The Avengers successfully brought together the core roster of Marvel Studios cinematic heroes into an epic blockbuster that became the third biggest box office success of all-time. While director Joss Whedon was able to balance precious screen time and a multitude of story arcs between the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor - characters who all had a chance to shine in their own solo origins films beforehand - the same cannot be said of the non-powered heroes.
Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow had a starring role in Iron Man 2 before joining The Avengers, but for Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, his introduction was limited to a short cameo in Thor. With a chance to finally delve into the character in The Avengers, Renner was none too pleased that Whedon's script never gave him the opportunity to play character he signed on for.
In an interview with Hero Complex three months after the record-breaking release of The Avengers, Renner spoke honestly about the film and his limited role in it, highlighting the fact that the plot had his character essentially become a mindless grunt up until the final act and action set piece.
"At the end of the day, 90% of the movie, I’m not the character I signed on to play. I’m literally in there for two minutes, and then all of a sudden… All I could really work on was the physical part of it all, because that didn’t change. That was just the biggest challenge to overcome in playing the guy. Also, we’re pretty much introducing a new superhero character to everyone in a movie where there’s a thousand superheroes. So there’s not a lot of back story or understanding we can really tell about who Clint Barton is, or Hawkeye, and is he working for SHIELD or not. There’s a lot of unanswered questions, even for me. And I was OK with that. At least I was still in the movie. And I was glad for that. The closest thing I could really link to was Scarlett [Johansson's] character, Black Widow, because they have a history. And that definitely plays in the movie, I think. And obviously, you can’t go into too much just because there’s so much story to tell, but you definitely get a sense that they’re connected, and that there’s something really, really important that ties them together. And I could try to summarize it, but it can go a lot of places. That excites me, though, that there’s room for other things."
While Scarlett Johansson will get to explore more of the backstory behind Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Renner may not get a chance to return to the big screen as SHIELD Agent Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye until The Avengers 2 releases in the summer of 2015. Despite Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige teasing potential Marvel Studios spinoffs for the two, it's rather safe to say that - like Black Widow - the Hawkeye character will never get a solo film.
What does that mean for the story of Clint Barton and star Jeremy Renner? In chatting with MTV, Renner essentially confirms his (obvious) return and is hopeful that the second time around, the script for The Avengers 2 will let him play character he was pitched before signing on. In Marvel Comics, Hawkeye is more of a lone wolf, often clashing with the other members of The Avengers.
"It's what he was able to do with the first one. Now, there's more opportunities to explore the characters a little more, I think, for everybody. I think that's exciting."
Renner stresses that he's not trying to offer suggestions or make demands, jokingly admitting he'd "screw things all up." That being said, Hawkeye's history in the books seems to lend itself well with what Whedon has been touting for the sequel, a film which he describes as more personal, not as "happy."
"The creation of the team is not the happy ending. It is the beginning of something that is complex and difficult, and now I get to dig a little deeper. And maybe, while I’m digging, just twist that knife. And that’s exciting for me."
With potentially even more characters joining the fray for The Avengers 2, Whedon and co. have a challenge ahead of meeting lofty expectations and letting so many different characters have their chance to shine. Would you like to see more Hawkeye in Phase Two of the Marvel cinematic universe and should his role be expanded in The Avengers sequel?
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.