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A misstep I see dragging Avengers: Age of Ultron down in terms of storytelling, characterization, and chances to build emotional rapport between the characters and the audience was how Wanda assaulted the Avengers’ minds.

First change: Have them all get hit at the same time. If it’s a trap for the Avengers, a chance to deploy HYDRA’s secret weapon, have Wanda incapacitate them all at once. According to the plot, Wanda is hugely powerful, she should have been able to hit more than one Avenger in that opening battle, but the audience never gets a clear demonstration.

Second change: Have everyone start off the same way: they’re in Wanda’s position, huddling with a young Pietro, waiting for the bomb to go off. Then it morphs into each teammate’s fear, playing on the same theme as her fears. Make it explicit that she is in their brain. Find the aspect of their fears that correlate to her fears.

Show her trying to only target Tony, but as she reacts to seeing her fear in his mind she starts to lose control and pulls more and more of the Avengers in until she accidentally grabs Pietro. Which has the bonus of giving him independent characterization. This section of film needs to build a dramatic crescendo, to start soft with Tony and end loud with Thor, to explain Thor running off to get more info about Vision.

Tony’s starts quite with the family meal, soft chater about their day, with a quiet throb in the background. Slowly the sound of engines becomes harder to ignore, until there’s the sudden crash of the shelling. Bomb hits, screen goes black, but we can still hear the building fall, the crunch of rubble. The lights come back up and we can see Pietro crying, but we can’t hear him, simulating disorientation. The camera shows slightly injured hands, raw knuckles, grab wounds/ splinters. Pan camera back to young Pietro soundlessly screaming. Then audio comes in as they get under the tub, crying and coughing (Referencing the visual/ audio makeup of Tony’s kidnapping in Iron Man). The throbbing is back. Pietro is obviously terrified, but trying to console the camera (Wanda) in their native language, no translation. Start blending the audio with Yinsen murmuring to himself as he works on Tony’s chest. The throbbing starts stuttering, the camera shows the Stark bomb from Afghanistan, and the audio turns into a heartbeat.

*Baboom Baboom* *Gasp* And he’s back in Afghanistan on the operating table. “You need to keep breathing Mr. Stark.” Because the one thing that ties all versions of Tony Stark together is their health, specifically that they can’t rely on their heart to keep beating. Suddenly it’s quiet and he’s alone in the cave, no kidnappers, no friend, no props, just him and the table. He’s running through the cave, lugging the car battery, finding his teammates dead one by one “No no no no, this isn’t right, it didn’t happen like this!” (oldie but goodie). Have Cap’s voice echoing “Take away the suit and what are you?” showing that Tony’s afraid this is the answer. Have the last one he finds be Rhodey, barely alive, “Watch out, there’s more of them,” referencing the infinity gems, a yellow glow is emanating from Rhodey’s chestplate, the Mind Gem trying to talk to Tony, but he’s too upset to hear. He exits the cave, stops dead and looks heartbroken, he says “Pepper?” We see an Extremis going critical flash. And then he’s back in the castle looking at the Stick of Doom.

We start to see red wafting off of both Wanda and Tony, the floor of the room entirely covered with a roiling red mist, then we widen the view to see Natasha coming around the corner in Wanda’s peripheral vision. As soon as Natasha’s head clears the corner, the frame goes into slo-mo, we see Wanda’s eyes widen, we see Natasha’s gun start to lift. The camera frame remains static, but focus shifts from Wanda’s eyes to the tip of the gun barrel raising. Wanda throws out her hand in a ‘stop!’ motion with red tendrils extending towards Natasha’s third eye (Mind Gem). Time snaps back to normal with child Pietro comforting Natasha in their apartment. Natasha knows their language well enough that the audience hears it in English, which emphasizes the subjective nature of the intrusion.

In Agent Carter we see Red Room training, which links the basics of survival with killing for it. “We have plenty of food and water, we can last for days in here, Mom and Dad would want you to eat,” child Pietro holds out a piece of bread. Adult Natasha flickers into child Natasha and Pietro flickers into a little girl, their surroundings turn into a ballet studio. In voiceover, Natasha is speaking in Russian, the audience gets subs, “I am one of 28 young ballerinas with the Bolshoi…” then the gun training that we see in AoU except the target is Thanos, never being hurt by the bullets, “And the warmth of my parents makes up for…”

Adult woman: “Kill her” little Natasha snaps little girl’s neck, everything flickers, and it’s adult Natasha breaking child Pietro’s neck in the bombed out apartment. Natasha has the same look of heartbreak that Tony had. She sets child Pietro’s body down very gently, in Russian “I’m so sorry [endearment for young child]” while we hear Wanda scream in the background.

Back in the real world, we see Wanda lose control of her powers, a giant sphere of red twists out of her, getting everyone in the compound, the surrounding hills, right up to a few meters away from the Iron Legion (which is at the edge of the city, not the city center).

We see time stop within the red mist, signifying that all the following visions are taking place within a few seconds of each other. The first one the camera focuses on is Bruce. We find the Hulk mid punch in the forest, we zoom in through his pupil and we see a small, curly haired child that is even younger than the twins in their flashback. He’s sitting in the bombed out apartment, next to Pietro’s corpse. We see the bomb shift as we hear the rubble clatter and hear distant voices talking. Camera pans back to Bruce and we see an alive child Pietro rubbing his back and talking encouragingly in his native tongue, no subs. The supplies we saw in Natasha’s vision are a couple inches shorter and we hear flies buzzing. The sound of the backhoe turn into the sound of Bruce’s father’s footsteps. His surroundings turn into the underside of a dining room table. The footsteps stumble and a toy skitters, “I thought I told you to have that boy clean this up!” The camera never leaves the child, who shrinks in on himself the longer the argument goes. His mother’s voice is low and conciliatory, his father’s gets progressively louder and aggressive until we hear a slap. We briefly flash to child Bruce in a suit beside an open grave as the casket is being lowered, holding flowers. The child rushes out from under the table, changing into the Hulk mid step, and starts throttling his father. His father changes into his mother, he drops the body, and then it’s adult Bruce staring, heartbroken, at her corpse. We flash over to her covered grave, he places the flowers into the vase, they turn into the infinity gauntlet, complete with gems, the Mind Gem glowing extra strong.

Instead of letting Clint off the hook because he was mind raped in the previous film, have him recognize immediately that he’s being violated. He’s staring at child Pietro and hyperventilating, “This isn’t real, my brother is Barney, I’ve been with SHIELD for XX number of years,...” Making it obvious that he is reciting facts to try to remind himself who he is. We see the supply pile is even lower and Pietro is talking to someone a foot to Clint’s left. At first it looks like an empty space, but then we see a child flicker in, dark hair, big eyes, our first view of child Wanda. Clint can understand when he hears Wanda ask “How long has it been, brother?” And Pietro’s reply “We should wait another hour until dinner.”

Clint covers his ears and starts meditating, thinking of who would not be in this situation but would help him, “Just like Budapest all over again” floats across his mind in Natasha’s voice. And then they’re in New York with Chitari flying overhead, in the same positions they were in for the Battle of New York, her with her guns, him with his bow and arrows, except they’re in AoU clothing and makeup. She lowers her guns, turns to him and asks “Do you think I’m worth saving?”


He releases the arrow aimed at her head, and she does nothing to prevent it. Sinister laughter filters in and a shadow with Loki’s horns covers Clint and splashes onto the wall behind him. Camera pauses on his face while looking down at Natasha, ending in the same emotional mode as the previous three.

Immediate transition to looking at Steve’s closed eyes. They jerk open and he sits up and looks around. The supplies are even lower, moldy food splatters the walls, nearby food is separated into still edible and questionable, Pietro has to wave flies away from his face. The rescue efforts sound closer, but like they’re coming through water.

Steve gags and pulls a handkerchief over his mouth. He looks into the hole in the floor, and the scene changes to him peering through a doorway. A soldier says “House is clear! Nothing is salvageable, it’s been too long” in French with English subs. Camera moves to see what Steve is looking at, which is a dead family at the dining table in silhouette. He covers his mouth and walks through to the bedrooms where he finds an old woman, dead in bed.

Lighting/ palette change: transitions from the dark, dirty, foreboding, and bombed out French house, increasing light, saturation and the impression of cleanliness to Peggy’s nursing home room. Next to her, holding her hand is, at first glance, Tony, but then his face blurs. We know he has dark hair, we know he has facial hair, but not much else. Then the man next to Peggy’s bed asks “Did you ever get that fondue?” sounding like a mix of Tony and Howard’s voices. Steve looks angry and confused, demanding “What are you doing here?” Peggy reaches her other hand towards the man, asks Steve, “Who are you?” Then turns towards the man “He won't let me sleep.” Steve turns and leaves the room, obviously upset.

He walks through the door onto the train, just in time to see Bucky fall. He dives out the side after Bucky, always just a little too far away to grab a hand. With no transition, Steve is standing in Thanos’ throne room. Thanos is backlit on his throne, Natasha, dressed as Gamora, is at his feet. The Avengers, including another Natasha, are strewn about the stairs leading up to the throne. Instead of being in their modern clothing, they’re dressed as the Howling Commandos. Tony as Bucky, Natasha as Dum Dum, etc. The only one still breathing is Tony, who is being strangled by the Winter Soldier. A tired, run down Winter Soldier looks at Steve with a thousand yard stare and asks “Are we at the end of the line yet?”

The daughter of Thanos yells “You need to wake up!” from her seat at Thanos’ feet.

A hand comes into view, grips Steve’s upper arm and pulls him back. It’s Sam, dressed as Col. Phillips. “This won’t save any of them. Come on, I know a guy.”

Steve turns around to follow Sam and we see a wall of propaganda posters. Each one is different: different US military actions, different military branches, all of them claiming Captain America wants you to fight for your country. Proud and center is McCarthy era “Don’t let me have died for nothing: Better dead than Red” with an ‘SR’ signed at the bottom. Steve’s vision ends with him looking gut punched while glaring at the McCarthy poster, reaching out towards his signature, then curling a fist, while the Winter Soldier’s theme plays.

So I personally have trouble seeing what happens in Thor’s mind invasion. The camera needed to be steady and the strobe needed to happen less frequently. To emphasize that Thor is an alien, the Mind Gem can clearly communicate with him. While walking through the party, Thor focuses on a character that looks like Paul Bettany in Asgardian court clothes. There’s an area of calm around him and he’s spotlit. Every time Thor moves towards him, he has to move around a knot of people, and Bettany is in another place, seemingly without moving. This continues until he is up by the throne. Here we hear Heimdall proclaiming in Odin’s name, unintelligible to the audience. Thor’s reaction is like everything being said is unexpected and upsetting. Camera turns and Bettany is beside Thor, “Think Asgardian, who benefits from this?” We hear Loki’s laughter again and see his shadow behind Heimdall. “The witch has given us an opportunity” Bettany makes eye contact and his third eye flashes yellow. “There are many valuable lessons to be learned from the mortals. Pretending to be one of them is avoiding your responsibilities. You can have your love and your duty, but you will always be of Asgard. Consider, are they your pets or your allies?” Then Bettany reaches into Thor’s chest and Thor wakes up. He catches his hammer and rests a hand over the spot Bettany reached in. Everyone around him is still paused.

This is a chance to give Pietro characterization. He gets so little in AoU beyond ‘The Twin’ and ‘Speedster’. This is a chance to show why Pietro is Wanda’s lodestone, why the Nazis aren’t splitting them up to maximize their impact on the world. Pietro helps Wanda regain control by doing what we’ve seen child Pietro do all along: comfort his sister.

At some later point in the film Wanda gets yelled at by Baron Strucker for deviating from the plan (“You hit where I tell you and when I tell you!”). And she needs to apologize to the Avengers for the violation before they trust her to have their backs in a fight.

I’d like to talk about how the movie plays ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with the ideology and how that influenced my ideas, but I feel like this is already a really long post, so hit me up if you want to talk about it with a really salty bastard.


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