The Avenger’s long-awaited time in the spotlight is stolen by its supporting cast
Whilst many of the characters in The Avengers (2012) have become famous with their own spin-off films, Hawkeye as played by Jeremy Renner seems to have been short-changed and the butt of jokes. Marvel guru Kevin Feige has finally given Hawkeye his chance to shine with his own Disney+ miniseries aptly titled Hawkeye (2021).
Hawkeye takes place during the days leading up to Christmas. Clint Barton aka “Hawkeye” (Renner) is officially retired from the Avengers group after saving the world and losing his best friend Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers: Endgame (2019). However, when trying to enjoy a vacation with his family in New York City, Hawkeye fan Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) gets embroiled with Barton, his past, and a few of his enemies. Thus, Barton is forced to tie up loose ends all while trying to make it home for Christmas.
Hawkeye is created and run by Jonathan Igla, who has shown to be a capable TV writer working on the likes of Mad Men (2007-2015) and the woozy Bridgerton (2020-). In Hawkeye, Igla frames his story around the burgeoning relationship between Clint and Kate, as they become inevitable mentor and mentee. The plot revolves around organized crime in the city and will remind viewers of Daredevil (2015-2018) and Jessica Jones (2015-2019) albeit without their grit. Igla is very committed to the Marvel humor and levity, and this works in moments when it wants to be a committed Christmas story, but it can also rob it of some heavier emotional moments in other scenes. The lack of superpowers allows Hawkeye to dig into the choreographed fight sequences that prove to be more enjoyable for viewers of today’s action. While these sequences don’t reach the heights of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) or Daredevil they are still greatly more enjoyable than the usual CGI fest in superhero outings.
Igla is able to successfully introduce us to an array of new characters, such as the fierce Maya (Alaqua Cox) and Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Both are winning with different forms of charisma, with Steinfeld proving to be particularly electric. Her enthusiasm spills onto the screen and pulls viewers in, even in the slower moments. The weak link within Hawkeye may very well be Hawkeye himself. Renner seemed to kick off his career in impressive fashion with his inclusion in this franchise and his Oscar-nominated turns in The Hurt Locker (2008) and The Town (2010). However, he has become increasingly entrenched in these smug confident roles that have long played out their schtick. With added screen time, Renner does little to spin something new out of Clint, and instead delivers a low energy performance of someone who can’t wait for the shooting-day to end. This makes the appearances of any supporting characters easily steal his spotlight and divert attention away from the supposed core of the series.
Igla is also a bit too timid in the Marvel space, so that he never takes any narrative risks or swings, and instead finds comfort in creative but fleeting sequences (these include a particularly exciting car chase and a use of the Rockefeller Christmas tree that I’m shocked no filmmaker has ever done before). This helps make the miniseries memorable, but the resulting impact of the entire narrative also turns out to be rather inconsequential.
In the end, Hawkeye is a miniseries with exciting new introductions that falters critically with its central character. Renner’s lack of interest greatly diminishes the narrative and is almost insulting compared to the dedication and passion being put in by his co-stars. Hawkeye is a long-awaited moment in the spotlight for the character, that seems to be continually distracted by far more interesting characters instead.