Avengers director Joss Wheedon follows the Buffy formula for the comic-book, non-super-hero, whizz-bang action spy series. TV Marvel methodone for superhero film fans.
It really does feel like a return to Buffy after the disappeared-up-its-own-tailpipe, conspiracy labyrinth of Dollhouse. Jumping in where Avengers Assemble left off, the miraculously resurrected Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) puts together his Mission Improbable team of assassin, two science geeks, retired superspy and ingénue hacker, jumps on a stealth cargo jet packed with gadgets to fly round the world doing the derring-do.
It’s expensive, action-packed, smart, witty comics-inspired moodling. Only thing is, it’s not the Avengers.
And that is its’ biggest problem. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, for a spy show. There’s gadgets galore, well-choreographed punch-ups, explosions, cool toys and near faultless CGI. I’d rather watch this than the insipid Covert Affairs, Alias or Jake 2.0. It’s slightly less cloying and silly than Smallville.
But it’s a spinoff show from the biggest comic-book movie of all time. Even while it’s doing it’s Indiana Jones, Knight-Rider and Man from UNCLE thing, it constantly refers back to the Avengers, whilst having no actual super heroes.
Coby Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson cameo in the first two episodes and Ian Hart appears as a non-villain in episode 3, but the big guns are absent. For all Agent’s ambitions, the Marvel leads are all tied up in big money, big screen franchises.
So what we get is a quality rehash from one of the smartest writer-director-producers in Hollywood, a sort of Wheedon’s Greatest Hits. The cast are all stunningly attractive, led by Brett Dalton’s conflicted agent Grant Ward and mysterious hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet). Stargate Universe‘s Ming-Na Wen is this season’s Black Widow action woman Melinda May, even the comedy sidekick duo young scientists Fitz and Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) are cover models, all held together by the sharp-suited, Men In Black wannabe, Coulson.
You can tick off the list of Wheedon stock characters, Faith, Buffy, Angel, Willow, Xander, Giles as they leap, punch, kick, shoot, hack and spout pseudo-science gobbledegook, exchange banter and hint at dark backstories yet to unfold. All of which remind me I’ve got the Firefly box-set here on the shelf, which might get an outing while I mark time til Thor: The Dark World. RC
Related: Avengers Assemble (2012)