random thoughts on: “hawkeye”

I’ve got some things to say about The Avenging Archer’s streaming series.

As has likely been previously stated on multiple occasions, I’m a long-standing old-school fan of Hawkeye, having made my comic-collecting bones with the original West Coast Avengers series.

So, despite never really loving Jeremy Renner’s take on the character in the MCU (outside of a handful of small moments), I was still excited when Marvel Studios announced Hawkeye would get a streaming series on Disney+. And I was even more excited when it came out Hailee Steinfeld would play Kate Bishop, who in the comics adopted the Hawkeye name when Clint Barton was killed during the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline.

As such I have a number of thoughts now that the series finale has aired. Spoilers after the all-time great cover art.

Still with me? OK, let’s dive in.

It’s a very enjoyable show. I still have my issues with Renner’s performance, especially since he spends half the show apologizing to someone, largely for things that were outside of his control. But Steinfeld’s exuberance, Florence Pugh’s return as Yelena Belova and more make up for it in a lot of ways. It’s a nice mash-up of elements from the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye comics series that essentially rebooted the character as well as the previous MCU films. There are plenty of surprises, lots of action and some great dialogue. And hey, we get to see Pizza Dog on screen, so it can’t be all bad.

Golden Retriever Pizza GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

My main issue with the show is that it is premised around Avengers: Endgame existing, which isn’t a great place to start.

Renner finally has someone to play off, which improves things dramatically. In the movies to date he’s usually relegated to group scenes, which means he gets lost in the clutter because he’s not as dynamic a personality as some of his costars. If the show had doubled down on putting Clint and Kate into something even more Running Scared-esque it would have been even better.

Hailee Steinfeld Hawkeye GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

On the topic of some supporting characters:

  • Knowing the comics history, I’m surprised we didn’t get a bigger payoff for Tony Dalton’s Jack Duquesne. As the series went on I imagined two or three different ways that could go but it just kind of fizzled out.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, thank the maker Linda Cardellini’s Laura Barton finally got some backstory and character development. The underuse of Cardellini to date has been criminally negligent, and if she is who I (and many others online) think she is, I couldn’t be happier.

Florence Pugh for the win in all of her scenes. Give me a six-part series of her and Steinfeld just talking about places to visit in New York City.

Excited Mac And Cheese GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

We still haven’t seen Clint’s MCU origin story. Every other Avenger has had one, often in their own standalone movie. Even Natasha’s beginnings have been shown via flashback in a handful of movies. But we still don’t know how Clint got to the point where we meet him in Thor or The Avengers.

Now you can say that watching someone learn how to shoot an arrow really well isn’t that interesting, but in the comics his story is much more complex than that (and involves a character from the show). And without it we don’t know what his motivations are. Why did he join SHIELD? Where did he hone his skills?

The lack of backstory is one of the reasons I’ve never been fully on board with MCU Clint Barton. Comics Clint is not only a bit of a hothead but also kind of a flim-flam man, scamming himself out of as many situations as he shoots himself out of.

  • Avengers West Coast Epic Collection: How The West Was Won – Get the original mini-series, the start of the ongoing and more in a collection of stories that are as much about overcoming self-doubt and imposter syndrome as they are about super heroics. Roger Stern and Steve Engleheart write some fantastic comics here.
  • Avengers: Hawkeye – This edition collects Hawkeye’s first solo series, a mini from 1983, that includes the story of how he met the SHIELD agent known as Mockingbird and how he lost partial hearing, something that’s finally integrated into the on-screen character.
  • West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast – Kelly Thompson’s 2018 WCA series is lots of fun, paying homage to the original while featuring the Kate/Clint dynamic that’s introduced by Fraction/Aja. Speaking of which…
  • Hawkeye by Fraction & Aja: The Saga of Barton and Bishop – This edition collects the whole of that series, which sets up much of what comes later and heavily influenced the style of the show.
  • Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain – You can’t understand Clint Barton without also understanding Bobbi Morse, so pick up Chelsea Cain’s excellent Mockingbird solo book while you’re at it.

Of course if you want to be a completist, don’t miss out on the additional volumes that come after what’s listed below. There are also a number of other great Hawkeye – either Clint or Kate – collections of other mini-series and solo outings, but the list here should give you a good starting point.

Wind River – Marketing Recap

After receiving critical and commercial acclaim for writing last year’s Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan makes his feature directorial debut with the noir thriller Wind River. A murder mystery set in the bitter winter of the Wyoming wilderness, the story is put in motion when US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers a young girl from town has been killed.

The FBI gets involved in the investigation, sending agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) on what turns out to be her first case. She enlists the skills of Lambert not only to track and find the killer but also navigate the insular politics of the town. See residents there don’t much care for outsiders but do like their secrets. So the pair finds that uncovering the past of the murdered girl isn’t as easy as they hoped. Not only that, but some people seem to be actively working against them.

The Posters

The first poster shows Renner, with only his face and the rifle he’s holding visible as he’s wearing a white suit that camouflages him in the snowy background. Scenes of the story’s setting are visible in the transparent title treatment while at the top we’re told “Danger comes with the territory.” That’s a bit of a generic tagline, but I’m guessing they were meaning to allude to something like Native American “territory” with the terminology.

The same line “Danger comes with the territory” is used on the second poster but there’s also the copy “Nothing is harder to track than the truth,” which offers at least a bit more hints at the story. This one positions Renner and Olsen on opposite sides of the image, separated by a shot of a man walking out through the snow, gun in hand like he’s tracking someone or something. Still setting up a noir-ish thriller here, which is cool.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with someone, it’s not clear who, on the run across a frozen lake. Her body is discovered by Lambert and we’re told we’re in a remote area before Banner from the FBI shows up. She enlists his help because of his experience and knowledge of the area, by their efforts are frustrated by locals who aren’t eager to help. The drama and music build to the ending.

It’s a good first effort, setting up a tense drama set in a tight-knit world of secrets and survival. It reminds me of Winter’s Bone more than a little. Renner and Olsen look like they turn in tight, emotional performances.

Another trailer, labeled a “review” trailer, continues to sell this as a story of a murder mystery in a small town that tightly protects its secrets. There are a few more plot details that are shared here that weren’t in earlier trailers but the main appeal here comes from the quotes pulled from early reviews that praise the acting, direction and other aspects of the story. It’s all very tense and pulse-pounding.

Online and Social

There’s no official website I’ve been able to find, nor is there any shared in the trailers or other materials. That means the only online presence for the movie is the collection of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles where The Weinstein Co. has been sharing videos, links to news stories and photos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A series of TV spots like this one emphasized various aspects of the story, from the remoteness of the location to the secrets of the town to the hunt for the mysterious killer. Most all of them include that it comes from the creators of Hell or High Water, though, taking advantage of that movie’s good reputation from last year.

I’m not aware of any online or social advertising that was done, nor have I seen any artwork that’s been used for outdoor billboards or other signage.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. The first look at the movie came around that same time. Just before that debut, the movie was dropped by The Weinstein Company, which had picked it up back around the time of Cannes. The screening at Sundance resulted in plenty of positive word-of-mouth, though.

It later screened at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival where Renner had nothing but praise for first-time director Sheridan and shared his enthusiasm to work with him again. That praise was echoed by Olsen at the movie’s premiere. Sheridan himself talked about how directing was something he approached only after feeling comfortable as a writer. Renner also got a profile all to himself where he talked about his personal life, his career to date and more.

Other press involving both Olsen and Renner also included hefty doses of mentions of their other movies, particularly The Avengers franchise since they’re both involved in that.

Overall

The emphasis on Sheridan is clearly meant to take advantage of the positive buzz that came out of last year’s Hell Or High Water, which gained a very good reputation with critics. That’s why all the trailers and posters reference that movie and why so much of the press coverage has focused on Sheridan. Most of the stories have either been about him directly or about the cast’s relationship to him. TWC obviously knows what’s going to get people’s attention and in this case, it’s creating ties between this movie and Sheridan’s most recent success.

Outside of that the campaign works hard to create a noir-like sense of mystery and mostly succeeds on that front. This isn’t The Maltese Falcon, of course, but does play up story elements common to the genre, including the town full of reluctant witnesses with agendas of their own and more. What the audience is being sold is a solid procedural crime story that, with the attachment of stars they like and the creative force behind a recent popular movie, will hopefully spur their interest. It may just be the alternative people who aren’t interested in the rest of this week’s new releases are looking for.

Picking Up the Spare

Early 2019 brought details of an arrangement The Weinstein Company made with the Indigenous groups depicted in the movie, a deal that was effectively discarded by the bankruptcy resulting from Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and abuse actions.