In 2015, Jeremy Renner went on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" in character as the Avenger Hawkeye. In a parody of the song "Living Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran, he listed all the powers that make the archer just as impressive as characters like Captain America and The Hulk, such as being able to get free guacamole at Chipotle and being really good at Mario Kart. The point of the joke, of course, being that the Hawkeye character just isn't as exciting as his colleagues, which may explain why he is the only original Avenger to not have his own film. Thanks to Disney Plus's new 'Hawkeye" series that debuted on Nov. 24, audiences finally have the chance to see what the character is all about. Unfortunately, the show makes him even more uninteresting than in the song.
“Hawkeye” is the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show sees Jeremy Renner reprise his role as Clint Barton, better known as the bow and arrow-wielding superhero Hawkeye, as he confronts his past and tries to make it home to his family in time for Christmas. Whether he likes it or not, Hawkeye is forced to partner with Kate Bishop, an impulsive college student who is his near-equal when it comes to archery and who has her own demons to confront.
The story is told across a six episode miniseries, the first three episodes of which are currently available to stream on Disney Plus. One of the nice things about Marvel’s foray into television is that it allows some stories to play out in a longer format than if they were made into films. Six hour-long episodes allow Hawkeye to stay in the spotlight roughly three times as long as a traditional movie, which would typically run two hours or so. This means the show should have the chance to give the character his due after largely being relegated to a role as a minor character in the Avengers films, but “Hawkeye” the show doesn’t seem to have to actually say about Hawkeye the character. With his series half over, audiences have learned nothing new about Hawkeye other than he’s a weary guy and now he wears hearing aids. Ultimately, there’s a sense of disinterest in who Hawkeye is from the writers that makes it clear Renner will shuffle off into the sunset by the end of the series in favor of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop.
One would hope this would make Steinfeld’s character compelling with the series setting her up to become the next Hawkeye, but that’s not the case. Instead, Kate Bishop is the same as nearly any other protagonist in the MCU, with most of her dialogue consisting of snarky quips. If put to paper, it would be impossible to distinguish Kate’s dialogue from that of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, or any number of other MCU characters who all speak the exact same way. Marvel’s increased release schedule — nine projects in 2021 alone — only serves to highlight how similarly all the characters are written. To her credit, Steinfeld does her best with what she’s given, as do Renner and several big supporting actors like Vera Farmiga, but the reality is that the script feels too much like a first draft to give them a fair chance at anything memorable.
Rhys Thomas is the director of the first two episodes of the series. Thomas is perhaps best known for his work directing the series “Documentary Now,” a series he co-created with Bill Hader, Seth Myers and Fred Armisen that parodies several major documentary films. At any given moment, “Hawkeye” itself also feels like a pastiche of better stories. The Christmas setting and buddy dynamic in which one character feels too old for the situation they find themselves in feels ripped straight from a Shane Black movie like “Lethal Weapon” or “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” The series also has hints of “Die Hard” in the way Clint continually gets injured and has to patch himself up, albeit a more family friendly version since this is a Disney project at the end of the day. Curiously, Shane Black had previously directed the often-overlooked “Iron Man 3” for Marvel back in 2013. The studio would have been better off bringing him back into the fold rather than hiring a lesser imitator to do a worse version of his schtick.
At the time of this writing, the “Hawkeye” series is halfway through its six episode run. The first half of the series has been largely uninspired, with a poorly-paced plot that feels less like a slow burn and more like treading water to expand a two hour story into a six hour event series. Anyone hoping Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton would finally get his moment in the sun after being introduced into the cinematic universe over a decade ago will be disappointed to find he continues to be the human equivalent of beige in a story so clearly meant to be his swan song. Maybe the show, like its titular character, will prove to be a force to be reckoned with despite its easy-to-overlook start, but that has not been the case so far. MCU fans will likely enjoy watching more of the same thing they’ve enjoyed since 2008 — even if they don’t, the serialized nature of that universe will compel them to watch anyways — but anyone looking for a family friendly Christmas caper would be better off watching Kevin James in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”
“Hawkeye” is currently streaming on Disney Plus.
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