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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.