Friday, October 18, 2013

S.H.I.E.L.D. catalogues super and otherworldly phenomena

(Published Oct. 16, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Heavily connected to 2012’s “The Avengers” movie directed by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is a sleek, ambitious spin-off that seeks to expand the cinematic universe’s mythology.

Remember when “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” started with few and clunky special effects? “S.H.I.E.L.D.” is nothing like that; it’s big-budgeted and bombastic from the get-go, already reflecting Marvel’s movie world in terms of flashy enhancements.

Cocreated by Whedon, his brother Jed and previous “Dollhouse” collaborator Maurissa Tancharoen, the show directly follows events depicted in “The Avengers,” finally focusing on the super-equipped government agency that appears in Marvel’s various movies. S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, led by Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson).
It’s off to a good—if somewhat unspectacular—start. The series centers on the adventures of a squad handled by Agent Phil (Clark Gregg), who was killed in the aforementioned film. The show will gradually answer questions regarding his miraculous survival.

Referencing the thwarted alien invasion of New York ad infinitum, the first episode reveals that the world is radically changed and the appearance of superhumans and potentially destructive weaponry is starting to become commonplace. Tasked with investigating them, the small but capable S.H.I.E.L.D. squad is made up of seasoned field agents and younger science experts.

The cast of characters is typically diverse, each exhibiting quirky behavior from time to time. The oft-cutesy, disarming Whedon patter is there, along with the “Buffy” and “Firefly” creator’s penchant for empowered women: Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is an accomplished pilot and fighter; Skye (Chloe Bennet) is a relentless “hacktivist” and potential new recruit; and Maria Hill (guest star Cobie Smulders) is Fury’s exemplary lieutenant.

Fans looking forward to Whedon’s lively banter will not be disappointed; there’s a characteristically humorous, character-focused script.

However, it’s a bit too glossy at times; it’s hard to believe that Skye’s been living in her van for some time because she looks really glamorous, for instance. But the
technology is dazzling; there are cool floating doodads, holographic touch screens and, of course, flying cars (just like in the comics!).

This cross-media transition can, and is expected to, complement the Marvel movies in the pipeline. Perhaps some of these new characters and concepts will appear in the movies, as well. The series was picked up by the ABC channel and will have a full, 22-episode season. It’s a welcome and action-packed elaboration on, and hopefully, a strengthening of Marvel’s movie realm.

(“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” premieres on Oct. 19, 9:50 p.m., on Fox.)

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