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A beloved comic book comes to life: NPR

(LR): Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) aim to please in Marvel’s Hawk Eye.

Mary Cybulski / Marvel Studios

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Mary Cybulski / Marvel Studios

A beloved comic book comes to life: NPR

(LR): Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) aim to please in Marvel’s Hawk Eye.

Mary Cybulski / Marvel Studios

In the Marvel series Hawk Eye, the stakes are low. Comfortably so. comfortably therefore, even.

The planet is not in peril (well, neither is the baseline), and the multiverse is not on the brink of extinction. Sad Avenger bag Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) just wants to come home in time to celebrate Christmas with his family.

The six-episode series (of which the first two episodes were screened for the press) is small-scale and self-contained, and conflicts take place at ground level. Nothing is terrible or fraught with danger. The tone, suddenly, is cowardly, amiable, downright cold.

Loosely based on a beloved comic book series written by Matt Fraction with illustrations by David Aja, the series pits Clint up against a gang of weak-bulb Russian gangsters he calls the Mafia Tracksuit. In the comics, Clint and young heroine Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) share a long and complicated story. They team up because that’s exactly what Marvel heroes do.

In the series, however, a lot of work is required to organize their first meeting, and then it takes even more furious storytelling work to justify their continued partnership; this is where the laid-back vibe of the series gets sweaty with the effort.

We receive a lot of information In regards to Kate: We learn that she’s an accomplished athlete, that she’s very wealthy, that her mother (an underutilized Vera Farmiga) runs a security company – and if you think that last fact won’t come in handy once that Kate will need to locate someone you haven’t watched on TV in the past decade. What we don’t get, however, is a clear motivation for her to take on the role of urban vigilante in the first place.

Steinfeld finds a way to look into the rights of his characters without making himself insufferable. (At one point, his mother informs him that the young and the rich alike believe themselves to be immortal, “and you have always been both.”) Ing. That may, of course, turn out to be the character’s story arc, during this season – the evolution from a privileged amateur to a dedicated crime fighter – but there is little evidence of that kind of growth. personal in the first two episodes, in which Kate used to talk to herself seems to be the kind of characteristic “cute” detail that would be most comfortable on the Hallmark Channel.

Clint’s motivation, on the other hand, is crystal clear from the jump – the guy just wants to come home. Her storyline, however, gets weirdly lumpy pretty quickly, as her search for a missing superhero outfit (!) And while all of this is going on, Linda Cardellini, who plays his wife, fulfills her Marvel contract with multiple scenes. of “Don’t worry, we’re fine, go do your hero thing,” he phones.

The lighter side of Marvel

Despite its focus on tackling street-level crime, the show’s world is brighter and airier than dark and gritty, especially its Manhattan Christmas backdrop (see above, in re: Hallmark Channel).

The Mafia tracksuit – taken straight from the Fraction / Aja comics – isn’t a particularly threatening villain, but then, they’re not supposed to. Keep an eye out for fat Jack (Tony Dalton), who is cuddling with Kate’s mom, and who will no doubt become the real Big Bad of the season.

For comic book lovers, the series tackles specific aspects – the ones that matter. Clint’s behavior, on the one hand. Renner captures the character’s (literally) slaughter quality, his willingness to take on the punching bag role, if that means protecting someone else. Clint spent so much time getting banged in the comics that he sported bandages in every panel – that aspect gets a cute scream. The out-of-the-ordinary comic book character – a one-eyed dog who loves pizza – is featured on the small screen and is, by all reasonable measures, a good boy.

Most importantly, the relationship between Clint and Kate is faithfully rendered. The chemistry Renner and Steinfeld share are palpable, but – most importantly – it’s not sexual in nature. In order for the story to work, their two characters must meet in a place of mutual respect and understanding not clouded by desire, whether reciprocal or not. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the joke between the two tracks often – too often – seemed forced and leaden; here it moves at a rapid pace.

Hawk Eye isn’t the most formally innovative of Marvel’s TV slate (it would be Wandavision), or the strangest (Loki) or the most imaginative (What if …?). But he’s smart enough to use his energy as a small fish in a big pond to tell his modest, breezy story without apologizing.

It’s true that in the first two episodes most of that energy is spent maneuvering the characters into position. But here we are, hoping that the business is finally settled, and that the rest of the season will finally allow them to get started.

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