We return once more to Age of Ultron, that movie that seemed great for about five minutes. This time I want to discuss a problem that is a bit more endemic of the MCU characters. My example is a favorite Avenger of mine: Hawkeye. Let’s go back a ways to when the first “Thor” movie was released and our first glimpse at the archer. At that time all we knew of MCU Clint Barton was that he’d be played by Jeremy Renner and he was collecting a S.H.I.E.L.D. paycheck. And then a year later we saw the true debut of Hawkeye—both in film and his iconic solo series written by Matt Fraction. So between then and now Joss Whedon had plenty of time to read over one of the most beloved portrayals of Clint Barton in Marvel history. So what a surprise it was when he ignored not only all of that but the actual Clint Barton continuity that’s been established since the sixties.
All right, so some of the more ridiculous events from Clint Barton’s timeline had to be sacrificed. He never got to be a circus performer under Swordsman who fought against the Avengers. Truncating that into a life in S.H.I.E.L.D. makes sense. There was one thing I was a bit worried about: the guilt. Clint carried that burden of guilt around with him on every adventure he saw; thinking that he was that guy that fought against the Avengers. There was a possible way for Hawkeye to do this in the movie. He had been brainwashed and had killed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, people in the same service he had served. And yet in Age of Ultron he had not one moment of regret. Sure he made a joke about being brainwashed but there was no indication that he felt the weight of what he had done. What if his reason for continuing with the team was he had to make up for his transgressions. That would have been a more compelling reason to tell his wife on their farm than, “I dunno, I just gotta.”
I think the farm was truly where things went awry. See in comic continuity Clint Barton has this constant longing to find a place where he belongs. It’s what makes him so perfect for The Avengers. Perhaps there is a better team out there that could utilize Clint’s abilities, after all what is an archer against the likes of Thanos? And here is where that longing comes in handy, there may very well be a better team out there for Clint but he wants so hard to be a part of the Avengers. He puts all of his effort into proving himself, constantly pushing himself to his limit. Now compare that to cinematic Clint. Back at the farm he wants to stay with his wife which means from now on there will always be some contrived reason Clint hasn’t left to go back to Nebraska or wherever the Hell that farm is. Comic book Clint has proper motivation while Cinematic Clint seems to go places simply because the story requires it.
One of the most memorable things about old school Hawkeye was his incessant arguing with those in command—mostly Captain America. Whether he was disobeying orders or debating the merits of a plan, he had a rebellious streak a mile wide. Compare that to the movie where the most he ever does is question Black Widow’s safety. It’s boring. I’m not looking for The Avengers to turn into the Real Housewives of New York but considering they already sand blasted all of Clint’s other traits away, it would be nice to see some characterization from the man. It’s so disappointing to read panels of Matt Fraction’s comic book where Clint is this faulty human being who can really only do one thing well, a struggling everyman who wants to prove his worth and earn his redemption, then turn to the movie where the only thing that differentiates him from some faceless S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is he has this weird thing for archery.
I know that I will never get Matt Fraction’s run translated to the screen. But really the tragedy in that is it was some of the funniest material I had ever read. It wasn’t Hawkeye cracking jokes and making puns like he was a Spider-Man rip off, the life that Clint lived and the mistakes he continued to make were hilarious. And what’s more, it helped me understand why Hawkeye was the heart of the Avengers. Let’s go back in time to before House of M. There once was a big Marvel crossover event, a pivotal moment in the Marvel cannon known as Avengers Disassembled. For those with bad memory Scarlet Witch went bonkers and broke reality in two. A lot of bad things happened and one of those things was a sudden invasion by an immense Kree army. There was a huge battle and in the midst of it was Clint, fighting with ferocity no one had ever seen.
But this battle was just too big, even for the great Hawkeye. While fighting, his quiver was hit with a blast, igniting all his explosive arrows. His last act as an Avenger was to sacrifice himself in a fiery assault on the main Kree battleship. The fight was won but the cost was steep. It was an emotional hit to any fan of the Avengers. Clint Barton, the heart of the team was dead. Now pause. Replay that event but this time switch in Jeremy Renner. Play the event through, from fight to death, Jeremy Renner flying that famous suicide run. Does it feel as traumatic? Not to me, any sadness I do feel is contrived, his farm family being forced to the forefront. The truth is that Hawkeye hasn’t done anything to captivate me in the cinematic universe. When Captain America dies—oh, spoilers, or when Thor dies—also spoilers, it will mean something to me. Hell, if Vision bit the dust in the next Avengers movie I’d be more broken up. Wasn’t one of the mission statements of Age of Ultron to give us more Hawkeye? I have a suggestion for next time: Substance over quantity.