THE AVENGERS: The HAWKEYE Reaction

The Avengers (2012) – The 6th Marvel Cinematic Universe Film – Directed by Joss Whedon – Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof, Stan Lee, Powers Boothe, Lou Ferrigno, and Harry Dean Stanton.

Welcome to the first character-specific reaction to Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS. I’ve already written a 4,200+ word review of the film, but that wasn’t nearly enough to cover everything I wanted to talk about, so I’m going to write character-specific reactions to delve a bit deeper into the film.

Let me be clear about what’s coming: SPOILERS. Lots and lots of SPOILERS. Read ahead only if you’re cool with that. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want things ruined, come on back when you do.

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“Reminds me of Budapest.”

“You and I have very different memories of Budapest.”

In a superhero team movie with six members (seven, if you count Hulk and Bruce Banner as separate people) who share screen time with a babysitter, a liaison, a babysitter’s assistant, a villain, and an invading alien race, chances are one of those heroes is going to take a back seat to the others. Chances are the character who commands the least amount of time out front will be one of the two team members who doesn’t have their own movie. Chances are if one of those two people is Scarlett Johansson and the other isn’t, well, sorry Clint.

Clint is Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), a SHIELD agent who’s a bow-and-arrow wielding sniper. Instead of Hawkeye’s lesser screen time feeling like a negative, however, the film’s conception of Hawkeye is to make him a bit of a loner. He’s a sniper, after all, and he doesn’t say a whole lot, so he’s not inclined to put himself out front, so he slips on and off the screen very organically. You get the feeling that he’s only there when he needs to be there, which gives his appearances a bit of a charge.

I give full credit to Jeremy Renner, too, for not trying to oversell his appearances. It’s a very quiet, but effective performance. The quiet character – especially when the quiet character has no superpowers – runs the risk of coming off as a weak character with all these heavy hitters calling the thunder and stuff, but that never happens with Hawkeye. I do wish we got a bit of the comic book attitude from Clint, but if we had it would have paled with all the other attitude being tossed around, so while I’m a bit disappointed, it’s also the right decision. Instead of a Hawkeye forcing other people to respect him, the Renner Hawkeye just does his thing, quietly and professionally.

One of the things I always tell my students about thinking critically of movies or books is that the story will teach you how to experience it. Authors and directors will train you early in their story about the type of story and type of characters that you’re going to spend your time following. Right from the start of AVENGERS, Whedon clues you in to what you’re going to get from Hawkeye. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) enters the massive laboratory at the bottom of a SHIELD facility where Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is working on the Tesseract (known in the comics as the Cosmic Cube), and trying to figure out how to tap into the shimmering blue energy contained within. The SHIELD director wants to know where “the Hawk” is and Selvig points to the ceiling of the lab, telling Fury that Hawkeye is “in his nest.”

Fury goes and talks to Clint (this lab is so big that his nest looks like it’s fifty feet off the ground and at least that far away from the Tesseract) and reminds him he put him here to watch what’s going on. Hawkeye’s eyes are locked on the Tesseract as he tells Fury in a soft, almost clipped voice that, “I can see everything better from here,” and then gives his report on how the cube is starting to act on its own.

And then the cube starts to act on its own, and after a bit of really nice blue energy CGI, the doorway opens and we get Loki (Tom Hiddleston) standing there with a cool looking staff. He takes the Tesseract and enslaves Hawkeye, Selvig, and a few other SHIELD agents.

Now, if you’ve read my review of AVENGERS, you know that I think it’s the best superhero movie ever made. That said, when I saw that Hawkeye was being turned into a Loki Drone, I was definitely not loving it. Hawkeye was my favorite character in my favorite comic (West Coast Avengers) when I was a kid, and even though we got a sense in THOR that Renner Hawkeye was not going to be the inferiority-complex suffering, mouthy archer from the comics, I liked what I saw and wanted more of that character, and not some brain-controlled slave.

Turns out this was a wise decision, as it gets him away from the rest of the team, where he can have a story line of his own instead of fighting for space inside the SHIELD Helicarrier with the rest of the team. Now, sure, most of that story line takes place off-screen, but it is a story line unique to him. (Well, and Selvig, too, but he’s not an Avenger.) We learn quite a bit about Hawkeye through the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) talking about him. That this cold woman clearly cares about him makes me care about him.

In terms of Clint as the Loki Drone, however, we get a few brief glimpses through the first half of the movie just to keep in touch. Clint helps Loki bust the Tesseract out of the SHIELD facility, and then his next major move is to lead an assault of Loki-controlled SHIELD drones on the Helicarrier. Again, Hawkeye isn’t given a lot to say during this raid, but it’s clearly a professional attack, based on his knowledge of the Helicarrier and SHIELD operations. He gets off a really sweet arrow shot in mid-air, and then has a good hand-to-hand fight with Widow.

Now, on the arrow shot, I want to take a second acknowledge that as much as I do not see the point of 3D movies, the mid-air sequences of the Helicarrier and various flying jets look really nice in 3D. I just don’t see how the positives of the depth of vision outweigh the darkening of the screen image. I watched the 3D print because it fit into my Friday afternoon schedule; I hate hate HATE being in a crowded theater so I rarely go to see a movie on its opening weekend if I think it’s going to be a full house. If there’s a movie that I can’t wait to see, however, I’ll sneak out and see an early show on Friday afternoon, before people have gotten out of work and before kids have gotten out of school.

During the Hawkeye/Widow throwdown (which is cut together really nice to make you feel quickness of the combatants and the force of the hits), Widow knocks him out, which ends up breaking Loki’s hold on him.

Yeah, AVENGERS is the best superhero movie ever and all, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few weak spots in the plot.

When Clint comes out from under Loki’s control, he and Widow have a quiet moment together, and this is really Renner’s only chance to act in the film. He wants to know how many SHIELD agents died in his assault, but Widow tells him not to go down that path. We know from an earlier conversation between her and the imprisoned Loki that she feels like she’s got a lot of “red” in her ledger, and Clint’s question here carries on that theme. It humanizes these two characters, who are, lest we forget, spies. Clint’s a sniper, and he doesn’t appear to use Nerf arrows, so there’s red in his ledger, too. (Red, here, having a double meaning of both blood and a sense of having done more bad things than good things.) Clint does the professional thing and takes Tasha’s advice, attempting to not think of what he did while under Loki’s control, but admits, “If I put an arrow through his eye, I’d sleep better.”

Captain America (Chris Evans) interrupts them at this point, and lets Widow know they’re on the move. There’s a brief look between Clint and Steve, and Clint wants to come. Cap looks to Widow and she nods, and that’s good enough for Cap. “Do you have a suit?” he asks Clint, who says he does. “Then suit up,” Cap orders, and we’re off to the big action sequence that ends the film. (If that sounds like we’re off to a ten-minute sequence, we’re not. The final battle sequence is pretty epic.)

Whedon does an excellent job balancing out the action during this final battle against Loki and the Chitauri, giving everyone a chance to shine. HWhile the majority of the screen time goes to Iron Man, Thor, Cap, and Hulk, Hawkeye and Widow have their moments, too. They end up fighting next to one another during the Chitauri assault, and Widow remarks, “Reminds me of Budapest,” to which Clint replies, “You and I have very different memories of Budapest.” What I love about this scene (and it’s something Eric Woodward has touched on in the comments) is that it shows Hawkeye and Widow’s different approaches to their job. Which is that, to Clint, this is a job, while with Tasha there’s the sense that she enjoys this life. She wants to be right in the middle of things while Clint, befitting a sniper, wants perspective. Clint is not quite sullen, but he is definitely more somber. There’s a dry bit of humor in his Budapest comment, of course, which is why I say he’s not quite sullen, but I get the very real sense that he likes to keep his distance from his associates. Which is good, since he spends the first half of the movie away from the team and under Loki’s control.

Clint has the least amount of contact with the other Avengers, but Whedon makes this work to great effect, too, because it makes Clint’s brief talks with Tasha all the more powerful.

There’s a great moment where the team assembles in the middle of the battle and Iron Man turns leadership over to Cap, who assigns everyone their roles for the rest of the battle. He tells Clint to get high up on a skyscraper so he can be their eyes in the sky, keeping everyone in the loop on what’s going on. Clint asks Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) for a lift (why take the elevator when you can hitch an express ride with Iron Man?) and Stark tells him, “Hang on, Legolas,” as he blasts off for the top of the city.

During the fight, Clint fires plenty of arrows and knocks out plenty of Chitauri, but his best moment actually comes momentarily at his expense. Remember that line from his heart-to-heart with Tasha about putting an arrow in Loki’s eye? Well, he gets his chance. Widow has commandeered a Chitauri sky cycle, but Loki is quick to jump on her tail. From atop his building, Clint draws a bead with his bow-and-arrow on Loki. He fires his shot, and the arrow zings at you (thanks, 3D …), then the camera flips around and we see that arrow headed right for Loki, who catches it at the last second, foiling Clint’s shot. Loki gives a sly, smug smile, and he (and we) think he’s got the best of Clint, but then the arrow blows up right in the Trickster God’s face, sending him flailing.

Great stuff.

The rest of the battle keeps him active, but doesn’t give him much memorable to do. (Though maybe that’s because his “fall backwards off the building while shooting back up at the camera” scene has been seen so much in the commercials.) Critically, though, when the team assembles back in Stark Tower to pick up Loki, it’s Clint standing right in front, an arrow notched and pointed straight at Loki’s head.

Hawkeye gets the least amount of screen time among the Avengers, but he makes the most of his appearances. It’s a quiet performance by Renner, and I don’t think too many kids are going to leave the theater wanting to be that quiet guy who gets brain controlled and wears the ugliest costume, but it’s a good performance. In a big action film like AVENGERS, you need a variety of personalities and it falls to Hawkeye to have the quietest one in the film. I enjoyed it, and I wanted to start these individual character reactions with Hawkeye just because of that fact that it’s easy for him to get lost amid everything else that’s going on.

As I mentioned earlier, Hawkeye was my favorite character in my favorite comic as a kid, and the Renner Hawkeye is not the WCA Hawkeye, but that’s not a bad thing. I don’t need the film to replicate the comics because I own the comics. I wish there were a bit more purple in the costume, and I wish he had a bit more aggression in his personality, but these are small complaints. Hawkeye fills a role the film needs, and Renner imbues his performance with those exact qualities.

Coming out of AVENGERS, we know we’re getting Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, and Thor 2, and there’s been hints coming out of the Marvel Studios office that a new Hulk movie might be in the works thanks to the overwhelming audience reaction to the Hulk, but the one film I really want to see is a HAWKEYE & BLACK WIDOW espionage film.

Though Hawkeye plays a relatively small role in AVENGERS, it’s an important role that’s played well by Jeremy Renner. Quiet and confident, willing to put himself in harm’s way, and highly-skilled enough to make the impossible shot, Hawkeye is an important, if small, cog in this cinematic AVENGERS epic.

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Atomic Reactions: Marvel Comics on Film now available.

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THE AVENGERS REVIEW INDEX

THE AVENGERS: THE MOVIE REVIEW
THE AVENGERS: THE HAWKEYE REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE AGENT COULSON REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE BLACK WIDOW REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE NICK FURY REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE MARIA HILL REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE CAPTAIN AMERICA REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE CHITAURI/THANOS REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE HULK REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE THOR REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE LOKI REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE IRON MAN REACTION

THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REVIEW INDEX

1. IRON MAN
2. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
3. IRON MAN 2
4. THOR
5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

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10 thoughts on “THE AVENGERS: The HAWKEYE Reaction

  1. Well put Mark. Always did like Hawkeye in his role as the underdog Avenger. I do like the shift here away from his need to prove himself to the big boys on the team and into more of a professional soldier. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it fit.

    More than just the profesionalism, I think he provided something even more important; he is by far the most ‘normal’ of the group, and I felt like he kept things grounded a little. I’m not just talking about the lack of superpowers thing either. Black Widow has essentially the same skill set, just focused more on close-in combat, and also has no powers, but her role comes off more… I don’t know exactly how to put it, but I guess more cartoonish in a way, whereas Clint is far more relateable. We get ‘Tasha fighting russian arms dealers while tied to a chair and ‘piloting’ a half dead alt-Skrull and his anit-gravity jet-ski through midtown, while Clint gives us a sniper in a sniper’s nest acting like… a sniper.

    The little things that really seperated him though were the moments like his brief conversation with Tasha during the final fight. As they’re standing back to back fighting off the hordes, she almost gleefully tells him, “It’s just like Budapest all over again.” and his reply was a headshake and exasperated, “You and I have very different memories of Budapest.” For me, that said a lot. Mostly that this wasn’t at all fun for Clint, it was a job he did because he had to, and because he was really, really good at it. He was a soldier, and at heart a regular guy to an extent that the rest of the group just wasn’t for various reasons.

    Oh, and you’re not the only one that would love to see a Hawkeye & Widow spy movie loosed on the earth.

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    • Well said, Eric, and I can’t believe I left out the Budapest bit. (In fact, I will now go add it in. Sometimes writing these things at 2 in the morning leads to forgetting obvious things.) Clint is much more somber and serious about things, and that not keeps him grounded, but the film, too.

      Well, as much as you can keep this film grounded. It’s interesting, too, that he has the least amount of contact with the other Avengers, though that’s partly because he’s taken out during the opening half.

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      • I’ve been watching re-runs of NCIS this summer; Gibbs and Shepard have a “Budapest” moment in a few episodes. But instead of Joss Whedon’s superior decision NOT to show the Budapest storyline, NCIS went into cheesy ‘sexy-time’ flashbacks… If Marvel ever decides to do a Black Widow/Hawkeye team-up movie (and I like your idea for a straight-up espionage film), I hope they are wise enough to keep Budapest a great fan-fantasy, because the filmed version will never match any of our imaginings.

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  2. Just a note. The costume he’s wearing is the Ultimates Hawkeye one, almost identically to the comic. I think it was a wise choice to go with that one. The purple and blue chainmail and lederhosen costume just wasn’t really conducive to being a sniper/spy/SHIELD agent.

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  3. I do not know if someone has mentioned this or not but the line from Iron Man to Hawkeye is not Hang on, Legolas its “Better clench up, Legolas” which is a 100 times funnier than “hang on, Legolas”….just saying…

    Anyways!! these are awesome posts! thank you for sharing!!

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  4. Hawkeye was a Iron Man villain when he first appeared in comics. His being turned into a Loki drone bad guy early in the AVENGERS movie, I always took that to be a nod to his comic history.

    Maybe not though since Widow also started as an IM antagonist before turning good which isn’t the case for the movies.

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