Friday, January 17, 2014

Agents Of Shield - is it the show, or the writing?

Make mine Marvel. That's how I grew up, reading Spider-man, Captain America, The Avengers, some Hulk, GIJoe, The Fantastic Four and a smattering of others. In fact, this movie renaissance of super-heroes, predominantly Marvel superheroes, is just great. I'm at an age where I'm not inclined to subscribe to and read comics month after month. So, the movies give me that fix. Marvel has even linked it's "universe" together like they did in the comics, so each movie sort of ties into the others (the way the mags did!).

With the announcement of Agents Of Shield, with Joss Whedon at the helm, I couldn't wait. For the uninitiated, Shield is a government agency akin to the CIA, NSA and FBI all combined. With a bit more than a touch of James Bond high-tech gadgets thrown in for good measure. This "spy" organization had secret walls down blind alleys that would open with a password and massive machinery that would fly over the cities, monitoring all nefarious plotters scheming world domination.

And of course, these spies wore skin tight 'tards, gun belts, head-gear in some cases, and had a boss who chomped on a cigar and wore an eye-patch. What more could you want?

The movie versions of the heroes have all come off without a hitch. Even Thor, which I thought would be the most difficult character, was surprisingly .... great!

Nick Fury, however, just leaves me cold. Samuel Jackson is a fine actor. But, a bit corny. Particularly when he told Tony Stark, "I've got my EYE on you!" Gag!

His turn in the Avengers, though, didn't ruin the movie. I would have preferred a Mel Gibson or someone like him playing the traditional Nick from the comics that I read as a kid. Or, if they're going with the new version, get someone more seasoned, like Danny Glover or fierce like Sidney Poitier. Or even Denzel Washington. He would have come across far more believable and intimidating than Mr. Jackson. But, I digress.

Getting to Agents of Shield, I was excited. And then I was somewhat let down.

Joss did fantastic with Firefly and Dollhouse. Both for different reasons. But Agents of Shield just felt as flat as a video game. Joss said the show wouldn't be like, "Hey, you just missed Tony Stark who was here five minutes ago." But that's how the show felt at first.

It's improved a little. But, I'm not sure if that improvement is just by comparison with how horribly it started.

And I'm not sure if it's the writing or the characters. I've been watching Chuck on Netflix. And I keep thinking, Adam Baldwin should be in Agents of Shield! Interestingly, he was a great part of Firefly! He was pretty smoldering in The X-Files, too. He'd kick the pants off the pantywaiste "agent" they have training Skye.

Fitz and Simmons. Gag! They should die on the show and pave the way for one interesting character. The writers try to make us care about them, but they fail. They're sort of mildly like Jar-Jar Binks. Not a compliment.

So, what, in addition to giving Adam Baldwin a role as the agent on the team, would help this show from its "hey, look, we're referencing Marvel movies" platform? Have Agent Coulson get into some serious trouble. No one really cares about the team. He's the emotional connection to the show. Have him be abandoned by the team. Or leave the team going rogue. Build on something like that.

Tension. Not the high-school or Jr. High kind. What do these characters want? Oh, aside from the pampered model wanting to know who her parents are. Boo hoo.

Look at what the writers did in 24. If a couple is in love and about to get married, just let everyone know, etc. You had a feeling one of them would be killed that day. Or tortured by their lover, in fact. Basically, set up the hopes and aspirations, then tear them apart. to that point, we don't know what these characters' hopes and aspirations are. And don't really care. In Dollhouse, we did. And we cared. In Firefly, we did. And we cared.

I think that despite their hope to keep the show independent from the movies, someone has seen it as one long commercial for the upcoming Marvel/Disney movies. This is to the show's detriment. It all boils down to good story-telling and compelling characters. In fact, one ensures the other. A good story will, by necessity, have compelling characters.

So far, Agents of Shield doesn't showcase either one.

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