'Hawkeye' review: Marvel streamer gets job done but misses bullseye
Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld star in the latest expansion of the all-compassing Marvel Universe.
In the world of "The Avengers," Hawkeye isn't the first guy you call on to save the day.
The rest of the gang could be off rescuing the world, and he's the one who comes by and gets your cat out of the tree. On the 1989-90 Detroit Pistons, he's Gerald Henderson, or maybe William Bedford. (In this analogy Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars are Iron Man and Captain America, obvs.)
Hawkeye, who is played in a pretty low-key manner by Jeremy Renner, was never designed to be the hero of the day. But here he is toplining the new Disney+ streaming series "Hawkeye" — which follows previous offerings "WandaVision," "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" and "Loki" — because hey, it's 2021 and that's the way content works, baby.
"Hawkeye" opens in 2012 during the closing battle of the first "Avengers" movie, in a clever expansion of all the chaos of that city scene. If we're taking this world seriously, each one of those background explosions is potentially changing the lives of those whose buildings they're hitting, and in one such case, a blast rocks the apartment of Kate Bishop, a young girl who can't believe what's unfolding around her. She sees Hawkeye in the distance, falling backwards through the sky and shooting his bow and arrow, and she decides then and there that she wants to grow up to be like him.
Flash forward to the present day, and Kate (now played by Hailee Steinfeld) is well on her way to top archer status. She's a bit of a troublemaker, collapsing the bell tower at her school with one well-placed shot, and when she fashions herself into a vigilante, she catches the eye of the real-life Hawkeye, who it turns out might be looking to take on an apprentice. A fraught partnership is born.
"Hawkeye's" first two episodes, which were the only installments of the six-parter made available for review (the holiday-set series is set to wrap Dec. 22), establishes a push-pull relationship between the over-eager Kate and the over-it-all Hawkeye. Hawkeye is subject to all sorts of humiliation, whether it's sitting through a "Captain America"-themed Broadway musical in the first episode or interacting with LARP-ers in the second episode ("I fought Thanos," he grumbles, before taking it to a role player who wants nothing more than to log a "kill" against a real life Avenger), and all the guy wants to do is get some quality time with his family.
This is all in the name of torch-passing, handing off the role of Hawkeye from Renner to Steinfeld, and it's more exciting, one supposes, than doing it in a press release. But just like Hawkeye himself, nothing here feels essential.
Starts Wednesday on Disney+