REVIEW: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (Somehow It Ended up Lame and Disappointing)

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No one was more excited than I when they announced a SHIELD TV series, spun off from the highly successful Marvel Avengers-related movies. I have always felt that SHIELD was the most interesting part of Marvel Comics. The reality of Disney’s production, however, has left me sad and very disappointed.

First things first: What is SHIELD? Well, in Marvel Comics, they logically took the premise of superheroes one step further and created a super-spy organization, SHIELD. The Supreme Headquarters for blah, blah, blah. That acronym has changed so many times over the years, I can’t keep it straight.

SHIELD, led by World War II’s second-greatest super soldier, Nick Fury, worked around the world, combating super-threats with super-gadgets, super-weapons, and even a super-spy or two. Heck, for a while in the 1970s, Marvel even had SHIELD battling Godzilla!

I loved SHIELD as a kid. I didn’t collect many of the actual SHIELD comics (I had a limited comic-buying budget) but I was always thrilled to see them in other titles, coming in like the cavalry from a Western to save the day. I also liked their spiffy, color-coded costumes. And while the immortal Nick Fury (thanks to a dose of the Infinity Formula) was my favorite, I was very partial to Dum Dum Dugan.

Nick

Good memories.

When Marvel began to make their incredible Avengers-related movies (Ironman, Hulk, Thor, etc) I was really enjoying a trip down nostalgia lane. Everyone loved Agent Coulson, and he made it cool to like government agents again, bucking a long-standing trend started in the 1980s that anyone working for Uncle Sam must be a moron or a bad guy.

I was pretty hyped to see SHIELD make their small screen debut. That excitement has now fizzled out. SHIELD has been added to my list of shows that just don’t live up to their potential (Grimm, you’re right above it).

Is SHIELD a superhero show? Well, not exactly. There are people with super-powers, they just aren’t on the SHIELD team. Which is stupid. Why can’t one of the six core members of the show be a cyborg, a telepath, or even have the ability to turn sound into sparkling light? Yes, even Dazzler’s lame super power would be a welcome addition to the show.

Is SHIELD an action show? Well, not exactly. Oh, yes, there is some action. A good five minutes of every show involves shooting, kicking, rappelling, and even the occasional Whovian running. But SHIELD is so good at what they do, it only takes five minutes or less to win a fight. Bam. It’s over. It’s like watching Superman take on purse snatchers.

Is SHIELD a comedy? Clark Gregg kills it as Agent Phil Coulson. He’s like 007 and Jack Benny mixed together, and his dry comedy is a very welcome break from the tedium of the rest of any given episode. Not even Gregg can carry this giant lemon, though. Thank God for DVRs and fast forward.

Is SHIELD a suspense/mystery show? Well, that may have been the intention, but it got lost somewhere. There’s no Fringe-y, X-Files-esque vibe going on. In fact, everything is brightly lit and clean, like the bridge of Jean-Luc Picard’s Enterprise. Fitting, given that the SHIELD team stands around talking most of the time, like it’s dinner theater. The average sitcom has more movement. And the mysteries? Shaggy and Scooby could figure them out in half the time it takes SHIELD’s gabby team of misfits to do so.

Is SHIELD a drama? I don’t watch many dramas. In fact, I despise drama. I don’t watch NCIS, or Law and Order, or any of that stuff. The only drama I can think of off the top of my head that I enjoy is Dexter, and that’s because it has such a strong Punisher vibe going on. Possibly SHIELD is a drama. It certainly has dramatic music and dramatic establishing shots. And there’s dramatic dialogue that spurs me and my kids into going “dunh-dunh-dunh!” every so often. But no, it’s not very dramatic.

I’m not really sure what direction SHIELD is supposed to be going. Maybe the producers aren’t either. Which blows my mind. This is a Disney show. They own everything! SHIELD should be exploding with CGI and action in every episode. I should be sitting on the edge of my seat, my pulse pounding, every week. The Walking Dead is more exciting, and it’s about as lifeless as they come.

Nickhoff

The potential is there. Neville and Hermione from Harry Potter are super scientists on SHIELD, yet the height of their scientific wizardry is miniature drones I could buy at Think Geek and a giant super soaker pistol that shoots sleepy-time darts. Lame. We see Coulson’s car, Lola, in as many background shots as the director can squeeze it in (a possible homage to Sam Raimi and his own beloved car), yet Lola is rarely used. WTH?! It’s a flying car that probably has missiles and machine guns and whatnot. It should be used for close air support every chance they get. A convertible Airwolf that is also a bitchin’ ride.

I am sorry, Disney, but you are completely ruining this show. I bet even David Hasselhoff has quit wishing he’d gotten to reprise his role as Nick Fury.

To save this show, it needs tougher villains, fewer lightbulbs, more explosions, flashier gadgets, and some frickin’ super powers!

6 COMMENTS

  1. I was hoping that Agents of SHIELD would be an NCIS-style show, where Coulson and his team of super=secret government agents appeared to tackle the most bizarre paranormal/superhuman/extraterrestrial cases ever. I expected Coulson to have some amazing dialogue and the radness that made us fall in love with him in the first place. Instead we have weak characters, all kinds of random storylines, a lot of mystery. I was very disappointed after only a few episodes.

    I really hope my hopes for Gotham aren’t equally misplaced

  2. I agree with CE on every point. I was so bored with the SHIELD episode this week I actually nodded off. Can this really be the child of Whedon and Marvel? Clark Gregg and some of the other actors are terrific, but they’re wasted here. This isn’t a problem with CGI, it’s something much more basic (and actually easier to fix) – writing and directing. And I hope to god they do. Look to “Person of Intrerest” for inspiration, actually a similar-themed series in many ways and also by a top-line superheroes film director, Christopher Nolan. Suspense, wry humor, action sequences, cool technology, thriller elements. But the characters are three dimensional, the writing is sharp and the direction is compelling. It can be done right.

  3. I think your expectations may be set too high for a television show. There is simply no way to fit as many sfx shots into a weekly show as they can put into a movie that takes years to produce. Big budget special effects, if they could use more of them, would raise the required audience demand to offset the cost. This is what killed Firefly and a number of similar shows over the past 20 years. If you increase the cost of the show without bringing in the corresponding numbers of viewers, the show will get cancelled before the season is half over. Give it time to build an audience, and maybe we MIGHT get to see more wiz-bang comic book action. Dialog on a set that does not have to be rebuilt every week is cheap, so we are going to see a lot of that. That is TV reality in the 21st century. Get used to it.

    • As the Brits, the early Sam Raimi and other filmmakers have proven time and again, you don’t need a big budget to deliver a quality product. Given me a good script and fine acting, and I’m a happy viewer. Eye candy produced by the likes of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich gets tiresome very quickly.

  4. Your criticisms are completely on target. This was the one new TV show I was really looking forward to, and my disappointment knows no bounds.

    While I wasn’t a fan of the SHIELD comic books, I am a HUGE Joss Whedon fan, and it was his participation in “Agents” that stoked my excitement. The results, however, are lights years away from what he achieved with “Firefly,” “Buffy,” “Angel” and his movies.

    I was about 20 minutes into this week’s episode when I asked myself why I was wasting my time with a program that was going nowhere. It wasn’t a tough decision to erase the show from my DVR and cancel all future recordings. Yes, Agent Coulson is super-cool and a great character, but he can’t carry a dull and pointless enterprise.

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