The MCU Disconnect

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Everyone is excited over the just-released behind-the-scenes video of Avengers: Infinity War, and what it promised–namely the teaming up of diverse characters like Iron Man, Star-Lord and Spider-Man. That is all well and good, but the teaser didn’t erase the growing feeling that the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the TV shows set in the MCU are unrelated to each other.

Actually, that isn’t quite accurate, the TV shows have proven to be set in the MCU with its references to the films and Easter eggs, but it’s a one-way connection. That is because the MCU films have not made any references to the TV shows aside from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which dealt with S.H.I.E.L.D. at the same time that the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was running. Ever since that film the MCU disconnect has widened to the point that an argument can be made that the two media are set in different universes.

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How is this so? Starting in the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that program has focused on the coming of the Inhumans, and are now a constant presence in the show as the superhumans have taken the place of mutants. We all know that was done because of rights issues with 20th Century Fox who make the X-Men films. Originally, the intent of the Inhumans’ introduction (and let’s be clear that the Inhumans featured in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. weren’t the well-known heroes like Black Bolt and Medusa, but minor ones) was to set up a big-screen Inhumans film.That was the plan.

It isn’t a secret that tensions had been raw between the mastermind behind the MCU, Kevin Feige, and the head of Marvel Entertainment, Ike Perlmutter, who was in charge of Marvel’s media. Feige ran the films while Perlmutter did the TV shows and the comic books. Perlmutter was incensed about the Fox X-Men rights and wanted to de-emphasize the mutants throughout Marvel and as a substitute for the mutants it was decided to focus on Inhumans and how they are persecuted by our society. Apparently, Perlmutter was responsible for pushing an Inhumans film and wanted to use the MCU TV shows and comic books to build interest, hence why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shifted from a spy actioner in its first season into a soapbox about the plight of Inhumans in later seasons.

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Feige and Perlmutter were butting heads over many issues and it became so bad that supposedly Feige was ready to jump ship until Disney intervened. Feige was allowed to become autonomous from Perlmutter and there is probably were the disconnect went into full swing. The first noticeable sign of this was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which didn’t mention anything about what was going on with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the TV show. This raised many questions among fans in the film’s climax when a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier appeared with many S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel and it would’ve been a perfect place to include cameos from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. characters but this didn’t happen. There were many vague explanations about why this didn’t happen but none of them were satisfactory.

Around this time (2015) Netflix premiered its entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Both shows made references to the larger MCU but to date the films haven’t acknowledged the superheroes that appeared in the Netflix shows. In fact, there isn’t any noticeable connection between the Netflix shows and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which airs on ABC. There has been a couple of cryptic Easter eggs in the ABC show where a type of bullet created in Luke Cage was used in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but was never named; there was a news blotter in one episode mentioning a gang war going on in Hell’s Kitchen, a focal location in the Netflix shows.

Now with so many characters slated to appear in Avengers: Infinity War, the fact that the bigwigs at Marvel Studios and the TV shows will not say if the film will include the TV characters is beyond frustrating. Feeble explanations about not over-crowding the film or scheduling conflicts just won’t satisfy fans.  True, it’s not the end of the world if Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t feature Daredevil but it defenderswould be a wasted opportunity. In the comic books, The Infinity Gauntlet event (the basis for this film) was a major crossover event that was packed with many Marvel characters. We already had to make peace with the notion that this film won’t include the X-Men (thanks Fox) or the Fantastic Four (blame the deal with Fox again), but Kevin Feige and company could at least throw in some kind of cameo of the TV characters. Wouldn’t it be cool if during one scene set in Hell’s Kitchen, Captain America, Iron Man and the other Avengers are besieged by Thanos’ forces and are saved at the last second by timely assists from Daredevil, Luke Cage and the other Defenders? They wouldn’t have to stay around long, just make their appearance and move on. Would it be too much to just drop the word Inhuman during some dialogue or show some news headline featuring the Punisher or Ghost Rider?

We can complain all we want about the DCEU, but at least from the beginning Warner Bros./DC Studios made it clear that the DCEU films and the Arrowverse TV shows were in two separate universes and so no one expected to see Stephen Amell popping up as Green Arrow in a DCEU film. With Marvel they dangle this illusion about a connected universe but in reality it does not exist. If that is the case, the TV shows should be freed to go off in their own direction and drop the references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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True, production has begun on Avengers: Infinity War but it’s not too late to work in some kind of bone to throw to the fans. Some kind of gesture would appease the legion of geeks out there who dream of seeing a true interconnected film and TV universe.

Lewis T. Grove

The Aftermath Of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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First off, if anyone reading this hasn’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier or the most recent episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. then stop reading this because MAJOR SPOILERS will be discussed. Last warning, if anyone doesn’t want to be spoiled then go and watch that excellent movie or watch the TV show online somewhere and come back here when done.

Enemies Within

The events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, without exaggeration, completely changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What happened in that movie probably has more far-reaching consequences than the alien Chitauri attack on New York City seen in The Avengers.

S.H.I.E.L.D., the elite spy agency of the Marvel Universe, no longer exists by the film’s end thanks to Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his partners. It turned out that the ultra spy organization was infiltrated long ago by Hydra, the Nazi off-shoot organization led by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) in Captain America: The First Avenger. That revelation halfway into the film was a big WTF moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, especially with the disclosure that Hydra was responsible for orchestrating many chaotic and destructive events in our history since the end of World War II. This was something that is disturbing to learn given our violent history and is the stuff conspiracy fans thrive on. But in hindsight, Hydra’s malevolent influence was there in the open for everyone to see.

fury and starkThink about it, ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was introduced in Iron Man, there was something a bit too Big Brotherish about S.H.I.E.L.D. They seemed to know too much, had too much access as seen when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the agency’s director, turned up uninvited in Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) place in the post-credit scene in that film. The man was for all intents and purposes a trespasser but everyone was too busy wetting their pants when Fury mentioned the Avengers Initiative. Then they came off as a bit nefarious with the way they coldly confiscated scientific equipment and data from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her group in Thor. Their blasé attitude throughout the movie didn’t alleviate this feeling, it was as if they were untouchable and they were. In the climax of The Avengers, the World Security Council ordered a nuclear strike on New York City to stop the alien Chitauri invasion. Nick Fury refused to carry out the order, but the Council overruled Fury and had S.H.I.E.L.D. pilots carry out the order nonetheless. Being that the head of the Council, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), was revealed to be part of Hydra, this decision makes sense since he would be fine with sacrificing the city.

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As with real-life spy agencies, it would be par for the course for S.H.I.E.L.D. to be philosophically gray and murky when it came to getting their hands dirty when carrying out missions. To them the ends do justify the means; that is just the unshakable mindset of spies. Nick Fury at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was fine with this concept. He even scolded Rogers and told him to just accept the questionable philosophy of Project: Insight and get with the program. For that initiative, S.H.I.E.L.D. constructed three state-of-the-art helicarriers that would preemptively take out human targets before they could commit any acts of terror or criminal activity. Helping the project was a computer program that analyzed and predicted the behavior and actions of prospective targets. Later in the film, Pierce ordered the helicarriers to eliminate all potential threats, which numbered in the millions and included Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, the Avengers and Stephen Strange. While those name drops are cool Easter eggs for fans they point out the fact that Pierce and Hydra’s extreme plan would’ve eliminated any resistance to their plan to instigate world order.

At one point in the film, Fury wanted to preserve S.H.I.E.L.D., but Captain America was adamant about taking down the entire structure. Unlike Fury, he saw that the organization was corrupted and unsalvageable. Even without Hydra’s influence S.H.I.E.L.D. was too omnipresent and powerful. The agency was a perfect example of power corrupts. Thus, it had to be disbanded. This decision would immediately impact the lives of many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents around the world. Continue reading

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Upends The Marvel Cinematic Universe

cap 2 posterI’m not exaggerating when I say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the greatest superhero films ever made. It ranks right up there with Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Avengers. It’s that great! It’s exciting, intriguing, full of action and, most importantly, character defining moments that elevates this film above your standard superhero flick.

While the first Captain America film was a pleasant salute to World War II Americana, this sequel just elevates the character and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a whole new level. In fact, Captain America: The Winter Soldier completely upends the carefully crafted world created with ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????these Marvel movies and it does so in a logical way that actually reflects on the impact of the events from The Avengers. As much as 9/11 radically changed our world, the alien attack on New York City in The Avengers has had far reaching ramifications. Iron Man 3 explored the personal impact as seen with Iron Man’s post traumatic stress disorder. This Captain America film examines the impact on the world stage and how it has made the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. just a tad bit too omnipresent. That was something that was underlying in past Marvel films, the spies were everywhere, seemed too powerful, had too much carte blanche. This film shows how the agency overreached with a diabolical plot hatched by traitors from within.

The film begins with Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America (Chris Evans) leading a strike force that includes fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff a.k.a Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) to rescue hostages onboard a hijacked freighter ship. It turns out that the hostages are actually S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Black Widow has a separate agenda to download encrypted files from the ship’s computer. Captain America then learns that S.H.I.E.L.D. is about to launch Project: Insight, which will use a trio of new generation helicarriers to preemptively take out potential threats worldwide.

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All this causes Rogers to question his allegiance to S.H.I.E.L.D. and magnificently echoes the unease he’s having with adapting to this new world. Despite its fast-moving plot, time is taken to feature quiet, reflective moments where he sees how much the world and his country has changed. They are the emotional highlights of the film and allow Evans to prove his acting chops. He undeniably owns this role and it’s now difficult to picture another actor playing this character.

Anyway, it turns out that he is not the only one wondering about the spy agency’s ambiguous nature. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director also has his doubts and his inquiries launch a devastating chain of events that includes having Rogers and Romanoff hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. and ultimately leaves the agency and the world changed forever. The stakes are that high.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As he eludes S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America has to face a specter from his past. This being the lethal Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a super assassin with a bionic arm. I won’t give away who the Winter Soldier is in case anyone reading this doesn’t know but his storyline is very tragic considering his relationship to Rogers. Putting that aside the directors Anthony and Joe Russo make him one of the most formidable super villains seen on film and while the Red Skull was Captain America’s chief nemesis, the Winter Soldier is both a physical match to Rogers and a genuine threat. At times I actually wondered if the good Captain would prevail in their fights.

Speaking of action, this film has lots of it. It does have that annoying shaky cam for some scenes, but the directors knew enough to control it and let the spectacular stunts speak for themselves. It’s incredible how Marvel Studios were able to make a perfect, unorthodox directing choice. This duo was known for directing comedies, ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????who would’ve known they could pull this off? But what underlines all the action sequences are the characters, they’re so well written and acted and the actors have their moments, even the newcomers. Take Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon. This version of the Falcon was so cool and likable, it’s easy to see why Rogers gravitated to this guy when he needed help. The Falcon definitely has his moments with his flight outfit that seems so formidable and believable.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier works in so many ways because writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely took the best elements from the Captain America comic books and fused them to make this unforgettable cinematic wonder. The movie left me wanting to see more and it set up enough questions and material to carry over to another sequel. Honestly, since Marvel Studios has signed on these directors for the next film, I cannot wait to see it.

Waldermann Rivera

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is too Cute & Bland

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I really wanted to like Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., I really did. But after seeing a few episodes of the new series on ABC I have to admit that the show is a subpar, uninvolving disappointment.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has many things going for it, at least on paper. Start with executive producer Joss Whedon, who created the great TV shows Firefly and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. He directed the pilot episode and the megahit film The Avengers and he is one of the driving forces behind the show. For fans, it’s clearly set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its many references and name drops from various Marvel films. Also, the star of the show is fan-favorite Special Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who turns up alive and well despite being apparently killed by Loki in The Avengers. That’s about it in terms of what’s good with the program.

socalled interrogationThe problem with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that it commits two cardinal sins for genre fans; it’s dull and it’s a procedural-type of show. There are plenty of shows polluting the networks that are just like this one. Here’s the formula: the characters investigate some kind of crime, enter some forgettable guest stars, have everyone speaking in tech-ess that tunes out viewers and add in the Whedon touches. That would be adorably cute and perky female characters and actors speaking in a staged, witty manner. We’ve seen it all before and done better. Plus, in each episode there is an air of whimsy and lightness that doesn’t gibe with the situation in that world. What’s worse is that the light tone undercuts any sense of danger that is so badly needed with the episodes.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes place shortly after the movie, The Avengers. Society is dealing with the fact that superheroes and aliens exist in the world. S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) is a multinational agency that is a major player in the espionage field. Phil Coulson, coulson and carwho appeared in most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, puts together a special task force to confront supernormal threats to world peace and security. On his team are veteran agents Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), two scientists/engineers–Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Emma Simmons (Elizabeth Hentsridge)–and the newest S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit, a hacker called Skye (Chloe Bennet). Continue reading