Back in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 90s I remember Marvel and DC dabbling in live action with Adventures Of Superman (’52-’58), Batman (’66-’68), The Incredible Hulk (’78-‘82), The Amazing Spider-Man (’77-‘79), and The Flash (’90-‘91), with several more incarnations of Supes, and was there any shows in the 80s they serialized? I can’t recall at the moment.
I miss those days because now Marvel and DC are starting to go gangbusters again with live action adaptations of their characters, but in a roundabout way. I can’t believe they can make a series about DC’s Gotham City and not use Batman, but that’s what’s happening with their new show, Gotham, from what I understand it’s a prequel, chronicling the rise of Bat’s most famous villains before he came along.
A live action Batman series without Batman?
Sorry, guys, not interested.
That’s kind of how I felt when I heard Marvel was throwing their hat into the live action ring with their Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. All well and good, but like Gotham, at least, for their first season, there were no major heroes taking center stage. Again, why make a Marvel series that does not center on major heroes and villains? Probably because they’re all tied to motion picture franchises and as I wait impatiently for an actual X-Men show, or another Spider-Man one (hey, I still think a Man-Thing series would be pretty damn cool) I decided to give Agents a shot.
The cast is solid and I’m only familiar with two of the actors and semi-familiar with one of the newer faces. Despite being murdered by Loki in The Avengers (2012), Clark Gregg is back as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Phil Coulsen, leading his own special team this time. His right hand man, so to speak, is Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen—whom I have heard of). She and Coulsen go back a ways. Next up is Gant Ward (Brett Dalton—never seen this guy in anything before this), the typical, squared-jawed hands-on agent who comes the closest to looking and acting the part of an actual super hero; he just doesn’t have any super powers. In the tech department you’ve got two scientists, a Leo Fitz, played by Iain De Caestecker—I’ve only seen this guy in one other thing, the UK adaptation of James Herbert’s novel, “The Secret Of Crickley Hall.” That was a very good mini-series and his brief appearance in that made an impression on me—and a Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge—never heard of her either before this show).
The newcomer to the group is a young, hot computer hacker by the name of Sky (Chloe Bennet—yup, another I’ve never heard of) who gets reluctantly pulled into the agency and ultimately ends up becoming an incredible asset.
There isn’t much in details I can go into. Normally I have no qualms about illuminating spoilers in TV shows and movies, but there are some doozies in this that are best experienced as they happen. There are 22 episodes that make up season one. The first half, roughly the first 11, is all set-up and character exploration, the second half is nothing but pure pay off. I have to admit it’s slow going for a while and I wasn’t all that enamored with the show, but once that second half kicks in you can easily see there was a method to the “slow” madness.
The big arc . . . some nefarious group calling themselves “Centipede” is bent on creating these advanced warriors for obvious world domination, and all the team has to go on is that it’s headed up by someone calling themselves, ‘The Clairvoyant.’
On a small scale we learn why Coulsen is walking and talking and being basically alive. You don’t get all of the backstory, but it’s enough to satisfy while holding something back for Season Two. Skye is an anomaly as well, and by the time we get to the end of these first 22, we learn she may be in more danger in the next season than she ever was in this one.
Also in the back half we get graced by several new characters who end up being incredibly integral (both in a good and bad way) to Coulsen’s team. One of them is John Garrett played by Bill Paxton (Weird Science, Aliens, Near Dark), a very old friend of Coulsen. Accompanying Garrett is an Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt), who is much like Ward, a two-fisted hero type, and who has family connections to the infamous Howling Commandos.
I can say no more about the show other than it connects big time to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and even now I may have said too much.
Disney/Buena Vista released the entire season in separate DVD and blu-ray editions back on September 9th.
The series is spread out on 5 discs with the majority of the extra features (excluding one) included on disc #5.
The series is in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and looks damn good. Audio configurations for the DVD are English 5.1 Dolby Digital and an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA for the blu. And finally you get English SDH, Spanish and French for subtitles.
Concerning extra features, here’s what you get:
- Journey Into S.D.C.C (13:13): The focus here is the actors at the San Diego Comic-Con and how they got there (a fancy bus) and what happened to them along the way (the stairs wouldn’t retract forcing the lights in the bus to go on and off, think strobe effect).
- TV Special – Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe (43:02): This TV special, aired before the first episode of the show last year, can be found on Disc #4. I missed it during that initial airing, but caught up with it here, and if you haven’t seen it, it talks about all the movies, and the Marvel One Shots, and how they connect to one another.
- 5 Behind-The-Scenes Field Reports: I do so love behind-the-scenes videos and with these five (The Malibu Jump (2:53), The Bridge (3:39), Asgardian Bar Fight (3:07), Classified (4:16), and Cello Duet (3:46).) you’re on the set as they film (i.e. fly on the wall kind of stuff).
- VFX Breakdowns: You get two scenes—Lola Takes Flight (1:08) and Free Falling (1:36)—showing the final product then via split screen how they FX was filmed and inserted.
- Audio Commentaries with Filmmakers & Cast on episodes Fzzt, The Magical Place and T.R.A.C.K.S.
- Gag Reel (6:31): Self explanatory…. and funny!
- Deleted Scenes: 17 scenes from the various episodes that can be played individually or all at once (6:56).
I do think as this series goes into further seasons we’ll see more big time characters making appearances. In the meantime I supposed I could check out Arrow, I hear that one brings in some major names, but, I don’t know, there was something about that show that never appealed to me. I am, however, looking forward to seeing what this new Flash series brings to the table. The eye candy comic book tone is dead on, but that lackluster suit and the fact that they made him younger bothers me a bit.
As of this writing I see DC has stepped up their game and announced some more big name heroes who will be headlining new series in the future namely Supergirl and the Teen Titans. I also forgot that Marvel has teamed with Netflix for some new live-action hero business—Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. So, I guess, in all, Gotham, is looking like a minor misstep to me now.
Still . . . I’d love to see a new Spider-Man and Hulk series in the future.