Title: Hawkeye Creators: Jonathan Igla Stars: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Florence Pugh
Hawkeye is streaming now on Disney+. FilmLore is a Disney+ affiliate program member, but this does in no way affect the contents of the following review.
Her parents are fighting again. The girl eavesdrops through the ventilation shafts in the family’s large and expensive New York City apartment. Her mother talks about selling the house, while her father argues that he has everything under control. The girl doesn’t understand why they’re both so upset. Soon they come to her, reassuring her that everything is alright. And then her world explodes.
The year is 2012, and the alien beings known as the Chitauri have arrived through a wormhole opened by the Asgardian Loki and his mind-controlled slaves. They are pouring through above the Stark Tower, bestial biomechanical humanoids riding fast-flying vehicles and gigantic dragon-like troop transports. The only effective defense is a small group of superheroes.
But the little girl knows very little of this. A stray bolt of alien energy has blown up the side of the apartment, killing her father. Standing in the rubble looking out over the warzone New York City has become, a Chitauri spots her and flies in for the kill. But before it gets to her, an arrow hits the side of the flying vehicle, and it, along with the Chitauri, explodes. And then she sees him on a distant rooftop: The archer, fighting off one alien after another and throwing himself out onto the side of the building and through a window.
The present-day, a week before Christmas. That archer on the rooftop? Well, he is now a family father visiting New York City with his kids. Mom’s back home preparing for the holidays. He’s Clint Barton, also known as the superhero Hawkeye (and secretly the mobster-killing Ronin). These days, however, he’s done with all that. His best friends are gone, and he’s fed up with cosmic battles and supervillains. He just wants to get home by Christmas. That is until he spots someone on the television fighting crime and saving a dog while wearing his old Ronin costume.
And the little girl, she’s all grown up. The archer inspired her to master everything she put her mind to, archery and close combat most of all. And even though she has become somewhat rebellious against her wealthy mother, it’s not that bad. And the free apartment and credit card help too. But when she finds herself in a scrape, mixed up with some bad underworld gangs, she gets a hold of Ronin’s suit and fights back.
But as we all know, Clint Barton possesses a particular set of skills. He easily tracks down this girl who is surely in over her head. He might help her out, but most importantly, it is to get his suit back. Because Ronin made a lot of enemies back in the day, enemies that the girl will inherit if she’s not careful. And she clearly isn’t.
Marvel’s Hawkeye is the new mini-series on Disney+ featuring the bow-and-arrow-wielding superhero Clint Barton (played, as always, by Jeremy Renner) and Hawkeye super-fan Kate Bishop (played by Hailee Steinfeld). But while being set in the “post-blip” Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hawkeye takes an entirely different approach than earlier films and series of the franchise. It is very “street-level,” without magic, superbeings, doomsday weapons and aliens (unless you count the prologue as described at the start of this review).
Hawkeye is filled with action, mayhem, and intrigue, but a constant holiday cheer is sprinkled throughout. Of course, this would not have worked without some good humor and chemistry between the two leads. Luckily, Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner deliver this chemistry in spades as the wide-eyed, starstruck teenager and the grumpy family father that has seen it all. The result is refreshing, cozy even.
I was also positively surprised by how much the spotlight is shared between Clint and Kate. In a series called Hawkeye, one would think that the story’s focus would be set squarely on the titular superhero. But the series takes its time, at least in the first two episodes that I had access to, to build up and develop the two main characters. They each have their separate thing going on. Clint is fed up and just wants to be left out of the whole superhero business. There are hints of deeper psychological scars from past experiences and lost friends. And Kate is the new generation of wannabe superheroes, even going as far as stealing Ronin’s old suit, wearing it and liking it!
The stakes, too, are low, street-level, and personal. There are layers to the machinations of the bad guys, of course. Still, I found myself giggling at the hilarious “The Tracksuit Mafia” who wants revenge on Clint Barton, all with thick Eastern European accents and wearing identical red tracksuits. This results in some hilariously deadpan humor when Clint tries to reason with the dim-witted criminals.
But while different than anything that came before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is still Marvel, and with it comes a couple of cliches that makes things a little too obvious. When Kate’s mother Eleanor (played by Vera Farmiga) reveals that she will marry the suave and mysterious Jack (played by Tony Dalton), Kate’s distrust of her future stepfather is immediate and somewhat unmotivated. And to us watching, it is all too obvious that mysterious and mustache-twirling Jack has something to hide. Is he in league with the Tracksuit Gang??
No, he can’t be. It must be something more sinister than that. It is so obvious and cliche, that of the “teenage daughter’s distrust of her new stepfather and therefore he must be a villain,” that I feel there must be more to it than that. I certainly hope so.
But other than that minor gripe, I feel Hawkeye delivers something that has been sorely missing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far: a personal, intimate and cozy story without superbeings, gods, monsters and world-ending plots. I do appreciate the grander stories and universe-shaking plots too, but this felt fresher than anything I’ve seen in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.
And there is a dog here too. And he’s a very good boy. You can’t go wrong with a good boy like this!