“A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.”
This line was spoken near the end of Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s stuck with me long after the movie ended. It is, I think, the central theme of it all, perfectly describing the human race, it’s/our imperfections, our constant search for trying to make things better, trying to make things perfect, and never ever getting there.
If you look at it a certain way, it’s tragic because it’s inescapable. But if you look at it another way, like a child’s drawing of a butterfly, it becomes its own reason, something simple, beautiful, a good enough reason to try, to keep going.
Tony Stark wanted to make things perfect, to safeguard the Earth and wrap it up, cradle it with his blanket of technology. And he mucked it up temporarily. But he was forgiven.
Natasha Romanoff (“Nat”) wanted to be the touch that calmed Bruce Banner’s rage, and when she couldn’t, she chose to betray his trust and break their bond in order to save everyone else.
Clint Barton sacrificed his own peace and safety, his family, his quiet house, in order to share that peace and safety with his teammates. This segment of the story, in my opinion, is the most important part of the movie. It is the anchor, the comfort food, the warm blanket that Tony Stark wanted to wrap the world around but couldn’t. Just like Popeye’s can of spinach, Barton’s home was the energy boost that everyone needed before they went on to the second round against Ultron.
Lastly, Wanda Maximoff, the lost child of war, the one who feels everything while in control of so many many things, and is simultaneously afraid, lost, awestruck, and vengeful, and constantly looking for guidance. I think the movie is shown most powerfully through her point of view, that of the emerging butterfly, seeing a world for the first time through a new set of experiences as well as the most powerful of tragedies.
I haven’t yet talked about the Vision, because I don’t think it’s his time yet, I think that’s for future Avengers movies. But it will be fascinating following him as he discovers the gray area nuances, triumphs, and failures of the human race, while his technological side aims for black and white perfection.
All this, and some action too.
In the first movie, the Avengers were, understandably, showing off. It was two and a half hours of pissing contests, butting heads, and out-heroing the other guy/gal. In this movie, they don’t have to do that anymore. Director Joss Whedon and his creative team took us down a different path, a slight turn away from the shiny weapons and Fourth of July explosions, even though there were still plenty of those. Along with the action and digital eye candy, we got a relatively deeper story, multiple stories, that cemented the fact that these characters are not caricatures anymore. What made the best action movies better than the rest–from Jaws to Star Wars to Raiders of the Lost Ark, from Die Hard to Braveheart, from last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy to this year’s Daredevil–are the people. With warts and all.
As for me, my own digital, technological, overscheduled life needed this movie. I saw it relatively early on a weekday morning, in a large theater but with only a handful of people, so the energy in the room was different from opening night. I watched it as my mind was just entering the day, uncluttered with detail and worries. I was thankful the movie was loud enough to make the explosions worth hearing, but not so loud that it dulled my senses. I was relaxed throughout the whole thing.
When Hawkeye welcomed us to his house and family, put on his plaid overshirt, hugged his kids and rubbed his wife’s pregnant belly, it comforted me. When Iron Man told Captain America not to steal his chopped up logs, I laughed. When the Black Widow slid her open palm against the Hulk’s open palm to calm him down, and he conceded with trust, I nodded my head. When Clint became Wanda’s surrogate big brother, even for an instant, I understood.
These moments won’t make the frontpage headlines. This isn’t what the kids want to see, it isn’t what sells the popcorn or the Halloween costumes. For some, these moments are unnecessary. But that doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful.