By Josiah Wampfler
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD… OBVIOUSLY…
A SHORT PREFACE: I had so much fun with this film and you can listen to my full thoughts on it in our Cinema Bros podcast. This article, in the grand scheme of my enjoyment of the film is honestly nitpicking, but I feel these thoughts had to be shared.
Black Widow and The Hulk; Natasha and Bruce, or maybe… Brutasha?… It’s a thing. Yes, the only female Avenger has finally decided to show her feelings for one of the boys. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” made sure of that.
In “Age of Ultron,” Black Widow finally succumb to (or was victim to) the long-standing Hollywood tradition of seemingly strong female characters falling for their man. That is not to say this trope is always bad. After all, love is one of the most important things in the human experience. But, how it was done in “Ultron” completely betrayed what made Black Widow’s character so great.
Black Widow’s character arch throughout the MCU is very interesting. When first introduced she was intended as little more than eye-candy, but as the films progressed she started to turn that around on its head. This culminated in the opening scene of the first Avengers film where she pretends to be a pretty damsel in distress only to reveal she had everything under control the whole time.
And this is what makes her character so great: While the other members of the Avengers are brooding about their various failures and regrets, she keeps a level head; she has everything under control. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her demons though. In “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” when she finds out Shield was just Hydra in disguise, we see her emotionally open up to Cap, expressing her doubts. In the end of the film though, she regains her composure basically telling a congressional committee to shove it in not so many words, and walking out of the room like a bad ass.
Compare that to the character we get in “Ultron” and it seems like Joss Whedon didn’t even watch any of the other films. Her compelling buddy relationship with Cap is completely discarded and in its place is an out-of-the-blue romantic attachment to Banner. Instead of the cool confidence we know Black Widow for, we see a strangely vulnerable woman who seems more concerned with getting her man for much of the film than actually fighting Ultron.
That is not to say that the relationship between the two isn’t well done. Their chemistry is wonderful, the individual performances are superb and the dialogue is great, but even well written and well acted story lines can be wrong for a film.
Where once we saw cool confidence and loyalty, now we see a woman who keeps talking about running away with her man. Where once we saw a woman who stood her ground in battle, now we see a woman that basically serves as a plot device to empower her man to fight.
I am not saying Black Widow is not a strong character in this film. I am not saying that she doesn’t kick a ton of ass in this film. I am not even saying that her relationship with Banner in and of itself weakens her character. I am questioning is why she had to have a relationship with Banner. I am questioning why she had to be the plot device that compels Hulk to fight. What I am saying is that Black Widow could have been a much stronger and better character had they just not worried about including this relationship or at least done it in a way that made more sense with her character. Because in the end, Black Widow feels much more like the “typical love interest” than the bad ass confident woman she always should have been.