Why Authors Can’t Afford to Dupe Their Readers (or Why Hawkeye Ruined Age of Ultron)

This week’s video talks about why a certain plot twist in Age of Ultron made me really, really, really mad—and how you can do better in your own stories.

Video Transcript:

So if you’ve been watching me for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out I’m a major Marvel fan. But I’m just going to say it straight up: Avengers 2: Age of Ultron made me really, really, really, really, really mad. Really. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times: I trust director Joss Whedon’s storytelling chops. Most people would agree the man is nigh on a genius, but in my opinion, with Age of Ultron, he blew it on the basis that he did not play fair with his audience—and here’s why. (Be ye warned: spoilers ahead.)

So one of the big reveals about a third of the way into this movie is that heretofore relatively minor character Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, has a secret family, consisting of one wife and two and a half kiddies. Aside from the fact that this was all rather clumsily set up, in my opinion, the whole thing immediately started screaming one carefully constructed, single, solitary message to the audience: Hawkeye is gonna die. Whedon even noted in interviews that he felt it was absolutely essential for audiences to believe Hawkeye was doomed.

Why? For the simple reason that Whedon wanted to do a switcheroo and fake out audiences by leading them to believe that the hinted-at doomed Avenger was Hawkeye when really it was the even minor-er character Quicksilver. This fake-out is bolstered all the way from that early scene with Hawkeye’s family right down to the final scene in which Quicksilver dies. So what’s the problem? Again, the problem is that Whedon deliberately took advantage of the audience’s trust and duped them just for the sake of duping them. The Hawkeye fake-a-roo did nothing to advance the plot. In short, it wasn’t a plot twist at all. It was a foreshadowing twist. Dramatic irony—in which the misdirection has some significance or thematic resonance—is one thing, but blatantly false foreshadowing is nothing more or less than a lie to the audience. So as you’re planning your own (presumably much more awesome) twist, make sure you’re bringing readers along for a meaningful ride—instead of laying a trap for them.

Why Authors Can’t Afford to Dupe Their Readers (or Why Hawkeye Ruined Age of Ultron)

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Huh. Not denying at all that the Hawkeye family thing was clumsily set up, and that purposefully leading the audience astray is a bad thing, but I have to admit that it never occurred to me once that Hawkeye’s family was intended as foreshadowing (fake or otherwise) for his impending death. Not once. Perhaps that speaks more to how dense I am about storytelling than anything else. It makes me wonder if I should really be writing fiction at all!! 🙂

    Aside from the bogus foreshadowing which I apparently missed, I thought the family scene served two purposes:
    1) As a way of explaining away Black Widow’s apparent attraction to Hawkeye in the first movie, thus freeing her to have an interest in Bruce Banner, and
    2) Showing how Hawkeye’s understated nature was in fact key to helping to defeat Ultron. Ultron was in the Internet and was everywhere, but Hawkeye knew how to evade him because only he had a place that was so modest and off-the-grid that Ultron would never think to look there.

    The latter would have been a much better point if they had developed it better as some kind of thematic dichotomy between, say, the understatedness of Hawkeye vs. the larger-than-life image of Tony Stark. My complaint about Age of Ultron (even though I liked the movie a lot) was that they had many themes that they could have developed and didn’t.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s a general rule of thumb: if a character has no other characters to care deeply about him, then his death won’t be all that effective in jerking at the audience’s heartstrings. Hawkeye as a super-minor character wasn’t a believable choice for “doomed Avenger,” since his death would essentially be a cop-out (i.e., killing the only character who didn’t “matter”). But give him an insta-family, and, voila!, he becomes perfect martyr material. Except, you know, that he didn’t. :p

      • Now I get what you’re saying here (haven’t seen this movie); your annoyance with this storyline is clearer now. I hate the copout of “a character will die!” and it turns out its one of the minor ones you don’t care about anyway. Disregard what I said further down. Whedon is usually better than this.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          In all fairness, I think Whedon *was* trying to do something better than the average–and I respect him for it. It just, as it turned out, didn’t work.

        • Joe Long says

          Like the red shirted guys in Star Trek!

          Ron Moore fixed this in Battlestar Galactica, being ready to kill anyone on the show. Edward James Olmos’ character, Admiral Adama, had a model sailing ship that he’d spend time working on to relax. It was on loan from a museum. Moore reported on his podcast that when Starbuck was killed off Olmos angrily smashed the model ship on the set (it was insured). Olmos should have remembered that even in the original show in 1980, Starbuck returned.

  2. Marissa john says

    I’m glad you wrote about this because I felt the same. It ruined the credibility for me. (That and that STUPID rapid-cam for fight scenes. The speed up the action to imply that complete chaos is happening on the screen.)

    I felt the secret family unnecessary to the plot. It did nothing to further the story except to highlight that OK, a minut Avenger has a family when major members make such a sacrifice.

    Marissa

    • Marissa john says

      I hate spell checker. I meant minor avenger.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The secret family *was* a nice element to bring into the overall chaos of the Marvel universe, but it was horribly set up. It needed to be something that was planned and foreshadowed right from the start of Hawkeye’s character. As it was, he and Widow were set up as couple from the start – which was even subtly reinforced by the arrow necklace she wore in Winter Soldier. So *that* turned out to be false foreshadowing too (albeit accidentally).

      • Actually, it WAS setup. But it was terrible (and therefore not really a setup). I particularly remember a line when Hawkeye was getting repaired (after the opening battle) in which he said something to the effect of, “I don’t have a girlfriend…”. Lame 🙁

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          The problem was it should rightfully have been set up in the first Avengers. Had that happened, the whole thing might have worked beautifully. Hindsight.

          • Right? Mhhmm.

          • Joe Long says

            Retcon.

            When the story arc is released in pieces, in a TV show or a set of books or movies, frequently the writers come up with a new, great story line – but it conflicts with what they’ve already released to the audience. If they are convinced the new story is good enough, they go ahead and pretend the earlier story didn’t exist and/or the audience won’t remember. Hence, retroactive continuity. (Before you, I had Ron Moore’s weekly podcast to educate me. Unfortunately, it’s no longer available on SyFy’s website)

      • Funny thing, I never saw Hawkeye and Widow being set up as a couple. Whedon definitely knew he was doing something with the Bruce/Natasha relationship from the beginning of The Avengers: Natasha comes to fetch Dr. Banner in the first place, and she’s the one who tries to prevent his raging transformation.

        Of course, I suppose it’s all a matter of how the individual viewer interprets it. Everyone called the love story in The Hobbit films a “love triangle,” while I never took Legolas and Tauriel’s relationship as anything but a brotherly-sisterly friendship.

        One thing I would definitely agree on: Marvel hasn’t really known what to do with Hawkeye until now, and it shows. Even though I loved seeing his family.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          The one aspect of all this that I definitely didn’t have a problem with was Widow/Banner – and that was largely because, even though the set-up (such as it was) for her and Hawkeye was obliterated, at least we had that very obvious connection between her and Banner in the earlier movie. Their relationship was unexpected, but the previously laid foundation made it work.

  3. JSchuler says

    Interesting, as I never for a second thought Hawkeye was doomed, and yet always saw Mr. Reaper hovering over Quicksilver’s shoulders, to the point where I eye-rolled when he said “You didn’t see that coming” as his last words.

    The greater sin was how meaningless the scene was. He died simply because the script called for it, not because the plot built to it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally agree. And that’s ultimately the whole fault here: if the death or the twist had been in any way meaningful, audiences wouldn’t have had a problem with it.

  4. There’s also a chance that this whole thing was a set-up for future movies. I am not sure if Joss Weadon will go that rute, and probably Scarlet Johanson won’t allow it, but in one comic book

  5. I actually never thought, during the movie, that he was going to die. Now that you mention it, I guess that if it actually foreshadowed his death, then it failed to pay off (could you explain to me briefly why it was foreshadowing? Sorry, quite new here, haha). I agree that the family scene was a bit disorganized indeed. Great post!

  6. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

    In a satire, that might have worked. But in a straight-up drama, it doesn’t – as evidenced by the many, many people who were irritated by essentially having had a joke played on them.

  7. I haven’t seen this movie (I plan to binge watch the whole series eventuallly), but the “playing with structure” part sounds like something that *could* work.

    From the description, I was thinking of the cliche of the minor “I’m looking forward to retirement” / “I’m getting out of a life of crime” characters biting the dust when the action hits. I always thought it would be funny if they actually survived to do those things. None of my stories have involved those types of characters so far, but for the future I’ll consider if a reader would feel duped.

    I thought “Person of Interest” did the switcheroo well — they told you “a hero will fall,” and the show promos let you think it was going to be Detective Fusco. But while he does gets bloodied and bruised (per the promos) he survives, yet Detective Joss is the one who dies. Ironically she’s slain just when it looks like everyone will live another day.

    She was perfectly set up to fall, and it would have implausible if she escaped all repercussions of her heroic rampage. I was sad her character was departing, but as a storyteller I thought she got a glorious swan song. I’ll have to watch Age of Ultron and compare / contrast how the switcheroo is handled.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally agree with on busting cliches regarding certain types of characters. The problem here is that the cliche Whedon was trying to bust was a storytelling cliche (not a character cliche), and he didn’t bust it so much as *commit* it and then make fun of it.

    • Joe Long says

      “The Unit” did this, advertising in the promos that someone may die. The episode had the guys on a stressful mission in Beirut, with one member separated, the rest trying to retrieve him while trying to evade the local militia. Forty minutes in his buddies find him and it appears they’ve made their escape, when suddenly a different unit member is taken down by a sniper. Not the character in most peril during the episode, gone in an instant at the end. For the military, I imagine that this is always a possible scenario. It was very emotional for me.

  8. I couldn’t agree more with your comments. We writers need to be honest with our readers. After reading your annotations of Jane Eyre, where your so artfully described each section where Eyre foreshadowed then brought that plot point to bear, I could see the process.

    Obviously the people who write Marvel Comics need to read your book on Jane Eyre!

  9. While I respect your opinion, I think the whole reason for Hawkeye’s family is because they are part of the Avengers comics. The revelation could be seen as a plot device. While most people saw Hawkeye and Natasha as a romantic duo, I always felt she had more of a connection with Captain America. I can now look back at the first film and see the hints of a deeper connection with Banner. Whedon has a vast canon of reference material from which to work and the Marvel movies are planned through 2019. Each movie builds on the former and sets up the next. While on the surface it seems Whedon duped us in Age of Ultron, in the long run (of the Marvel Universe) it might just be completely reasonable.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In fairness, Natasha has been set up with just about every Avenger there is. :p So, yes, there is that. But canon or no canon, the foreshadowing in any series has to be organic within itself. Most people aren’t going to know about Hawkeye’s family from the comics–just as our own readers can have no idea of the backstory (or whatever) that we’ve created for our characters apart from how we decide to handle those revelations in the book itself.

  10. I actually kept as far away from Age Of Ultron hints and teasers until after I watched it (which took a lot of self-control) so I was in the theater with a clean slate. So, for me Quicksilver’s death almost hurt me worse than if it had been Hawkeye – the reason being I saw him as my OWN brother in the scenes where he was talking to his sister. He’s still stuck in my head, but most of all he’s reflected in my brother. I also thought that that last act wasn’t false advertising, but another plot twist. It completed the development of Quicksilvers character and the relationship between him and Hawkeye, which was the most important for me. (This is the girl who hates Hunger Games because of Katniss’s character, if it isn’t a character development-full story I balk to read it or watch it.)
    So I guess that raises a question. Which is more important,a complete character development or proper plot? My charcters are most important to me, and getting them to develop properly is my top priority, I’m still new to this whole plot and plot-twist thing (and kinda bad at it sometimes…) so I don’t know, maybe the unfulfilled forshadowed moment is a bigger deal than I found it to be.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Objectively, I think the character development of Quicksilver was pretty thin–which is a shame (although, apart from this issue, an excusable one, given the overall busy-ness of the movie), since his relationship with his sister was one of the most interesting things in the movie. However, I will say that I think what you experienced was exactly what Whedon was trying for. Undoubtedly, you’re not the only one who was lucky enough to tap into that. But if the story had been set-up a little better, it might have been able to develop Quicksilver more fully, in a way that would largely have fixed the plot problem too.

      • I do agree on that point. It probably would’ve been better to split the movie into two half movies each as long as a regular one, the bigness of the story would’ve worked pretty good in that format.

  11. robert easterbrook says

    What? Not even a rat trap? ;p

  12. But in mysteries, I think fooling the reader is kinda the whole point, at least sometimes! In my unpublished (yet) novel A Murder Foretold, my red herring slaps the main character in the face and upends the entire reader expectation.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally! But the clues always have to be in place. The more skillful the clues, the better the story.

  13. Robert Richards says

    Hawkeye is the only Avenger who could have had a secret family, as we know enough about the other members to know that they could not. Yes, it seemed apparent that his familial substory was serving to foreshadow his death. When his death did not occur, it was not an instance of the audience being “duped.” Hawkeye’s survival was perhaps a red herring, but the death of a different character did justify the purpose of the director’s instilling that particular bit of dread in the audience. It supported a theme: Being a superhero may be selfless, but causing loved ones to grieve you is selfish. Had Whedon chosen to foreshadow the death of another, more important Avenger, he would have risked causing the audience to be too consumed with anxiety regarding their beloved Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Black Widow (and neither of The Twins could have served this function because no one cared enough about them yet). It may not have been the best scripting strategy, but if he had just stuck to the traditional blueprint, then everyone could have said, “I saw that coming a mile away.” It’s sometimes satisfying for viewers when they predict a particular twist in a film, but sometimes that satisfaction turns to disappointment when it’s too easy. It reminds me of how Rocky Balboa must have felt when, in Rocky III, Mickey reveals to him that his opponents were “handpicked.”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      All of what you say is true. But I think it’s a matter of weights and measures: what did the story gain and lose in pulling this off? Even if I had ended up liking the twist, I still think the movie lost more in other opportunities it wasn’t able to take advantage: in the theme, in the resonance of both Hawkeye’s family and Quicksilver’s death (which could have been slanted more effectively if the twist hadn’t been so important), and in important plot moments (Thor’s vision, which was by far the more important to the plot, and which got cut almost completely).

  14. Takeyla B says

    I totally agree! I, in fact said nearly the exact same thing you said when explaining to someone why this movie annoyed me- and I’m a huge fan girl myself.
    The whole time I was thinking Hawkeye is going to die- oh no- then when quicksilver died I was thrown and wondered why go through the motions of foreshadowing that he (Hawkeye) has something major to lose/something major at stake, then kill someone who seemingly has nothing (aside from his sister) to lose because he was a bad guy now fighting for the good side. I thought it was just for “ah ha-pow I got you!” factor. I get plot twists but usually you can spot clues when you go back and read or watch. I got nothing with this one though.

    Btw: I LOVE your blog. It’s super insightful for someone like me who doesn’t have a writing network to take advantage of. Keep up the great work!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yep, pretty much – although be interested to see how I react on re-watches.

  15. I didn’t see many promos – so I went in watching with a clean slate too, i.e. in that I wasn’t necessarily expecting one of the Avengers to die. I did think it was possible that Hawkeye would die (the touching farewells with his family) & was pleased when he didn’t. I thought that Quicksilver’s death was ironic – and touching because of his relationship with his sister – but I didn’t feel cheated. (While I think structure is important, I wonder if we can become too tied up in it – until it becomes the law of the Medes and Persians. )

    Actually, the what the… moment for me was that Hawkeye took the Avengers to his family hideout. Okay the family scenes were touching & gave time for the team to regroup (or splinter as the case may be). But, even if they were off the grid, who exposes their family to such danger. How could Hawkeye be sure that they weren’t tracked. I expected that at any moment Ultron or his forces would come barreling in, and the innocents would be slaughtered – giving Hawkeye the motivation to do even more heroic things and I was grinding my teeth. Oh, and the highway scene – here’s a truck barreling along a busy highway, so of course you attack then when civilian casualties are the entirely foreseeable outcome. So while I was pleasantly surprised at the concern of getting the civilians off the chunk of rock (to add dramatic tension), I felt it was rather ironic given the usual love of cars flying in the air, buildings being ripped open scenes of this genre. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean people aren’t dying – probably pretty horribly.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I actually wouldn’t call this a *structure* issue so much. I tend to think of structure as the actual structural moments (plot points, pinch points, etc.) and their timing. It’s more about foreshadowing and framing.

  16. Didn’t get that mad about it, but I basically felt the same way. To play the Devil’s advocate, people would be ticked if a Marvel superhero was killed off for good, even if it was the most minor one (although the false build up complaint is still legitimate). To me, Quicksilver’s death by itself seemed very contrived and unnecessary. It reminded me of a certain death near the climax of Serenity…except I at least cared for that guy.

    • I didn’t think for a minute that Hawkeye would die. I was more concerned his home would be attacked.

      Regarding Serenity: upon my initial viewing, the death toward the end (and given two other important characters had aready been killed) made me think any or all of the principal characters could die. Very effective. Spock’s death in Wrath of Khan (just to throw in yet another sci-fi world) is still one of the most powerful film deaths for me, but I’ve never worried for characters more than at the end of Serenity.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        Yeah, I have to admit that certain character’s death in Serenity irritated me, just a little. In most movies, it would have been fine. But as a culmination of the TV show, it felt a little like a cheap shot. Not saying it was necessarily bad storytelling; just that it wasn’t what I would have picked for the story, advantages aside.

  17. I was SO disappointed. The whole Hawkeye family stuff was so clumsy, rough, made up with nothing. Not to mention Black Widow and… Bruce Banner! What happened to our two fascinating professional killers and their magical chemistry? I came out from theatre wondering if Whedon was drunk or what when he wrote this… thing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I actually thought Widow and Banner worked, in and of themselves. But I agree: I was a little disappointed that what seemed to have been very clearly set up in the previous movies was totally undermined here.

  18. summoner2100 says

    I never saw Hawkeye, or any of the Avengers, being “at risk” of dying. For the main reason that ruins most movies, and makes the anti climatic in my eyes–the cast still have movie contracts to go.

    That will be the interesting thing when it gets to Avengers Infinity War because most of the main cast, Downey, Evans, etc have contracts expiring.

    Hawkeye (and Black Widow for a lesser extent) have always been the “human grounding” inside the Avengers, as they are more spies. Whereas, everyone else has something special about them, Tony is his intellect which isn’t “super power” but considering what he does\has done with it, it may as well be.
    The death of Quicksilver leads to the character arc for Scarlett Witch (a better character to me anyway).
    Not arguing, not disagreeing, I just liked it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally legitimate thoughts. And, ultimately, a viewer *liking* something totally trumps whether or not it’s technically sound. Some of my favorite stories are very technically flawed, but they connected with me deeply enough for them to still totally work for me.

  19. M.L. Bull says

    Yeah, I hate fake-outs too, unless a character has a dream. I just don’t overuse that method. This is a great post here. When writing, I also try to make sure I close up all possible loopholes too. Readers can catch things, and I want to make sure there are no mistakes.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s amazing sometimes how our readers catch things that we totally miss! Always pays to be extra vigilante.

  20. Hi KM. Big Marvel fan here as well as a fan of your blog. I actually liked Age of Ultron a lot, but I thought there were some clear problems with the writing. Its script was awkward and sloppy in ways that the first Avengers movie wasn’t, which is ironic since Joss Whedon was very hard on his previous work and had vowed to do better this time around.

    I think part of the problem is that Joss didn’t have everything figured out about Hawkeye before. He clearly changed his original plans (or at least what little he had revealed about them) by giving Clint a secret family and making him the most grounded and level-headed Avenger.

    Being a big time geek, I actually researched Whedon’s interviews as well as old Marvel comics for any kind of through line that might exist in the cinematic Hawkeye, who was very nearly a cypher in the first movie. I remember Whedon describing his version of the character as a “sniper,” someone who had spent a long time perfecting his deadly craft in solitude. The idea was that by doing so, he had isolated himself and become an incredibly lonely person. While this wasn’t explicitly stated, it also explains why he and Natasha would bond with each other as two people with no one else in the world.

    …that is not at all what we got in AoU, where Clint was a family man, a good humored jokester, the heart of the team, and probably the most well-adjusted Avenger of them all.

    I also think this was a case of an author falling in love with certain ideas and pursuing an agenda above story consistency. Whedon has openly stated that he didn’t go for a Clint/Natasha romance because he wanted to show that men and women can be platonic friends.

    That’s a good intention, but he had to have known that people would assume romantic feelings between the two of them due to their history in the comics. Even viewers who knew nothing about the comics had assumed that, due to the part in the first movie where Loki taunted Natasha about whether she loved Clint. Loki had complete control over Clint, and that scene was even constructed around the idea that Clint had revealed all of Natasha’s most personal secrets to the villain. Natasha of course refuted the idea of romance with the famous “Love is for children” line, but she’s been portrayed as such an emotionally damaged and repressed person that people could very understandably perceive that as a lie and a defense mechanism.

    Then there’s the arrow necklace that Natasha wore in The Winter Soldier. From what I’ve read, this was Scarlett Johansson’s idea, showing a disconnect between Whedon and everyone else involved.

    And of course Whedon dismissed all of Natasha’s previous relationships in the movies so that he could push the new Bruce/Natasha pairing of his. I actually have big problems with that from a writing perspective, and not because I strongly favored another couple (I could’ve done without any romantic subplot in AoU at all).

    To me, Bruce/Natasha was completely forced and unprecedented. The two of them shared several key scenes in the first movie, but I don’t think any interaction between a male and a female should be construed as set up for a romantic relationship. Natasha was absolutely terrified of Banner; he was a loose cannon with power beyond anything she could hope to deal with using her training, and his near blanket distrust of others also made him resistant to her charms. Banner viewed her with suspicion. She stood for the government that had been hunting him for years, and she was the focus of his anger during the team argument scene. Right before he Hulked out and tried to kill her.

    Their shared screen time was significant but the amount of normal human interaction (much less anything approaching friendship or bonding) was almost nonexistent.

    Whedon actually admitted that the romance wasn’t planned beforehand. In an interview he admitted that he can’t remember when he had first come up with the idea, but said that it really came together for him after he thought up the “lullaby” scene in AoU. Scarlett Johansson has also said as much. After reading the AoU script, she said she was so perplexed by it that she called Whedon up and asked him if he was just pairing off her character for “convenience.”

    The haphazardness of it all probably motivated Whedon to write in that scene where Steve Rogers, the previous target of Natasha’s flirtations, spoke up to tell Banner (and by extension the audience) that it was totally for real this time. I felt that the supposed “romance” was a lot of telling rather showing. Banner himself didn’t reciprocate Natasha’s very open advances, wavering between cluelessness and refusal.

    The result, IMO, is a very one-sided non-relationship that suddenly made Natasha seem desperate to find a man. Banner doesn’t want to be with her for rather valid reasons, but Natasha threw herself at him anyway because he was the only other “monster” in reach. And I get what Whedon was doing there, which was exploring her deep emotional wounds and self-loathing. However, I also felt that this was a very negative portrayal if Natasha’s flaws, without the positive development to balance it out.

    As someone who admired the Black Widow’s growth in the previous movies, I can’t really say that she accomplished all that much this time around. In the first Avengers film she saved Clint and closed the portal. In The Winter Soldier, she learned the value of honesty and basically made the big sacrifice play by exposing her dark secrets along with all of Hydra’s. In AoU, she pines over Bruce Banner for very questionable and unhealthy reasons, falling into the sort of romantic trap that Whedon himself would likely take issue with in other movies.

    Whedon didn’t even mention Natasha’s difficult situation at the end of AoU, sweeping it under the rug even further than her relationship with Steve or the fact that Hydra was supposed to be a world-shaking big deal. It’s almost as if he was writing AoU without much regard for the other Marvel movies, which falls in line with his statements that he had wanted to make an Ultron movie even before he had written the first film.

    The forced nature of it all, the unsubtle advances on Natasha’s part, and the lack of anything to do for the lone female Avenger (besides falling into an unrequited romance) seemed reminiscent of fanfiction rather than a professional work by a master of the genre. In the Blu-Ray commentary for TWS, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely stated that they had considered an open romance between Cap and Widow, but had downplayed it to subtext and flirting because they wanted to focus on the main story without doing a “disservice to the characters.” I wish Whedon had shown as much restraint in AoU.

    Sorry this has turned into a long essay, but I think all of these things bear talking about by people interested in the craft of writing. I loved both of Whedon’s Avengers films and still consider myself a fan of his work. I just think that his latest film is a fascinating case study for other writers, professional or aspiring. It’s an example of how even the best of us can falter while attempting to do better than before. Of improvised ideas throwing the audience into a swerve. Of the pitfalls of a shared universe with numerous creators all pulling in different directions. Of a masterful writer who nonetheless fails to “murder his darlings” and therefore sags down his story by pursuing certain pet ideas.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally excellent thoughts – all of them. I definitely didn’t loathe the Widow/Banner union (although it certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice), but you raise some really good thoughts that I hadn’t considered previously. And, ultimately, I think you hit the nail on the nose with what you said about the Hawkeye plotline coming out of nowhere. Had it been set up *in any measure* previously, it wouldn’t have been nearly the problem it is in this story.

  21. I was surprised by your criticism of the fake foreshadowing. As a new writer, I wonder if I’ve duped my audience un-necessarily in my novel. I lead the audience to believe that main character might have died in car crash but he didn’t. It was someone else and that wraps up a side plot.
    I think there should be surprise but how can you create it without breaking trust with the audience?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The best way to allow for surprising twists *without* alienating readers is to keep them in the loop: allow them to know what the protagonist knows. If the protagonist is fooled as well, then the reader will never feel cheated.

  22. Can´t say it was a great movie (first one was better), I´m not a Marvel fan anyway, I never was, but what you say here is totally right! Worthy of attention. Thanks!
    M.

  23. I saw Age of Ultron and I liked it, but Joss Whedon didn’t direct it. Someone else did, I think. If he did, he would’ve had Hawkeye killed off I’ll bet. I’m waiting for Infinity Wars and I’m sure it’s gonna be awesome. I just hope that Cap isn’t killed off. Joss tried that with Tony, but he didn’t really die, though the only way to kill him is have him be out of range. Cap doesn’t have a suit like Tony or super-strength and he’s just a human with advanced strength and stamina but, still. He’s just a human which means that Thanos could easily kill him. Like, if Cap was taken into outer space and was on the moon and thrown all the way to Earth, he’d be toast.
    As you could probably tell by this post I am also a Marvel fan, and I don’t think it would be a good idea to kill off someone like Cap, since he is the leader after all and without him, the Avengers wouldn’t have a leader unless Thor or Tony stepped up to the plate.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yay for Marvel fans! 🙂 But Joss Whedon did direct Age of Ultron; it’s his last Marvel film. The Russo brothers (who directed the last two Captain America films) will be doing the Infinity Wars movies, which, frankly, makes me feel incredibly relieved.

Trackbacks

  1. […] So one of the big reveals about a third of the way into this movie is that heretofore relatively minor character Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, has a secret family, consisting of one wife and two and a half kiddies. Aside from the fact that this was all rather clumsily set up, in my opinion, the whole thing immediately started screaming one carefully constructed, single, solitary …read more […]

  2. […] in time, don’t worry K.M. Weiland has included a transcript of the video on her article Why Authors Can’t Afford to Dupe Their Readers (or Why Hawkeye Ruined Age of Ultron). The latter half of that title is a little unfair but that is a separate […]

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