Real life's been busy lately, so I haven't had time to drop by the cinema. However I have been very hyped up with Joss Whedon's return to television, so I have been watching the release dates like a hawk for the pilot of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The story follows the events from The Avengers, and sits within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was an interesting choice that for the TV follow-up to the highest grossing superhero film, they chose to focus on the 'government agency'. But since it was done by the same guy who gave us Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly, I had great expectations that it was going to work somehow.
I was sad when I realized that this pilot was only 45 minutes. Television pilots tend to be pivotal in helping establish both the longevity, tone and initial fan base of the series, and as such they tend to be epic-fied into something akin to a movie or double episode so that we have enough time to be immersed into their world.
On the plus note, this show looks promising from the pilot. The idea of following how the government agencies goes around doing the background business of keeping tabs on things is not looked at often. We get lots of 'could happen in the real world' crime scene investigation, police drama, mafia stories, law and order, but not much about the actual inner workings of an intelligence organisation dealing with superheroes.
I also liked how the main effort was in keeping the agents human. Every character and personality on the team I liked, with the exception of Grant. I understand he is supposed to be the tough, no-nonsense, mission-oriented muscle in the team, but the pilot did not convince me he can pull it off for an entire series. There is a scene where they went too far in showing he has a 'soft' side.
The biggest positive for me is that they finally have a main Asian cast in this show! It felt awkward for me when I watched Firefly, where all the characters were trained to speak some Mandarin, but there wasn't a single asian character main/recurring cast! Ming Na-Wen (who plays Melinda May) is a very underrated Hollywood actress whose most famous role is perhaps Disney's Mulan. She's in her 50s but at times look 30s, very beautiful, participates in fight scenes, and works with a cast that is all basically same age as her own children! But what truly impressed me is her ability to immerse herself into a role is what really makes her an amazing addition to this show. I look forward to seeing what they do with her character. On a side note, Skye played by Chloe Bennet (who is half-asian) is also very very very hot! I think I have a new television crush.
On the less positive side of things, things do feel rushed and at times "been there, done-that". They were trying to introduce 7 characters and 2 organisation within 45 minutes but it feels like they've been around since the beginning of time. While making something so overdone an original looking work is not easy, I still think they could have done much better than they did. It feels like the filmmakers just went with the first plot they came up with because they were too busy to spend time writing a juicier script. While a couple of twists in the middle of the pilot episode did make way for some interesting interactions, the casual viewer would probably have missed them.
There is another element of the film that was done poorly: the foreshadowing. One of the biggest things that makes us the viewer keep following a TV show is the element of mystery, the unpredictability of how the narrative unfolds. From the very first scene of seeing Agent Coulsen we are given massive clues of the events that explains how he was apparently dead in The Avengers, but then is alive and kicking to lead this special ops team. I thought that was a trump card they threw away too quickly.
In fact (spoilers ahead), I want to predict major reveals are for each main character right now (I hope I'm wrong):
There is one thing I hope they might be clever enough to use within their own cinematic universe as the direction of the story.
At the end of Iron Man 3, we know the leader of Advanced Ideas Mechanics, Killian, and his thinktank member Maya Hansen, who created the Extremis virus, died. However a think tank is not just two people, so there are others in their team that are unaccounted for in that film. It is safe to say that while the film ended triumphantly with Tony Stark thwarting their plans to kill the president thus planting their political puppet, those who have not yet been identified to be connected to Killian, AIM, may have formed or be associated with this Rising Tide mentioned in the pilot.
But overall, I am satisfied with this pilot. It looks promising. The characters have the potential to be quite fun, the premise leads way to many possible scenarios, so I look forward to next week's episode. Hope that now the mandatory 'assembling the team' bit is done, we get some more juicy material and interactions :)
7.0 / 10.0