x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hyper melodrama

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. scale down the action for the small screen, but still put Marvel fans front row and centre at the strangest show on Earth.

From left, Clark Gregg, Brett Dalton and Chloe Bennet star in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. AP Photo
From left, Clark Gregg, Brett Dalton and Chloe Bennet star in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. AP Photo

What an unnatural act, to take anything Marvel and project it onto anything less than a Cineplex screen. And where is our Thor? What about Iron Man? And a good ol’ “clobbering time” from The Thing or a rage-fed thrash ’n’ trash from The Hulk seem to be called for, too, as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres on the telly.

But then again, we mustn’t mix our apples and oranges; when production houses begin to endow tele- vision productions with US$200 million (Dh735m) budgets – then we can demand the to-drool-for Hollywood stars and eye-popping visual effects.

“We have a production team telling us what we can and can’t do,” says the executive producer Jeff Bell. “Marvel and ABC have been very generous with us. We have a responsibility to Marvel to look awesome and terrific.”

Here, the focus is first and foremost on characters, although glossy sets and a few clever effects certainly jazz up this one-hour episodic drama.

Bottom line? If we adjust our expectations from Asgard to Earth then kudos is also due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – he’s given us another groovy, slick slice of the Marvel universe to explore right from our sofas.

Clark Gregg reprises his role of Agent Phil Coulson who will, in good time, explain why he’s still alive after being cruelly stabbed by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and ostensibly dying in The Avengers last year.

In the series opener, in a performance that melds cool authority with touching empathy, he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents from the worldwide law-enforcement body known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division). Together they investigate the new, the strange and the unknown across the globe, “protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary”.

Coulson’s team comprises Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), an ace in combat and espionage; Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), top-gun pilot and martial artist; Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), dazzling engineer; Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), brilliant bio-chemist; and new recruit and master-hacker, Skye (Chloe Bennet).

The series infuses a crime- procedural feel into its superhero case-of-the-week format, along with a dash of Avengers follow-up.

The pilot storyline revolves around a man who, despite his superhuman powers, becomes embittered when he finds himself jobless with nowhere to live and with a young son to feed.

“We wanted to make sure there’s an investment in the characters as much as case of the week,” says Whedon. “Every week it’s not going to be some new hero. There could be a device, a mystery. There’s so many aspects as to what’s happened since everybody in the world found out there’s a superhero team and aliens invaded New York.”

A test-screening of the pilot episode brought the house down at the Los Angeles Comic-Con recently. As chronicled by The Holly- wood Reporter: “They laughed when they were supposed to laugh, they cheered when they were supposed to cheer. They ooooohed and ahhhhhhed and tittered and applauded in post-nerdal ecstasy when it was all done.”

Whedon said: “The things we’ve got from the Marvel Universe and the things we’re bringing to the Marvel Universe. I guess I’m just a little excited.”

• Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is broadcast at 10pm tomorrow on OSN First HD

artslife@thenational.ae