The new TV series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hits the small screen!
I tried to watch this show from the point of view of a non-comics reader and I have to say its a mixed bag. Here goes:
The Script: Joss Whedon’s trademark dialogue and genre-bending humour shines through so that no cliche goes on too long without calling attention to itself. Whedon is having fun with the script and it shows. Just when we think we’re watching another generic hi-tech cop show, the plot takes a turn and keeps us guessing. However…
The Characters Nearly everything else about the show makes us feel like we ARE watching a generic hi-tech cop show. As the episode progressed, I kept waiting for The Cool Character to arrive on screen that would hook us in; the rogue, the loose canon, the comic relief. But…they never came. Instead what we have is a team of shockingly generic characters led by the stiff Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson (who died in Avengers, but is resurrected here under mysterious circumstances). The future recruit Skye (Chloe Bennet) is the most promising, but she still falls for several TV-acting cliches, fast-talking her way into overwritten punchlines (that might have worked if spoken by other actors).
Other than Skye (and possibly Brett Dalton’s Agent Grant Ward), I don’t care about anyone on this team. If the brilliant J. August Richards (Michael Petersen) sticks around as a recurring character, it will be a big plus. This show needs a “Dum-Dum” Dugan (from the S.H.I.E.L.D. comics) or Jayne Cobb (from Firefly) to spice things up. I’m sure the show will improve with time, but right now things aren’t looking bright.
The Look: Even in this Golden Age of Television we are currently experiencing, I still have much lower expectations for cinematography and art direction. They can be technically flawless, but still not take any artistic chances. While I’m sure Disney/Marvel is doing all they can to “disguise” this comic book-inspired franchise as a regular TV show, it only works to hurt them. The beautiful visuals of the source material (as done by Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko) were a benchmark of Silver Age comics and would help to make this show stand out from the pack. I suggest diving deeper into the 1960s Technicolor style that inspired S.H.I.E.L.D to give this show more of an identity.
The Continuity I won’t even comment on it, because I truly don’t care. Its nice to see references to Iron Man and Thor, but if that’s a selling point of this show, then it must not have much faith its stories.
In Conclusion: A good starting point. While the wit and humour is promising, the fact that Whedon won’t be around to execute them is not (he’s busy preparing for Avengers 2). Rather than introduce an antagonist who can leap really high and punch really hard, they should have scanned through some old X-files plots to create a more inspired “hero” (another term that was drilled into the ground). I’m also unsure of how threatening S.H.I.E.L.D is supposed to be; while its comforting to see they wouldn’t get rough with Skye, in any average cop show the viewer gets a sense of how serious their job can be, if only by inference and body language.
A decent start but at this point, I’m more excited about the season premier of ARROW coming up in a few weeks.
Below is some sample art from the classic comic book by Jim Steranko.
Mike-EL is a Co-Producer and Founder of the Comic Book Syndicate TV series. He is an independent filmmaker, professional videographer and holds a PhD in Superhero Fun.