After the conclusion of What If…?’s hypothetical adventures, Marvel’s ongoing barrage of Disney+ content will return to the mainline MCU for another passing-of-the-torch narrative. After Black Widow saw Yelena Belova take over Natasha Romanoff’s mantle and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier saw Sam Wilson take over Steve Rogers’ mantle, Hawkeye will see Kate Bishop taking the titular moniker from Clint Barton.
Based on the recently released trailer, Marvel fans are in for another great buddy actioner. After The Falcon and the Winter Soldier evoked Midnight Run, the yuletide setting of Hawkeye evokes the classic buddy cop comedies of Iron Man 3 director Shane Black. Following in the footsteps of Nat and Yelena, Sam and Bucky, and Loki and Mobius, jaded veteran vigilante Barton and budding young newcomer Bishop could make a mismatched pairing for the ages.
The trailer for Hawkeye focuses heavily on Barton’s feelings of guilt over his harrowing actions in Avengers: Endgame. After the Avengers failed to stop Thanos and Barton’s wife and kids were included in the “random” group he turned to dust, Barton responded by spending the entire five-year time jump slaughtering the amoral gangsters he believed should’ve been “snapped” instead of his family. When Nat tracks him down for the “Time Heist,” he’s just finished slicing and dicing his way through an entire yakuza organization under the guise of “Ronin.”
In the upcoming Hawkeye series, it seems, Barton’s days as Ronin will finally catch up to him. But he won’t have to face the skeletons in his closet alone, as he’ll team up with Bishop along the way. This series will rely heavily on Jeremy Renner’s on-screen chemistry with Hailee Steinfeld, who’s been cast to play Kate. Renner already proved in Endgame that he can effectively play Clint as a disillusioned pessimist, and Steinfeld already proved her ability to play the young, enthusiastic apprentice of a grizzled antihero over a decade ago with her Oscar-nominated performance in the Coen brothers’ True Grit.
The Coens’ True Grit is a rare example of a remake that’s just as great as its predecessor. Henry Hathaway’s 1969 original is a classic anti-western, but it deviated from Charles Portis’ source novel to retool it as a starring vehicle for John Wayne. True Grit resulted in one of Wayne’s strongest performances, as he challenged his meticulously cultivated on-screen image with the role of aging, hard-drinking U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, but Cogburn wasn’t the focus of Portis’ novel; it was Mattie Ross, his plucky 14-year-old traveling companion. Mattie instigates the plot when she hires Cogburn to help her track down her father’s killer.
When the Coens re-adapted Portis’ work, they crucially refocused the story on Mattie and pushed Cogburn into the background with a suitable air of mystique around him. Cogburn was played by a brilliantly understated Jeff Bridges – reuniting with the Coens for the first time since The Big Lebowski – while Mattie was played by Hailee Steinfeld. At the age of 14, Steinfeld became one of the youngest actors ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Although it’ll have a markedly more fun, lighthearted tone, Hawkeye could tell a similar story to True Grit. There are clear parallels between the Cogburn/Mattie dynamic and the Clint/Kate dynamic: one is a veteran crimefighter haunted by his past misdeeds and the other is a naive kid eager to follow in his footsteps. Hawkeye has a unique opportunity to give one superhero an origin story and another superhero a Logan-style end-of-the-road finale at the same time. If Clint is reluctant to take Kate under his wing like Cogburn was with Mattie, it could create an interesting conflict between the characters.
Steinfeld is billed seventh in the cast of True Grit – probably thanks to the agents of A-list supporting players like Josh Brolin and Matt Damon – but she’s undeniably the star of the film. She gives the story a beating heart with her unwavering determination to bring justice to the man who murdered her father. Long after Cogburn has given up on his own belief in the importance of justice, Mattie comes along to inspire him. As committed as Mattie is to catching her father’s murderer, Steinfeld doesn’t play her as a cold-hearted killer. She’s still a relatable kid. In the climax of the movie, when Mattie faces down the villain and prepares to duel, Steinfeld plays the scene with a genuine hint of fear. In her line deliveries, Steinfeld makes outdated vernacular sound natural. She also developed incredible on-screen chemistry with Bridges as a questionable replacement father figure. It’s a powerhouse performance that deservingly made Steinfeld a recognizable star.
Hawkeye will likely set up Steinfeld’s Kate to lead the Young Avengers in the MCU’s future. Based on her work in True Grit – and other fantastic performances in Dickinson, Bumblebee, The Edge of Seventeen, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – it seems that the next generation of Earth’s mightiest heroes is in safe hands.