruce and Natasha begin the movie in the early stages of a tentative romance. He mentions that he can't have children, and she says that she can't either: she was forcibly sterilized as a teenager.

This backstory is horrifying, but it gels with what we already know about Natasha. She was trained (or brainwashed) as a child by a Russian spy agency, where girls were taught to be perfect assassins. From their perspective, it was "expedient" to sterilize their students, preventing unwanted pregnancies and cutting off another potential family tie. But instead of being handled sensitively, this backstory concluded with Natasha describing herself as a "monster" because she couldn't have biological children. Sterilization made it easier for her and her colleagues to kill people.

So, either the movie is dehumanizing Natasha because she can't get pregnant, or she thinks of herself as a monster as a result of abuse she suffered as a child. Here are my top three explanations for what was going on in this scene.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marvel's Daredevil: Episodes 1-5

"I feel like I'm on a date with Vincent D'Onofrio and he's about to murder me and drown my family in the Hudson River." -- an email from myself to a friend, while watching Daredevil. This was a compliment to Vincent D'Onofrio, by the way.

This review only covers the first 5 episodes and is relatively spoiler-free, so don't worry if you're one of those sensible people who hasn't binge-watched the entire season yet. For my ~professional (and even less spoilery) review over at the Daily Dot, click here.

As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, my feelings on Daredevil are decidedly mixed. On the one hand:

  • This show is just really damn good. The dialogue and characterization are strong, and it's way ahead of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in terms of things like fight choreography and sound design.
  • The plot is complex but neatly organized, and the Netflix format allows things to unspool gradually rather than leaping between episodic subplots. I hate exposition and am sick of formulaic TV writing, so this was great for me.
  • Matt, Foggy and Karen are charming and adorable, and Wilson Fisk is an unusually compelling villain. Congratulations to whoever cast this show, because they knocked it out of the park.
  • I'm enraptured by the romance between Wilson Fisk and Vanessa the art dealer!! (More on that later.)
  • It's satisfying to see an "adult" comicbook adaptation that isn't gratuitous or exploitative. Daredevil doesn't sanitize the visceral impact of violence, but it doesn't revel in it either. To me this is an ideal balance, because usually there's a strict divide between movies like Sin City or Watchmen, which strive to be ~gritty and ~dark, and PG-rated movies like Spider-Man, where people have constructive relationships and friendly banter. Daredevil has both. I had to cover my eyes during a few of the more violent scenes, but in some ways I prefer that to when Thor or Captain America dispatches an enemy bloodlessly and with no obvious moral impact.