Week of Superhero Television – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Last Tuesday’s airing of the pilot of the new Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (AOS) series was undoubtedly one of the biggest television events of this season. It represents, at the very least, an escalation in the mainstream comics’ arms race, with Marvel decisively striking a blow with a major television series linked in to their universe. The idea is not new, of course, but after 2012’s phenomenally successful release of The Avengers, everyone expected this new show to be a big deal.

Marvel characters have been noticeably absent from live-action television since 2006’s Blade, which marked the time just before the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney’s decision to not put shows on tv based on the characters could be explained by a desire to not muddle their continuity, choosing rather to build it out more deliberately. AOS’ early ratings success seems to be a sign the strategy paid off – the pilot episode aired to the highest ratings for a series debut in nearly four years.

The nature of a television series, however, means that a strong opening is not enough for a successful show. Does ABC have the building blocks in the pilot series to sustain the numbers?

Having, naturally, only seen the pilot and not any of the subsequent episodes, I would hazard a guess that they do. Obviously, Whedon has his hands full and will not be able to write and direct each of the subsequent episodes as he did the pilot, but as fans we couldn’t expect him to – after all, the man is currently working on Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, which is probably just about tied for the most anticipated upcoming superhero film. We can expect Whedon’s less direct involvement to force the show’s likeability to take a hit. Recent rumors indicated that the poor quality of some upcoming episodes’ scripts forced the man to do page-one rewrites hours before table reads, but the showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon (as differentiated from his brother, Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the pilot) have since denied the rumors to Hollywood Reporter. Sceptics will cry that “of course they would”, but after a similar situation where Whedon was recently asked to step in for rewrites of problematic scenes in Thor: The Dark World, the director Alan Taylor talked about it openly. Granted, Whedon has a reputation for being a script doctor (legend has it, Whedon fixed the ending for Marvel’s Civil War in 10 minutes, simply stopping in en-route to a different office). One has to hope the writing staff for the show will be able to stand up on their own two feet without relying on him.

Regardless of speculation, the first episode is simply good. I am a poor viewer of television, possibly due to being spoiled to seeing bigger things in the cinema… But the show never disappointed. The dialogue, as we would expect, was punchy and clever, only occasionally straying into cheese (which can just as easily be attributed to the cast, which I’ll talk about later). Visually, the show varies between standard sets, to film-quality action scenes. The episode opens on a fight that would be impressive to see anywhere, as if to allay any concerns anyone might have about production vallue. Neither does the show allow itself to stray too far from the subject matter presumably everyone showed up for – superheroes are at the core of the show, despite not being in the main cast.

I had actually forgotten, it seems, how likeable Clark Gregg actually is in the role of Agent Coulson. His lines pop, his very first appearance in the show is dramatic, yet immediately undercut by a joke. Neither, however, does he shy away from the more intense scenes when his leadership role requires it. Agent Ward, portrayed by Brett Dalton so far seems to be a wet blanket, but as the physically most capable member of the team, one can only hope he will become less of a hard-ass while retaining the role of the resident action-man. Fitz and Simmons (Caestecker and Henstridge) had very little to do in the pilot episode, but could be fun. Ming-Na Wen ‘s character Melinda May hints at emotional depth, but that aspect of the character has not been adequately explored so far. This leaves us with Chloe Bennet in the role of Skye, who despite my immediate annoyance at her character early won me over by being funny and self-deprecating while remaining strong. If given too strong a focus, I feel the character does not have the juice to carry the scene, as is exemplified in the early narration by the character which simply, in my mind, does not work very well. In a team setting, however, she really is likeable. If the pilot were a film, I would say the characters are underdevelopped, but as it stands I remain hopeful the further episodes will take care of that.

I will not reveal the particulars of the plot of the show, nor how Agent Coulson is alive – I will simply say that there are hints the truth on that matter is not completely settled. As to the plot of the show, it does seem to take on an episodic “case of the week” structure, which I like. J. August Richards was very strong as the focus of the pilot. It is unclear whether his character will make any further appearances in the series.

This column was also supposed to cover the past few weeks of rumors and news for upcoming television series, but I will instead cover those topics in a later post, so stay tuned for that. For now, I will only say that DC’s approach is definitely very different, and while a lot is happening on that side of the Great Comics Divide, we have to question which strategy will ultimately prove to be more successful. Only time will tell, of course.

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Trailer Tuesday: Last Days on Mars

Every Tuesday, I will post a trailer I saw in the past week that I felt was worth sharing.

There is a true shortage of original sci-fi out there today. In Last Days on Mars, however, we see a trailer which is not, at least at a first glance, an adaptation of anything (indeed, the screenplay is original, and written by Clive Dawson), as well as appearing to be quite effectively scary. It is directed by Ruairi Robinson, who, like the writer, is a newcomer in feature film. It has Liev Schreiber in what appears to be the lead.

It is impossible to watch the trailer here without being immediately reminded of Alien. My hope is that the comparison remain hopeful. I truly don’t see enough serious science fiction thrillers that could be taken even remotely seriously. Even the Alien franchise itself strayed away from its horror movie roots in the later installments, straying more towards adventure. This isn’t terrible, of course, but my point is that I’m hoping for some of that vibe in Last Days on Mars

The film already premiered in Cannes in May, but is scheduled for a December 6th release in the United States. While the some of the advance reviews were not favorable, that trailer completely has me wanting to see the picture.

 

Trailer Tuesday: Kill Your Darlings

Every Tuesday, I will post a trailer I saw in the past week that I felt was worth sharing.

The film is based on the true events of 1944, which pulled together the legends of the beat generation (Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac) and culminated in David Kammerer’s murder by Lucien Carr, another prominent member of the beats’ inner circle.

The directorial debut of John Krokidas debuted in the Sundance festival earlier this year, and as of now has a 100 percent rating based on 12 reviews. In my experience, this typically means the movie is either very mediocre, or very great.

Amongst notable factors in the film is the starring role of Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Allen Ginsberg, which may finally give the young actor a real career outside of Harry Potter fame. Daniel DeHaan (Chronicle) also has a prominent role as Lucien Carr. After The Place Beyond the Pines, the thesp is really becoming known for delivering in challenging roles. Kill Your Darlings also features Elizabeth Olsen, and Michael C. Hall (who is about to finish his eight-year stint as Dexter).

The film will have a limited release in October, after being currently shown in the Toronto International Film Festival.

Casting Friday: Furious Russell, Lex Cranston, Fifty Shades of Hunnam, more

Each Friday, I will summarize the important casting news or rumors from the preceding week, giving you a preview of who’ll be playing who in the future!

Furious Russell

According to Variety, Kurt Russell (Death Proof, Escape From New York) is joining the cast of Fast and Furious 7. The role had reportedly been previously offered to Denzel Washington.

The sequel is being directed James Wan (SawInsidiousThe Conjuring).

The film’s cast has also recently been supplemented Tony Jaa. “Having a chance to work with Vin Diesel and The Rock already makes me a winner,” said the martial artist about the opportunity. Good for you, Tony!

Kurt Russell has been noticeably absent from the big screens since 2007’s Death Proof, which was also a car-centric movie. Is cars what it takes to bring the actor out nowadays?

Lex Cranston

Despite tweets from Latino Review, which sent a flurry of speculation across the internet throughout August, Bryan Cranston is NOT going to be playing Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film.

The star of Breaking Bad inflamed some of the rumors himself by saying “I like Lex Luthor. I think he’s misunderstood. He’s a lovable, sweet man.”

When asked by the Boston Globe about the rumored six picture deal, the actor responded with ““Six? This is all news to me. I think that maybe my name is bandied about because I’m known to be bald. ‘What bald guy can we get?’ The reality is they can take any actor and shave his head or put a bald cap on him.” Presumably, this means he’s not doing it.

Fifty Shades of Hunnam

Pacific Rim and Sons of Anarchy star Charles Hunnam has been cast for the adaptation of the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey book. Hunnam will take on the role of Christian Grey, while his costar Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele (don’t you love it when you can discern the level of writing by the lead character’s names?).

Having not read the book, I have very little to say about these news, except that they’ve happened and that there are a lot of people on the internet that seem to really be either upset or happy about this. Fanboys, amirite?

 

Star Cumberbatch

The rumor, evidently starting at Screen Crush, was that Cumberbatch was poised to join the cast of the upcoming Star Wars sequel, in a villainous role. According to Badass Digest, he was meant to play a Sith. The rumours appeared to have validity due to Cumberbatch having very recently worked with J. J. Abrams on Star Trek Into Darkness – considering the director is now moving across to the other “star” franchise, it seemed reasonable he’d poach one of the actors, as well. The actor had also recently left the cast of Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, which, speculation went, may have been to make room for a Star Wars role.

Cumberbatch’s representatives have, however, denied the rumor entirely: “There is no truth to the rumor Benedict has been cast in Star Wars. I think the rumors are circling because J.J. and Benedict have just recently had a wonderful time working together on Star Trek.” At the same time, however, the actor said he would not say no to that opportunity if it came along.

 

What Is Happening With The New Spawn Movie? Read more at http://whatculture.com/film/what-is-happening-with-the-new-spawn-movie.php#1zcE5KLrcSXpjdd8.99

What Is Happening With The New Spawn Movie? Read more at http://whatculture.com/film/what-is-happening-with-the-new-spawn-movie.php#1zcE5KLrcSXpjdd8.99

I dig up the long history of the new Spawn movie Todd McFarlane is always talking about. Spoilers: McFarlane has basically been giving us the exact same updates as news for the past decade.

Trailer Tuesday: Dallas Buyers Club

Every Tuesday, I will post a trailer I saw in the past week that I felt was worth sharing.

Dallas Buyers Club:

The film is due to come out on November 1st – shortly after this trailer was released, the release date was moved up from December. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who had previously done C.R.A.Z.Y.Young Victoria, and Café de Flore. I think he’s a perfect fit for the subject matter, I think he’ll be a big help in keeping the picture from becoming too weepy. 

The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodruff, who started a market for non-FDA-approved medication in Dallas, Texas, smuggling it in from Mexico to help himself and other people suffering from HIV. It also stars Jennifer Garner (whose role, in all honesty, doesn’t look that interesting, unfortunately) and Jared Leto in a gutsy appearance as a transvestite. I honestly didn’t even recognize him at all until his name came up in the trailer.

Both Leto and McConaughey appear to have lost a ton of weight for the roles, which typically signifies commitment to the role. The internet is buzzing with Oscar nomination rumors for McConaughey, so this movie will definitely be one to watch, not least of all because it seems like it will be a really good movie.