Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Agents of SHIELD and Disney's fear of big heroes

We're now into the back half of the first season of Agents of SHIELD, and everyone is still complaining that the show just isn't matching up to expectations or the movies that gave the series a chance to exist. The cast and crew are going all over the place for interviews to assure fans and viewers that they've listened, and that they have plans to address a lot of the worries. Though part of the problem is the producers are seeing "It doesn't live up to the movies" as that the audience expects movie style special effects or Captain America to join Coulson's team. That's not the problem at all. Just go look at Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. They're gripping drama on TV. Meanwhile Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like a program that is stuck to the old approach to television.

I'll give the producers some credit. The mythology is starting to firm up a lot more now. Remember that first throwaway episode where Skye goes undercover with an arms dealer to rescue a scientist. That seemed to have no connection to ongoing plot, didn't it? Well now that arms dealer has been tied to the season's big bad, and that mad scientist is obviously going to return. Not to mention the episode with the exploding eyes also tying to Centipede. Though I still say you could make Centipede just a division of A.I.M. and not lose a single thing. In fact you'd be making the villainous organisation of Iron Man 3 look that little more badass and all encompassing. But that's not the problem I feel Agents of SHIELD really has. The main problem is that the producers are scared of wasting Marvel's catalogue.

Back in 2003, Iron Man was a no-name superhero. The mainstream couldn't believe Tony Stark could be a first class Hollywood blockbuster main character. Marvel proved them wrong. Then they proved it wasn't a fluke with Thor and Captain America. They're hoping to do it again and again with Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man. Two names no one thought could hold a movie. Meanwhile fans are clamouring for Black Widow to be given her own movie, while I think Captain Marvel is perfect for the big screen. Now they have a TV series to worry about. But why should they 'waste' characters on a TV show guest star when five years down the line they could maybe make a movie franchise from it?

Because that's what fans want. When everyone saw the first promo shots of J. August Richards doing super strong stuff they assumed he'd be Luke Cage. Instead it's taken nearly a whole season to turn him into a pretty obscure character. Gunn, sorry I mean Mike Peterson, has now been confirmed as the new face of Deathlok. It's not that I think this has taken too long, just that Marvel have used a character that has little name recognition.

Shortly we're also getting another Asgardian episode, this time introducing Lorelei, an Asgardian sorceress. At the very least we're getting Sif coming at the same time. A proven character that Jamie Alexander has already made popular. But neither of these characters are The Punisher and Enchantress (I'm reaching a little with that one, but she is at least the bigger named Asgardian magic lady). I'm not saying they can't be awesome, but they lack the punch of a bigger name. That's Disney/Marvel's biggest problem right now. Fear of using something that could be used in cinema instead of strengthening that universe.

That's what fans want, the recognisable heroes. Now I'm not talking Black Panther or Namor show up. Characters that could quite easily handle a franchise. But there are plenty of decent characters that could work really well that have some name recognition. Characters like Cloak and Dagger or Tigra would be perfect. Not to mention Mockingbird, Clay Quartermain, Jimmy Woo or any of the other SHIELD agents Marvel have named over the years.

Look at the Distinguished Competition's Arrow series. They're throwing DC characters out left and right, even debuting a new Flash and Deathstroke is the big villain of the moment. That's the sort of stuff Agents of SHIELD need to do. Names that the casual comic fan can geek out over, and can easily harp on about to their non-comic reading friends, something I'd struggle to do with Lorelei.
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