Why Marvel won't give Hawkeye a movie

The archer known as Hawkeye started out as a supervillain in 1964, then quickly switched sides and teamed up with the Avengers in 1965—and Hawkeye's been a key player in the Marvel Comics universe ever since. He's also been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since Phase 1, when he had a brief cameo in Thor. He had a bigger role in The Avengers, a much larger role in Avengers: Age of Ultron, then a solid supporting part in Captain America: Civil War. During that time, a whole bunch of heroes have gotten their own movies (or a few sequels to their standalone franchises).

The studio also had the foresight to cast Jeremy Renner, an up-and-comer at the time, in the role of Hawkeye. Renner's stock has only increased in the years since he signed his first Marvel contract all those years ago, and he's already proven he can anchor a big action movie with 2012's The Bourne Legacy. So what's the the problem?

Jeremy Renner's been tentative about playing Clint Barton

Renner has been around the Marvel machine for awhile now, and he was famously unhappy with his role in The Avengers. The actor was vocally outspoken about how his character was largely underutilized, and considering he spent most of the movie mindlessly brainwashed and working for Loki, it's hard to argue his point. But he's warmed to his superhero role in the years since: Renner was reportedly happy with his character getting some attention in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and he said in a recent Reddit AMA that he would "be game" if Marvel was ever interested in actually making a solo movie. But it's still worth noting that he's seemed fickle about playing the character at times, and has already been in the role for the better part of a decade.

The most acclaimed Hawkeye story wouldn't even work as a movie…

Hawkeye enjoyed a Marvel Comics renaissance of sorts from around 2012-2015, when acclaimed writer Matt Fraction launched his award-winning solo run with the character. The trick? He pretty much completely ignored the fact that Hawkeye is a superhero, and instead largely focused on his regular life in a NYC apartment building. It was almost the Seinfeld of comic books (although there was certainly some action and it definitely wasn't always funny), and it won pretty much every award the comics industry has to offer. The story followed Clint as he tried to help his neighbors, hung out with his pal Kate Bishop (who's also Hawkeye—hey, it's complicated), and went on a few adventures along the way. He also faced off with a group of Russian gangsters, nicknamed the "Tracksuit Draculas," out to run the neighborhood. It's a fantastic story perfectly suited to the modern comics, but it certainly isn't something people would likely flock to see out of the MCU.

…But it'd make an awesome Netflix series

That said, it would absolutely make one heck of a great Netflix series. Of course, there are a lot of logistical problems with pulling that off (mostly the fact that the MCU version of Hawkeye has a family and lives on a farm, as opposed to being single and living in an apartment). But fans have been pushing for Marvel to consider this arc for a TV series for years, and even Renner has said he might be open to reprising the character for a limited TV series run if Marvel could nail down the right story. Fraction's run was a smaller story and checks those boxes, and would certainly be better suited for TV than the box office. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, obviously, but the humor and drama of Fraction's Hawkeye run would be perfectly suited to the Netflix model.

They haven't introduced a compelling solo angle in the MCU

There are a few characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who have story threads worth pulling on for a solo movie. Fans have lobbied the studio to make a Black Widow solo film since Scarlett Johansson brought the character to life in Iron Man 2, and someone like the Hulk or Winter Soldier (or Black Panther, who is already getting a solo movie) seem like more obvious candidates. Avengers: Age of Ultron made it clear Hawkeye is the heart of the Avengers, and he lives a balanced life at a small farm with his wife and children while not off saving the world. The studio just hasn't alluded to any deep dark secrets, or some great drama, that begs to be explored with a solo outing. Hawkeye is just a regular guy in the MCU, and that's part of his appeal. But it's hard to make a $100 million blockbuster about a regular dude.

A lot of his best comic stories wouldn't really work in the MCU

Hawkeye has been around the comic world for decades, and along the way he's played key roles in a lot of fantastic stories. He's died and been resurrected, he's taken on the mantle of super ninja Ronin, he's killed the Hulk (in Marvel Comics' recent Civil War II arc), and we've already mentioned Fraction's take on the character. But looking to the world Marvel has built with its connected universe, a lot of those stories wouldn't really work in this setting. Marvel's big-screen universe has slowly diverged from the comics (much like The Walking Dead has changed between mediums over the years), and it makes it harder to tell those stories in a faithful way.

Use Captain America: Civil War as an example. Yes, it pitted hero against here, but it was almost a completely different version of the story than the comics event that inspired it. It was also fantastic, which shows there's no shame in changing these stories for the film world, but it means most potential Hawkeye stories would need some wholesale tweaks to work.

There are just so many other movies to make first

This is a common refrain for just about every character on Marvel's deep bench of superheroes. The studio has released more than a dozen films, with around half a dozen more already in development, and there are only so many films a studio can make and release in a given year. Fans are already begging for another Hulk movie and a Black Widow spinoff, plus Marvel is making Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. Beyond that, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and more Avengers movies are all penciled in on the calendar. Heck, Marvel also has the rights back to Blade now, and the studio could always get a movie about the Daywalker off the ground. There are a lot of options on the table, and Hawkeye has already been in his fair share of movies.

His power set doesn't really translate well to a film

Look, no offense to all the archer heroes in the Marvel and DC universes. Green Arrow is awesome, as the CW's long-running TV series Arrow has proven over the past half-decade. Hawkeye is also one heck of a great hero, but building a blockbuster around a guy who fights bad guys with a bow and arrow? That's a tough sell. An Iron Man movie makes sense—he's a guy who flies around in a cool suit of armor. A Thor movie makes sense—he flies around the cosmos and bashes bad guys with a hammer. Hawkeye shoots arrows, with amazing accuracy. That's cool, sure, but just not on the same level. There's a reason DC decided to turn Green Arrow into a TV series: that skill set just seems better suited for a smaller scale.

His rogues gallery isn't well suited for the big screen

Considering he's been a member of the Avengers for decades, Hawkeye has faced off with pretty much every major and minor Marvel Comics baddie at some point. But he doesn't really have the most compelling rogues' gallery on his own. Digging into the comics canon, many of his recurring foes have zeroed in on the same gimmick as Hawkeye (i.e. sharpshooters). The list includes random characters such Trick Shot, Death-Throws, Crossfire, Bullseye, and Swordsman (plus Batroc the Leaper, who already faced off with Steve Rogers awhile back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Sure, not all of those guys are terrible, but it'd be tough to find a truly iconic Hawkeye villain to share the screen in a solo project.

In the MCU, he works best with Black Widow

A big part of the MCU's version of Clint Barton is closely tied to his friendship with Black Widow, and it'd be strange to have him spin off in a solo movie that doesn't feature her. Along with a solo Black Widow movie, fans have also lobbied for a Black Widow and Hawkeye team-up film, but Marvel has never shown much interest in actually making one. But if The Avengers and Captain America: Civil War have shown us anything, it's that Hawkeye needs Black Widow as a foil. They have the best jokes with one another, and as we saw in Avengers: Age of Ultron, they're extremely close. It would be fairly hard to explain away Black Widow's absence in any Hawkeye story important enough to actually warrant its own movie.

Looking to the comics, he's almost always been better on a team

Hawkeye has been a member of the Avengers since the mid-1960s, and though he's headlined some solo books along the way, he's typically been a mainstay on more than a few Avengers rosters. Heck, he actually hung up his solo book in Marvel's latest comics relaunch to headline the new Occupy Avengers series. Barton brings a perspective to the team dynamic that is critical. Much like the less-is-more approach, many of Hawkeye's best stories have been woven into larger team narratives. As director Joss Whedon explored in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Clint Barton is important because he's typically the only Average Joe on the team. That's an important component to ground an Avengers roster, and Avengers: Age of Ultron was arguably the pinnacle of Hawkeye storytelling. It gave fans just enough to leave them wanting more, as opposed to two full hours of pure Hawkeye.

The other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, isn't well-known enough for her own movie

If Marvel really wanted to get creative, the studio could put Barton on the bench and introduce the younger Hawkeye in the comic universe: Kate Bishop. Kate was introduced in 2005 in Marvel Comics' Young Avengers run, and took up the Hawkeye mantle in 2006. Over the past decade she's become a close friend and protégé to Clint Barton, and she's arguably a better archer. Kate has run around with the Young Avengers for most of her tenure, but Fraction's Hawkeye comic run sent her off to California to work as a private eye and a new Hawkeye comic, focused on Kate, is set to continue that story. If Marvel was looking to shake things up, a hard-boiled, West Coast private eye story starring Kate Bishop would be a creative swing. There's just one problem: Outside of avid comic readers, she isn't a hugely popular character. Her status is on the rise, but it'd still be a stretch. Considering we're still waiting on Marvel to officially give us a Spider-Man film starring Miles Morales, you'd think we sadly still have a long way to go until Kate Bishop gets a shot at big-screen glory.