Christmas is near, so it’s time to spread all sorts of goodwill and cheer, and Marvel Studios intends to do that through a very Die Hard grounded approach in Hawkeye. It’s a fascinating hybrid of two unlikely elements that continues to work and make for one big visual spectacle that celebrates everything we love about the holidays and action movies, all within the confines of the Marvel sandbox. And while the limited series takes away from the theatrical experience, much of the excitement still comes alive through the exploration of Clint Barton and the natural expansion of the MCU as it introduces new characters like Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) and Echo, aka Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox).
Critics were able to preview the first two episodes of the forthcoming series ahead of its Thanksgiving premiere. Based on the Matt Faction and David Aja comic of the same name, “Hawkeye” follows Clint Barton adjusting to his new life in a post-Blip world without his Avengers pals and most trusted friend, Black Widow. While he makes up for the lost time by spending time with his kids six days before Christmas, trouble is brewing on the other side of the city.
When a promising archer named Kate Bishop comes home for the Christmas holiday, she’s shocked to learn that her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), the CEO of Bishop Securities, is getting married to the dashing yet highly suspicious Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton). But underneath all of that charm is a devious man with ulterior motives. And when she discovers that Jack may be in league with some shady people auctioning irreplaceable items from the Avengers compound, she takes it upon herself to find out more. However, the Track Suit Mafia disrupts the auction proceedings, leading her to take the Ronin suit, while Jack takes Ronin’s retractable sword.
As the chaos ensues, Kate rescues the auctioneers, then runs into the city streets to get away from the Track Suit Mafia, all the while saving Lucky the Pizza Dog. She then turns her attention to finding out more about Jack by investigating his uncle, who has a shaking relationship with his nephew and threatened her mother earlier that night. But, instead, she finds a dead body. To make matters worse, the same Track Suit Mafia tracked her down. Outnumbered, Clint saves Kate, not knowing who she is, and informs her of the dangerous history attached to the Ronin suit.
Now on the run, Clint must find a way to ditch his past while also protecting Kate. But he discovers that’s not so easy when the Track Suit Mafia discovers the location of Kate’s apartment. As Clint tosses back any Molotov cocktails hurled in his direction, Kate slings arrows at the perpetrators. Forced to make their escape when the fire engulfs her apartment, Clint finds out that the Ronin suit is missing once again and that a Larper enthusiast may have taken it. As Clint and Kate finally part ways, they exchange numbers should either of them run into any Track Suit Mafia trouble again.
As Clint finds the suit and gets himself caught to tie up those loose ends, Kate pries any incriminating evidence from Jack in a friendly fencing match that ends up being a bit too personal. As she tracks Clint down to tell him what she’s learned, she discovers that the Track Suit Mafia is holding him captive. But she doesn’t realize that it is all a ploy. And her attempts to save him end up in vain, and she ends up alongside her idol. Not knowing what happens next, the two are now at the mercy of Echo, a mysterious villain whose intentions for them have yet to be revealed.
“Hawkeye” visualizes what the MCU could be when it strips away all of the apocalyptic world-ending scenarios and settles for something more grounded. Taking a “Die Hard” approach while playing within the Marvel sandbox works well for the titular character considering his arc and specific skillset. There are no super suits, gamma-powered humans, aliens, or demi-gods. Instead, these heroes must rely on their wits and their physical strength to carry them through this hilarious series of unfortunate events.
As with many of these Disney+ Marvel series, the first two episodes are exposition-heavy, setting up much of the characters and story. For example, episode one opens with a 2012 title card with young Kate witnessing the Chutarri invasion. Then, in a wonderfully choreographed one-shot take, we see what the attack is like through a child’s eyes and how Hawkeye’s archery inspires her to become the new family protector.
“Hawkeye” gives Marvel fans to see more of Clint in these episodic drops in a limited series space rather than something that’s condensed and reductive from the theatrical world. Not that the films can’t do the same thing with a limited run time, but the tv series framework allows for more character development and a better context without rushing over the details. We see how the world sees him as a hero, as noted by the Rogers Musical, waiters paying for expensive meals, and cosplayers wielding toy bow and arrows in Times Square.
But Hawkeye also lets us see Clint as a father figure. His opening act sees him spending as much time with his family to make up for what he’s lost in the past five years. And he wants to make the most of it by doing every possible item on the Christmas list, like seeing the Christmas tree, watching movie marathons, and wearing ugly sweaters. But, of course, that all changes when Kate inadvertently digs up his past. But he still intends to do everything he can to back it home in time for Christmas.
And it’s hard not to see how there is a bit of serendipity at play in “Hawkeye. Sure, it feels a bit scripted, but it’s fun to see how the heroes of the early phases of the MCU have such an impact on the younger generation. Kate’s vibrant energy is more than just a delightful presence; it’s also an excellent foil to Clint, who doesn’t have his sight on taking on any protégés. Kate is a skillful archer, as noted by her shooting arrows at a decrepit bell tower so it could swing for the first time in years. Though she doesn’t get it right the first time, she knows what adjustments she needs to make her second attempt successful. She possesses athleticism and physicality that’s rarely shown in any MCU Content. And sharp wit makes for dynamics between all characters, especially Clint, who is trying to spend time with his family.
And that’s what is at stake. No one is here to rule the world or destroy it. Although Clint not being there with his kids on Christmas day as he promised them could have the same effect. But the grounded and small-scale story is something that works well for both the character and its setting. The limited series also has the room necessary to expand the MCU by introducing newer characters like Echo. And the race against time creates a sense of urgency for the avenging archer.
The energy of the action sequences has varying ranges from kinetically frenetic to absolute childish fun. But, again, this is all based on the fact that critics were only screened a few episodes. The wine cellar sequence may give Kate much maneuverability, but all pricey wines make for excellent improvised weaponry and playful comic-book violence. And since this is a show based on heroic archers, we get to see a little of the bow and arrow play, but with a little less trick arrow usage. But, again, this is all based on the two episodes we were able to see.
The interplay between Clint and Kate brings in some nice character dynamics to make “Hawkeye” more than just another comic book show. The former now becomes a reluctant mentor who wants to be done with Ronin BS and get home to his family. Yet, at the same time, the latter is eager to prove herself to her favorite Avenger and offer some friendly advice on some of his branding issues. In addition, the show’s animated opening credits act as a short form characterization as it visualizes their skills and achievements in a stylized format.
Though it’s somewhat flawed, the events are way too coincidental, “Hawkeye” sets the stage for a new generation of heroes while also exploring some of the traumas that come with losing a longtime ally. The character dynamics between Kate and Clint are the glue that keeps the series together, while the Christmas setting really brings in the cheer. IF anything, it will be interesting to see how everything plays out, especially when a certain Yelena (Florence Pugh) shows up to get her vengeance on the man she believes is responsible for her sister’s death.
Hawkeye premieres on Disney+ November 24, 2021.