A few days ago I watched the new Avengers movie (I know this sounds a lot like my last post, but I’ve been on a bit of a movie tear recently, so bear with me), and I loved it. Now, this is definitely partially because I’m a super hero nerd and partially because these Marvel movies continue to have a wonderful amount of humor in them. But it’s also because this movie felt a little more interesting that its predecessor. It taught me that I could get choked up over an inanimate object (did anyone else get a little teary when they thought Jarvis had died?) and also made us say goodbye to some of the staple Avengers characters we’ve come to know and love while introducing new ones, keeping the series fresh. Most interestingly, though, the film talked about monsters.
First off, the movie made the point that we all have our own personal monsters. This point is made most obviously when it comes to Bruce Banner, who transforms into the Hulk and rampages through a heavily populated city at one point in the movie. Banner isn’t the only person who makes mention of his inner demons, however. Black Widow, while consoling him after his rampage, tells him about the vasectomy at the end of her brutal training, and then asks him if he still thinks he’s the only monster on The Avengers. Tony Stark also has a heart to heart with Banner in which he calls the two of them monsters of a different sort, “mad scientists” who might be just as likely to destroy the world as they are to save it. The rest of the team also have their own demons to deal with, whether because they allowed themselves to be experimented on in a quest for revenge, are unable to form real relationships with normal people, or put their family at risk by being part of The Avengers. The movie’s message about monsters is clear: we all have one. Whether it's the product of our rage, our fear, or our desires, we all have something inside of us that we aren’t proud of or would change if we could.
However, the movie also teaches that our monsters don’t need to be the end of us. It's the mad scientist part of their identities that allows Banner and Stark to bring Vision to life, thus giving The Avengers the means to win the war against Ultron. It’s Black Widow and Captain America's inability to have families of their own that allows them to adopt the Avengers as a surrogate family and devote their lives to the team in a way the other team members can't match. And it’s Banner’s inner monster that enables him to save countless lives as part of the avengers, including Black Widow's. In all of these moments it’s the very things the characters have reason to fear about themselves that allow them to accomplish something good. We are all afraid of our monsters, and rightly so. But sometimes those monsters make us stronger.
This discussion of monsters is part of what made Avengers: Age of Ultron so interesting: it embraces ideological complexity in a way its predecessor didn’t. It showed us that sometimes bad guys are less evil than they are scared and hurt, made us recognize that the heroes of our world don’t always do good, and taught us that sometimes the people we have the most reason to fear are ourselves. But it also showed us that what we fear in ourselves is a certain kind of wild strength, a strength that can be tamed and used for good, a strength that can make us extraordinary.
With excitement and optimism,