'Hawkeye' review: Marvel's latest offers grounded look at Avenger arrow slinger
Courtesy of Disney+
The 6th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) this year, the studio’s latest, “Hawkeye” continues expanding the library of major superheroes while feeding the Disney+ empire. The results are slightly above average and a welcome step in the right direction after the disastrous “Eternals” made some question their fan-driven devotion. “Hawkeye” isn’t taking bold creative risks in the vein of “WandaVision” or trying to rewrite a character's arch ala “Loki.” Surprisingly, “Hawkeye,” anchored by Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) the sole Avenger who wields a bow and arrow, is a down-to-earth series about a dad trying to spend Christmas with his wife and kids. Yes, textbook Marvel mischief ensues and several fun, kinetic action sequences unfold, but its core objective of restoring Clint’s commitment to his family remains sound.
Over the two episodes provided in advance for reviewing press, “Hawkeye” seems to be hinting at a ceremonial passing of the torch between Barton, aka Hawkeye and Kate Bishop (a winning Hailee Steinfeld) as they inevitably team up to take down baddies hellbent on acquiring old Avengers tech for nefarious schemes. On one hand, “Hawkeye” is the foundation for Bishop’s origin tale, which opens with her as a child in the midst of a key Avengers battle, and the other, much like “The Falcon and Winter Soldier,” details a superhero trying to live a normal life stuck with trauma from the past. In this case, attending a performance of “Rogers: The Musical”-a fun show-within-a-show adaptation of 2012’s “The Avengers,” featuring a number called “I Could Do This All Day”-is a trigger for Clint, a reminder that his best friend, Natasha aka Black Widow met her untimely demise during “Avengers: Endgame.”
Setting “Hawkeye” at Christmastime in New York City is a unique choice, giving the Marvel property festive flavor underneath all the recycled plot elements. Tons of easter eggs can be seen, including graffiti on a bathroom stall that reads “Thanos was right” (perhaps there’s a political divide within the MCU over Thanos’, let's say, controversial population control methods of wiping out half of humanity), yet “Hawkeye” isn’t glitzy, and director Rhys Thomas and his monstrous team of writers explore the real world consequences of an Avenger trying to be normal.
That’s not so easy for Clint, who can’t resist tracking down an underground syndicate of mobster thugs after remnants from his past resurface. This, of course, leads to Bishop, a plucky, college aged, all-state archery champion home for holiday break contending with her mom’s suspicious new boyfriend (a devilish Tony Dalton). It sets-up the classic hero/sidekick roadquest filled with jolly banter and an adorable pup who enjoys scarfing down pizza. Along the way, we get to witness a softer side of Renner’s Hawkeye while he coaches Steinfeld’s Bishop, but the mission remains concrete: get home by Christmas morning.
Far from the MCU’s best work, “Hawkeye” still makes a solid case why audiences should invest weekly in these characters' adventures. Renner is more grounded than he’s ever been as the old timer who seems apt to retire from the business any day nor does he seem interested in current world affairs (he has a flip phone for goodness sake). He’ll answer the call if needed, but he’s a straight arrow guided by a simple path, and if that includes having to show up to a larping session and throwdown with a bunch of cosplaying nerds, then it’s a small price to pay to get back to normal living. For now, “Hawkeye” is off to a brisk start that needs a few weeks to develop the direction it’s headed. It might not be a bullseye, but the stakes of watching a father trying to make it home for the holidays is the most relatable struggle this franchise has ever thrown together.
The first two episodes of Hawkeye debut on Disney+ Wednesday, November 24th with episodes dropping weekly