Delightful family-friendly holiday action fun for all
Hawkeye has long been the joke Avenger, the extra guy in the group, the one who shoots trick arrows and tags along. Jeremy Renner, a legitimate movie star, plays Clint Barton (Hawkeye), in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he might as well be Rodney Dangerfield for all the respect he gets. After more than a decade of third banana status, Hawkeye has his own show, on Disney+, and, surprise, it’s delightful.
‘Hawkeye’ is, essentially, Marvel’s Christmas show. Clint Barton has gone to New York City with his three children for a little holiday fun. As an Avenger, he has basically unlimited funds. So when a criminal conspiracy erupts, he sends them home to mom and he, and his arrows, investigate.
Renner plays things breezy and is altogether charming as Hawkeye, but the show’s real star is Hallee Steinfeld, as Kate Bishop, Hawkeye’s protegé. A college student with infinite amounts of self-confidence, Kate calls herself the “world’s greatest archer,” and her boast proves correct. She’s the only person alive worthy of Hawkeye’s bow. During an alien attack on New York City, Hawkeye saved young Kate with an exploding arrow, so she grew up wanting to be like him.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, people die and shed blood. Planets burn. Plenty of terrible things happen. And yet optimism always seems to bloom like flowers in sidewalk cracks. Kate Bishop is a classic Marvel hero in the vein of Peter Parker and Steve Rogers. Steinfeld’s gee-whiz, wisecracking spirit pervades the entire show. Like in ‘Dickinson,’ she has star power to burn.
The first three episodes, which have already aired, feature lots of fun and funny actions sequences, tons of wisecracking buddy comedy, and a delightful one-eyed golden retriever called “Pizza Dog” who steals every scene he’s in. The show also introduces an anti-hero, Echo, played with fun intensity by Alaqua Cox, a deaf actress, appropriate for a character whose superpower is mimicking people’s body language.
The story is the usual comic-book nonsense with Macguffins and computer surveillance and a mysterious crime syndicate. None of that matters, because you watch this stuff for the gadgets and the action and the repartee, and ‘Hawkeye’ never lets up on any of that. Hawkeye is far from a perfect show. Marvel always features some corny nonsense and ridiculous coincidences. A segment where Hawkeye has to retrieve a costume from a Live Action Role-Playing group isn’t that funny and goes on way too long. But it’s still a fun holiday stocking stuffer, a superhero melodrama crossed with ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.’ Some sort of left-field tragedy could be forthcoming. But I suspect Marvel will let Clint Barton go home for Christmas.