Hawkeye V Hawkeye: Making sense of AOU & Old McBartons Farm

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I can admit it, I did it to myself.

Walking away from The Avengers: Age of Ultron with a mixed bag of genuine enjoyment and bewildered disappointment I had all sorts of thoughts, opinions, and feels about not only where I felt the film had done good but also where it had let me down and I freely own that I am, at least in part, to blame for that.

Intense discussions have been the theme of this past week as me and those close to me have debated just what it was about Age of Ultron that did not work for us. One of the main complaints (Outside of the Black Widow thing which I am still in the process of unpacking, and will be eventually addressing via the catharsis of bitching about it on the internet some time in the next week or so,) was the seemingly random inclusion of Hawkeye’s “SURPRISE!” idyllic family in their quaint, super-secret, farm in the middle of nowhere. It seemed pointless and seriously, Clint Barton? Wife? Farm? Family? WTH? Have you ever even met the man? Do you even go here?

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I mean Clint “Human Disaster” Barton, a happy father of 2.5 adorable moppets, with a home renovation fetish, and a seemingly sitcom perfect wife? What the hell? Where the hell did that come from? I was baffled by the choice and confused as to why Joss and Company would go so completely off book with Hawkeye. I was wronged! Betrayed! Sniff… (Okay perhaps it was not quite as dramatic as all that but with the shit storm the internet turned into post Age of Ultron, I kinda feel some over wrought feels only seem the thing to do. I wanna play too!)

It was only a day or so later, when I could sit back and see the big picture, that I realized my disappointment in this particular instance was not so much a result of a mismanaged character and more a matter of me projecting what I wanted on the previously constructed narrative. Namely, I fucking wanted Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and instead I got Millar’s. Which honestly, is all on me.

There is no indication in any of the previous released content in the MCU that this version of Hawkeye is a hot mess of a human being with a pizza loving Dog named Lucky, a “I am most definitely not your fucking side kick, don’t make me kick you decrepit ass Barton!” named Kate, a run down apartment building in Bed Stuy plagued by tracking suited Russian goons who love the word Bro., and a romantic history with Natasha, Bobbi, Wanda, and Jessica Drew among many others (Dude gets around is all I’m saying, Evans & Renner might want to re think the definition of the word “slut”). I mean, come on! MCU Hawkeye doesn’t even have a boomerang arrow! And 616 Clint loves that thing! What was I thinking?

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Seriously, Bro? What were you thinking Bro?

Instead of the redeemed bad guy, perpetual kid brother, and all around cock up, in the MCU we have an older, extremely component S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, possibly with a dark past, who is established, well respected, and comfortable in the roll of team dad. So yeah, clearly he was meant to be the Ultimate’s Hawkeye. I mean yes they threw some snark at us, but really would anyone expect this version of the character to wake up in a dumpster?

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Clint and Dumpsters, it’s kinda a thing.

So yeah. Not Fraction’s Hawkeye. Or even the Bendis take on the character. Which I have to say is a bit of disappointment in and of itself, but again not a actual betrayal of the character, just a different character entirely. Why was I so convinced that the MCU was going to give me Fraction’s brilliant take on Clint? Perhaps because in the MCU there was previously so little to work with. I mean his blink and you miss it cameo in Thor really provided very little to illuminate who this version of Clint Barton was, and in The Avengers he spent most of the film a brainwashed cipher, so there were a lot of blanks to fill in.

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And seriously? Like this man would ever wake up in a dumpster? I don’t think so.

Luckily for me at the same time all this was unfolding (or not unfolding as the case may be) on the big screen, Matt Fraction was busy writing one of the most entertaining and nuanced takes on the character ever seen in Hawkeye’s solo title. The universe abhorring a vacuum and all, I inserted tab A into blot B. Except it turns out it was more like I was trying to build an Ikea bookshelf with parts from an Ikea daybed and I ended up with something not capable of supporting anything.

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Oh Pizza Dog, I mourn what might have been…

So yeah, I did it to myself. So in theory, perhaps the whole Old McBarton’s farm thing makes slightly more sense. This is my mea culpa on that. I should not have expected Lobster when the menu was pretty much indicating all that was on offer was steak… Or something. Like it was a vegan restaurant, why was I trying to order buffalo wings? This is clearly a carpet store, there is no pizza here! Yeah, that sort of got away from me, but you know what I mean. Don’t judge my metaphors, I skipped lunch!

That said, and all of my knee jerk harumph aside, the new paradigm in play with the idea of Clint’s secret family only partially worked for me. It might have been the chemistry between the actors, or the fact that it was all a little too hallmark perfection, but it was all a little tries too hard. (Like anyone would not yell at their husband about potentially leading an army of murder-bots with daddy issues to their doorstep. Yes he was careful, but she is very pregnant and has her 2 young children to think about! I mean there is calm in a crisis and there is almost psychotically copacetic, and Mrs. Barton falls more on the side of the later than the former.) And also I just realized I don’t even remember her name, she and the mini Barton’s could have been lovingly crafted out of cardboard and bad green screen for all the impression they made outside of the shock of their very existence.

Which is the problem.

I did not care about them at all, and when it occurred to me that they might meet the same fate as their Ultimate’s Universe doppelgangers my main reaction was a brief “Huh, a family that fridges together I guess?” and to shrug it off. And I should care about these people. I should care that Mrs. Barton has to watch her husband go off and fight an army of killer robots with no idea if she will ever see him again. That last time stakes were this big he was brainwashed by an insane evil God, brought down a helicarrier and in the process killing many of his friends and coworkers, fought an army of killer aliens in New York, and had a nuclear missile shot his location by his bosses, AND NO ONE THOUGHT TO TELL HER UNTIL AFTER THE FACT! At least I assume that is the case as she is not even alluded to in the first Avengers. For all we know he went and had shawarma before he called his freaking wife! Seriously not cool dude.

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So yeah, a scene where she expresses some conflict, and yes legitimate anger, with the idea that her baseline normal human husband is going to risk his life AGAIN as a freaking superhero would not have been out of place. Instead of her taking a genuinely human moment to freak the fuck out and how is this her life even? We get her chiding him about home renovations, giving him the go save the world speech, and gossiping about Bruce and Natasha’s weird thing- like Natasha having girly feelings was a normal thing and she never even met Bruce before this VERY SECOND and knows all of his myriad of issues and has room to comment on it? (Breath. That is an entirely different post.)

Yeah. That would have made her seem like something, anything, more than scenery.

‘Snowpiercer’: Trainspotting at the End of the World.

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The credits end and the lights go up. I turn to my companion, alight with enthusiasm. I freaking loved this movie, the pitch black gritty and grim allegorical fable where a social caste system born on twisted ambitions and totalitarianism births an ouroboros of humanity at its worst. Where the cruelty of the head crushes the feet with cold calculation, because some lives matter to the head more than others. I freaking loved Snowpiercer and I needed to share.

“That was amazing!” I gush.

“……..”

“Did you not love all of the amazing and things and stuff!” I continue, losing my ability to articulate my appreciation via the use of adjectives.

…… “meh.” He shrugs and gets up to leave. I try to continue my gushing but he’s not into it; the discussion devolves into a conversation about pacing and international film making styles and still more about pacing. When we part I think maybe we are sort of on the same page until I find out the truth a few days later. He hated it.

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Well, okay then.

I am honestly confused. I how can he not see how awesome Snowpiercer is? The cinematography? The tortured grim fatality of Chris Evans performance? The master level class in character acting given by Tilda Swinton? The beauty? The horror? How does he not see it?

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Step By Brutal Unrelenting Step.

 

As more time passed and I read more reviews and criticisms of the film I realize that it was not a failing in either him nor me, this is just one of those movies. You know the ones I am talking about, the ones that engender two polar opposite responses in those who watch them. You leave them filled with either adoration or antipathy. Some films are like that, not in a the general public loves it and fans are unhappy sort of way or a wildly popular film that has a few fringe haters or even a meh film that while acknowledged as pap is at least mildly entertaining for what it is. No, this film is like Donny Darko, City of Lost Children or Where the Wild Things Are, the type of movie that either you connect with on some deep level and adore or find utterly pointless and hate. So I am not going to tell you how amazing Snowpiercer is and how you will love it as much as I did because you may end up believing me and then hating it.

This film is deeply dark, unrelentingly so. In the face of a planet killing global climatological disaster the center did not hold, but some how the idea of the totalitarian hyper enforced social caste system did. This is “Atlas Shrugged” taken to it’s inevitable horrific conclusion. Set on a luxury train that circles the globe built by a lone refugee of the lost oligarchy, who spent his fortune on a whim and holding a singular passion for trains, and was at the right place at the right time when the world ended. The train is powered by a perpetual motion machine with a horrible secret at its heart, which makes it like every other character in this film. It’s a very french nouveau concept, weird and creepy, odd and grotesque, it’s the type of film that you either opt into the premise and go with it or leaves you pounding your heard against the walls because how is this supposed to make sense? This film asks a lot of the people watching, especially an audience used to straight forwardly told tales that eschew heavy allegory and drawn out pacing in favor of a quick one two punch of plot and momentum.

My friend obviously did not opt in. I on the other hand? Was ready to buy a time share, so this review reflects my own  personal experiences with being stupidly enamored with both this movie and its premise.

The train has been running non stop for seventeen years, the rich and powerful live in obscene luxury at the front of the train and those few desperate souls who made it on board at the last moment are left to grinding poverty at the back of the train. They are fed, barely, living on protein bars provided by the masters of the class system and thier enforcers. We begin the story in the last three cars of the train, with the men and women who live and die there. Chris Evans plays Curtis, the grimly determined hyper focused nominal leader of the people at the back of the train who is driven by a coldly dark core, his motivations are deliberately kept unclear until the very end when you finally understand that there are no heroes here and survival makes monsters of us all.

The people corralled in back are counted and tracked at every meal, clicked off like tally’s on a spread sheet, then dismissed like living bags of garbage. After a strange woman comes back to take two of thier children, the only two who measure a particular size, a mini riot is sparked and we are introduced to Tilda Swinton’s Minister Mason, a bureaucratic cold fish who ruthlessly delivers what is deemed an appropriately horrific punishment with the bored irritation of a born middle manager, annoyed over the audacity of the furniture wanting to be treated like people. How dare the shoes aspire to be hats? The natural order deems only the privileged few may rest on the top, all others should resign themselves unquestioning with the animal like acceptance to the suffering of thier lot in life. To which the under class reply with a hearty fu*k that noise.

Eventually the people in the last three cars are pushed as far as they can be and make the move to fight back. The goal is to leave the squalor of the tail end cars behind them and take the engine so they can make a better future for themselves and thier children. From that moment on the film is a death march from one end of the train to the other, passing through cars that each reveal a new level of luxury, each topping the one that came before it, all of it bought by the poverty of those they left behind them. Each step is measured, cautious even, but with the feel of inevitability. Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, the front of the train will be taken and the old order throw aside in favor the new. The trick is to let the movie move at its own pace, to sink into each moment as it is allowed to linger as we breath with the characters as they experience every moment. There are no short cuts in this film, there is only one way to the front of the train and each step forward takes you closer to the end of thier world, because for better or worse the train is all that is left of thier world. What price will be paid for its survival and is thier continued existence worth that price?

All that said I left the film feeling hopeful, which in the face what I just watched is quite the hat trick.

So yeah, I totally recommend this film. Just be sure to go in knowing it is not going to make sense unless you buy into the rules of the world they have created. Opt in and you may just end up loving it as much as I and many other do. If you can’t do that? Then skip it and go see something else. I am hearing good things about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, go see that.