Dissecting Fight Scenes (Black Widow vs. Hawkeye)

A few days ago on the blog, I started my series about fight scenes, and today I continue that with…

Black Widow vs. Hawkeye in Marvel’s The Avengers

(Fight starts at 2:02)

OK, I admit I might have picked this fight because I love how much ass Black Widow kicks. I love her.

But really let’s talk about the fight choreography in this because Black Widow actually fights like a girl. And I mean that in a good way. Most women can’t compete with men when it comes to brute strength, which is why most fighting styles that work for women (like Brazilian jiu jitsu, etc) are all about someone physically weaker defeating someone stronger. BW doesn’t just square up to Hawkeye and punch him. She tries a sneak attack, she uses the environment and the available weapons to attack him. She’s flexible physically and mentally. And when he’s got her in a lock and is about to stab her she bites him. Which is how real, I’m fighting for my life combat works: no such thing as “cheating”. (I’m looking at you Will Turner…)

Now let’s talk about the character stuff going on. Hawkeye and BW are partners. They have history and, at this moment, he’s been brainwashed and he’s working for the bad guys. So Black Widow is trying to incapacitate him without killing him, and Hawkeye is trying to kill her because he’s got a mission.

But this fight, beneath the surface, is also deeply personal despite the brain washing. These people are great friends (in my headcanon they’re also lovers but we can leave that for now). We just had a scene where Loki pinpointed that BW’s greatest fear is Hawkeye hurting her, killing her. And five minutes later we have a scene where Hawkeye is trying to do just that. (A+ writing, Joss Whedon)

The choreography of the fight even mirrors this preoccupation with the intimacy between BW and Hawkeye. A lot of this fight is close quarters, face to face, hip to hip. The ending is basically an embrace between them–a grunty, I’m trying to kill you with my knife kind of embrace, yes, but still: they’re in each others’ arms. Even the fight itself is underlining the intimacy between these two people. Especially when you consider that Hawkeye is primarily a sniper. He doesn’t usually fight face to face, he shoots people from far away–but not with Black Widow.

And what finally breaks the fight up? Hawkeye pulls her hair and then she bites him. Those are intimate actions, personal. No weapons, no fancy kicks or arrows. It’s still about the two of them.

Basically, the takeaway from this fight is that you can (and should) use the choreography of the fight itself to underline what’s going on beneath the surface, what the characters are feeling, what the dynamics are between them. Have cool choreography, yes, but use it to help you tell your story by elaborating on character, theme and subtext. That punch isn’t just a punch it can also mean “I love you. Come back to me.”

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