Now that we’ve had a few weeks to digest the superpowered slugfest that was Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s time to speculate as to how the film fits into Marvel’s overall plan for its Cinematic Universe. Of course, everybody’s been discussing the direct references to the Infinity Stones, which serve to set up Avengers: Infinity War (among others), in addition to revealing Cap’s new team of Avengers, which will most definitely be seen in Captain America: Civil War when it debuts on May 6, 2016. One implication for future MCU films, however, that has been heretofore overlooked involves the unexpected revelations of perhaps its least superpowered hero: Jeremy Renner‘s Hawkeye.
Largely relegated to the role of a mindless minion in Avengers Assemble, Hawkeye gets ample opportunity in the sequel to show why he’s a worthy member of the team amongst a cast of super-soldiers, demigods, and playboy philanthropists. The reveal of Hawkeye’s family works exceptionally well not only in the context of Age of Ultron, but also in the grand scheme of the MCU. Writer/Director Joss Whedon brilliantly blends two popular depictions of Clint Barton in contemporary Marvel comics, as seen in Mark Millar‘s The Ultimates 2 and Matt Fraction‘s ongoing Hawkeye solo series. Fraction depicted the violent shenanigans Hawkeye gets entangled into “when he’s not being an Avenger,” yet also showed that the character had a soft side. Similarly, Millar proved Barton to be a deadly Avenger, albeit with a soft spot: particularly in this iteration, his family. Whedon does a great job in taking what works in each of these depictions. The director juxtaposes Hawkeye’s capabilities with the rest of the Avengers team; though Barton may be the most physically vulnerable – highlighted by his injury in the opening sequence – he is shown to be by far the most emotionally and mentally stable of the lot. Indeed, it is this respective stability that makes Hawkeye a genuinely integral member of the team, grounding the superpowered Avengers in reality, all with a wife and kids awaiting his return at home.
Just as the film acknowledges Hawkeye’s past appearances in the MCU – particularly in his humorous line to Scarlet Witch about his disdain for mind control – the film certainly seems to set up his appearances in future films; whether it’s capitalized in Civil War or Infinity War: Parts 1 and 2 remains to be seen. Much of the speculation leading up to Age of Ultron incorrectly predicted the archer’s death, presumably because of his ostensible expendability. The reveal of his family, however, ultimately proves that Hawkeye is actually the least expendable. Cap is a man out of time, Banner self-imposed to a life of exile, Stark a man whose legacy is personified by his technology. Whether or not Thor is worthy of ruling Asgard is sure to be explored in Thor: Ragnarok, especially with Loki posing as Odin on the throne. Likewise, it’s no mistake that Black Widow was also revealed to be infertile in this very film, her ability to continue her own legacy savagely desecrated. In comparison, by exposing Clint Barton as a “family man,” Hawkeye now has a LOT to lose in future Marvel films, with Whedon setting him up to eventually have a DEVASTATING death. Now, it’s unlikely that Hawkeye would bite the dust as soon as next year in Civil War – especially if Renner still has a few films left on his contract. Instead, it would be far more cinematically powerful if he were to die at the hands of…THANOS.
Avengers: Age of Ultron thankfully proved to common moviegoers that Hawkeye is cool and rightfully deserves a place amongst his fellow Avengers. Fans of Avengers Assemble were less than satisfied with Hawkeye’s first full appearance (his cameo in Thor notwithstanding), though he did have some fan-favorite moments. Hawkeye demonstrated his calm, brave demeanor – going toe-to-toe with a God, despite being a human without any superpowers, just a bow and arrow. Comparatively, in Infinity War, Thanos needs to kill multiple heroes in order to justify his villainous depiction in a two-part film that will have been teased for nearly a decade. Marvel would be celebrated if, in doing so, Hawkeye is given an emotional, heroic sendoff at the deadly hands of the Mad Titan. In 2018-2019, we’ll be able to sit back and see Hawkeye’s glorious journey throughout the MCU, surprised by how much of the set-up went right under our noses.
How do you think Hawkeye will factor into the future of the MCU? Is he destined for death? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!