Odd breed of su­per­heroes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

MAR­VEL’S Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should round up all the Joss Whe­don strag­glers.

His cre­ations raised the bar for teen dra­mas ( Buffy the Vam­pire Slayer), el­e­vated sci­ence fic­tion ( Fire­fly) and up­ended the hor­ror for­mula ( The Cabin in the Woods).

Then he got hold of Mar­vel’s stable of su­per­heroes and made them fun again.

The Avengers, which ended up as the third-big­gest movie ever, in­tro­duced mil­lions to the sen­si­bil­i­ties of Hol­ly­wood’s most pow­er­ful nerd (be­sides J.J. Abrams). Now, that movie’s tele­vi­sion spinoff ar­rives mi­nus vam­pires, space­ships, zom­bies and Gwyneth Pal­trow. No scares, gross-outs or com­plex mythol­ogy. No ex­cuses.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does fea­ture famed faces from The Avengers, in­clud­ing the stead­fast Agent Hill ( How I Met Your Mother ac­tress Co­bie Smul­ders), strid­ing through the hall­ways of the Strate­gic Home­land In­ter­ven­tion En­force­ment and Lo­gis­tics Divi­sion.

‘‘Wel­come to Level Seven,’’ she tells Agent Ward (Brett Dal­ton), who has been called up to the big leagues. He’s cocky and in over his head, but he grasps the agency’s mis­sion: ‘‘We’re the line be­tween the world and the much weirder world.’’

Paired with the en­dear­ing self­aware­ness and cere­bral nods to pop cul­ture Whe­don brings to his best projects, it’s the per­fect setup for spring’s most promis­ing new TV show.

Dis­ney bought the rights to Mar­vel’s Avengers fran­chise three years ago, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and sank re­sources into the show.

S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t a su­per­hero show. Its he­roes are all Ja­son Bourne and no Jar-Jar Binks.

S.H.I.E.L.D. came into play in the first Iron Man movie, when Agent Phil Coul­son (Clark Gregg) begged for a sit­down with Tony Stark. Gregg’s per­for­mance made Coul­son the Mar­vel uni­verse’s favourite bu­reau­crat; he ap­peared in Iron Man 2, Thor and The Avengers, where his death gal­vanised the good guys. It’s a sur­prise to see Coul­son walk­ing around alive on TV. ‘‘I did stop breath­ing,’’ he in­sists. Agents Ward and Hill are part of Coul­son’s team tasked with find­ing ‘‘un­reg­is­tered gifted’’ hu­mans with su­per­pow­ers who lit­er­ally fly un­der the radar. When one free­lancer cat­a­pults sev­eral sto­ries into a burn­ing build­ing to save a woman trapped in­side, breaks the side­walk with his land­ing and runs off un­harmed, a smart­phone video of the res­cue goes vi­ral.

Ac­cord­ing to Whe­don, the model for S.H.I.E.L.D. is a beloved episode of Buffy the Vam­pire Slayer ti­tled The Zeppo, which fo­cused on a char­ac­ter’s tan­gen­tial sto­ry­line while the rest of the Scooby Gang pre­vented the apoca­lypse in the back­ground.

S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t land far from Buffy ter­ri­tory, where baby sit­ters and Bri­tish bach­e­lors guarded the gate­way to hell, or Mar­vel’s X-Men, where the benev­o­lent mu­tants teamed against the in­ter­est­ing ones, or even Men in Black.

The show should avoid the dis­ap­point­ing down­turn Rev­o­lu­tion suf­fered af­ter Iron Man di­rec­tor Jon Favreau turned in a great first episode.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is more likely to gen­er­ate catch­phrases than Hal­loween cos­tumes.

The first hour ends with the show’s first gifted sub­ject phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally dev­as­tated, sur­vey­ing the ru­ins of his for­mer life.

‘‘It’s a dis­as­ter,’’ some­one tells him.

Mar­vel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Wednes­day, 7.30pm, Seven, Prime7.

– SARA SMITH

Chloe Ben­nett, El­iz­a­beth Hen­stridge, Iain De Caestecker, Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen and Brett Dal­ton.

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