The high point of Marvel’s presentation on Disney+ Day was a series of sequences from the upcoming Hawkeye series. Early footage promised a high-end car chase, and the new content provides the first tantalizing look at how it’s going to play out. It’s a one-shot sequence, covering Clint Barton and Kate Bishop’s rolling battle with the Track-Suit Draculas. It evokes not only a specific style of car chase, but some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most memorable action sequences.
Before Marvel fans speculated on his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Charlie Cox’s Daredevil made an impression with one of the most singularly impressive fight scenes in a long while. Its single-shot format not only helped to make it memorable, but provided the inspiration for Hawkeye’s new – and decidedly lighter – action scene. The older moment also helps inform the semi-realistic approach favored by the MCU’s Netflix series, rather than the far-flung cosmic implications of Loki or What If…?
The signature scene in Daredevil arrives in Season 1, Episode 2, “Cut Man,” early in the vigilante’s career as he seeks the whereabouts of a kidnapped boy. He enters the building and proceeds to brutalize a seemingly endless number of guards in a vicious fight through a dingy corridor before finally emerging with the boy and taking him to safety. The sustained shot not only emphasizes the savagery of the fight, but the physical toll it takes on Murdock, as he absorbs a shocking amount of punishment before finally reaching his goal.
Daredevil spent the remainder of its three seasons emulating that moment, topped in Season 3, Episode 4, “Blindsided” in which Murdock fights off an entire prison of the Kingpin’s underlings in a sequence lasting over 11 minutes. The tradition goes back to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, created to look as if the entire movie were one extended shot. Asian action movies of decades previous often used similar “in-camera editing” techniques to shoot fight scenes in sequence, and Daredevil took obvious inspiration from director Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy, whose protagonist battles a corridor full of thugs in a seemingly single unbroken shot.
The Hawkeye sequence adds motor vehicles to the mix, drawing not only from Daredevil and its progenitors, but from a similar tradition that goes back decades. The 1950 crime thriller Gun-Crazy featured an armed robbery shot in a single take from the back seat of a car, a method emulated first by the French New Wave in movies like Breathless, then later in Hollywood films such as Children of Men. The effect usually differs from similar scenes "on foot," as the interior of the car lends a certain surreal quality to developments outside the vehicle. Hawkeye links it strongly to Daredevil’s scenes, tapping into the notion of a gritty, street-level MCU to a lighter and more comedic moment.
The scene entails Hawkeye and Kate Bishop on the run. They hotwire a car and barreling out into traffic with the mobsters in hot pursuit. It follows the pattern of Daredevil in the way its villains weave in and out of view, coming at Barton and Bishop in waves just when they feel they’re in the clear. The car provides additional complications owing to oncoming traffic, enhancing the feeling of chaos and immediate peril. Hawkeye diffuses it with humor, as the characters bicker about who’s going to drive and eventually tie the action into the “exploding arrow” joke from the earlier trailer. The added danger of a moving vehicle makes it feel bigger without losing the sense of being in a very normal, reality-based corner of the MCU.
As the banner title for Netflix’s Marvel shows, Daredevil occupies an awkward position in the MCU. Its adult content, and those of other shows in the line like Jessica Jones, never quite matched the more upbeat direction Disney wanted to take the property. As the character carries over into projects like Spider-Man: No Way Home, its connection to more family-friendly titles are in question. Hawkeye’s continuation of its visual traditions, albeit in more cheerful form, is a sign that its legacy won’t be abandoned. Daredevil and its ilk left a strong mark on the franchise. More than the character himself, the visual techniques that told his story are clearly continuing as well.