“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”: The Last Stand Against Mediocrity

The following article was written during Season One of ABC’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” – the winter of 2013/2014:

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”: THE LAST STAND AGAINST MEDIOCRITY

The age of serial drama or adventure is over. It is over. I came to this conclusion after learning the dismal ratings for the last episode of ABC’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” called (1.10) “The Bridge”. And ironically, my statement is not a criticism directed at the series or its latest episode.

I recently learned that the ratings for “The Bridge” had dropped considerably. Many fans would see this as a sign of the show’s not-so-sensational quality. I realize that “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” is not flawless. There is no such thing as a flawless show. But it has the potential to become a first-rate one, as the quality of its writing grow with time. But judging from the reaction to the show from the past two months, I can clearly see that American television viewers and critics now lack the patience to deal with a serial drama. They will not allow shows like “S.H.I.E.L.D.” to develop at a steady pace. They want instant perfection right off the bat.

I blame televisions series like “LOST”, the new “BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA”, and “ONCE UPON A TIME”. All three shows gave television viewers an excellent First Season that seemed to blow their minds. And thanks to shows like the one I had just listed, an excellent first season is what many viewers have come to expect from a TV show in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Superb shows like “BABYLON 5”“BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL” did not have perfect first seasons. First first seasons were decent, but flawed. But in time, all three developed into excellent shows by their second and third seasons. And this is why I consider them among the finest series in television series. I am also reminded of cancelled shows like “FLASHFORWARD” and “THE EVENT”. I might as well be frank. The first half of their single seasons never struck me as exceptional or impressive. But both shows managed to develop in quality by the end of their seasons. And both shows promised great potential, as well. But the respective networks refused to give them a chance and cancelled them, instead of giving them a second season.

Considering that the writing for television series like “BABYLON 5” and “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” managed to slowly develop over time, I now realize that I can never consider shows like “LOST” and “ONCE UPON A TIME” among the best in television history. Sure, they were entertaining and revealed flashes of brilliant writing. Unfortunately, I believe that the writing for “LOST” flip-flopped in quality during its remaining five seasons. Despite some first-rate story arcs and plot twists over the years, it never reached the same level of quality that it had enjoyed during its first season. Many fans were dazzled by “ONCE UPON A TIME” during its first season. But the series is now in the midst of its third season. And I feel that eventually, it will suffer the same fate of inconsistent quality as “LOST” did.

The first season of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” reminds of those first seasons for shows like “BABYLON 5” and “BUFFY”. Like the two now defunct shows, the first season for “S.H.I.E.L.D.” is obviously flawed. But I feel that it has potential, especially in the story line regarding the agency’s battle with an organization called Centipede. When the series first began, I could barely stand characters like Grant Ward, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons. I found the former aggressively bland, and the other two rather annoying and out of place. The series has just finished airing its tenth episode and I have grown to appreciate all three characters. This is due to their fleshing out as interesting characters, instead of remaining mere cliches.

For me, this is a sign of why I like the production styles of television producer/writers like Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski. They do not try to wow the audience off the bat with a spectacular premiere or first season. Both Whedon and Straczynski, and other show creators like them, are willing to allow their stories and characters to develop with time . . . like true storytellers. But today’s television viewers do not seem to appreciate real storytelling. They do not appreciate a steady development of story and characters. They want to be dazzled right off the bat. And the creators of shows like “LOST” and “ONCE UPON A TIME” are willing to feed them dazzling premieres to automatically draw in viewers. Because of this new style of storytelling and lack of audience patience, I fear that “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” will not last beyond a first season. And if it does last, I fear that the networks might force Whedon and his brother, Jed Whedon will transform the series into an episodic one that allow guest starring costume heroes to push the main characters into a back seat.

Oh well. There is nothing I can do about it. In fact, all I can do is sit back and speculate on the future of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. If it ends up cancelled by the end of the season or is transformed into episodic television; the show’s fate will become another step down in the quality of television writing – especially for the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I fear culture is in serious danger of going to the dogs.

Post-Script: “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” lasted another six seasons. It finally went off the air during the summer of 2020. And yes, it continued to use the serial drama narrative format – both successfully and not so successfully.

Memorable Television Episodes

Below is a list of television episodes from the past two to three decades that I find memorable:

MEMORABLE TELEVISION EPISODES

1. “BABYLON 5” (3.10) “Severed Dreams” – When President Clark of Earth Alliance escalates his brutal repression upon Earth’s population, Captain John Sheridan of Babylon 5 declares the space station independent. Hugo Award winner.

2. “GAME OF THRONES” (3.09) “The Rains of Castamere” – The new King of the North, Lord Robb Stark, his mother Catelyn and his wife Queen Talisa; arrive at the estate The Twins for the wedding of his uncle Edmure Tully to one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Brandon Stark’s small traveling group decide to split up after a close call with the Freefolk. And Daenerys Targaryen plans to invade Yunkai in order to free that city’s slaves.

3. “LOST” (2.07) “The Other 48 Days” – This episode depicted the first 48 days on the island of the surviving Tail Section passengers of Oceanic 815.

4. “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” (1.17) “Turn, Turn, Turn” – In this companion piece to the 2014 movie, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised by an old enemy from the past and Agent Phil Coulson’s team do not know whom to trust.

5. “THE FLASH” (6.09) “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three” – The Arrowverse heroes continue their efforts to prevent the Anti-Monitor from destroying the multiverse and creating a new one.

6. “GAME OF THRONES” (1.09) “Baelor” – Robb goes to war against the Lannisters in an effort to save his father, Eddard “Ned” Stark, imprisoned at King’s Landing. His half-brother Jon Snow finds himself struggling on deciding if his place is by Robb’s side or with the Night’s Watch. Khal Drogo falls ill from an infected battle wound and Daenerys is desperate to save him.

7. “LOST” (6.14) “The Candidate” – With Jack Shephard’s help, the Man in Black rescues the castaways/candidates from Charles Widmore’s compound. But their plans for leaving the island are forced to change.

8. “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” (5.22) “The Gift” – Buffy Summers and her friends prepare for battle when the hell god Glory plans to use her sister Dawn to open up a portal to a demonic dimension.

9. “D.C.’s LEGENDS OF TOMORROW” (2.17) “Aruba” – The Legends decide to break a cardinal rule of time traveling in order to prevent the Legion of Doom from using the Spear of Destiny to change the world’s reality for good.

10. “BABYLON 5” (3.22) “Z’ha’dum” – After his supposedly dead wife Anna Sheridan turns up very much alive on Babylon 5, Captain Sheridan ignores previous warnings and travels with her to the Shadows’ homeworld Z’ha’dum.

Transformations in “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”


During my viewing of ABC’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, I noticed that between Seasons One and Three, certain characters underwent a transformation or acquired powers through certain circumstances.   Of the four characters mentioned below, three of them were transformed, thanks to a mist from a crystal called Terrigen.  This led them to become Inhumans.  The fourth character had been transformed via science experiments conducted by the terrorist agency called HYDRA.  I also noticed that at least three characters also endured a serious physical transformation.  Here they are:

TRANSFORMATIONS IN “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”

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Mike Peterson – A civilian who had experienced a severe back injury on the job.  A group called the Centipede Project (which was controlled by HYDRA) recruited him to use their Centipede serum.  The latter acquired new superpowers, but it formula also affected his psyche.  The team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents led by Phil Coulson, saved Petersen, when HYDRA turned on him.  After serving as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent for a while, Peterson was captured by a team of HYDRA agents led by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent John Garrett, who was betraying the latter.  Garrett and HYDRA transformed Peterson into the Cyborg known as Deathlok.

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Raina – A scientist who believed there were people in the world with the potential for special powers.  She also believed that she might be special, herself.  Due to this belief and her search, Raina was willing to work with HYDRA  Raina was eventually exposed to the Terrigen mist inside an abandoned Kree settlement discovered by Coulson, and transformed into an Inhuman.

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Dr. Andrew Garner – He was a neurologist and forensic psychologist who worked for S.H.I.E.L.D.  He was also married to S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Melinda May, until a traumatic event that she had experienced, led to their divorce.  Dr. Garner and May eventually reconciled and embarked upon a vacation together.  Upon their return, Coulson asked him to examine a book on the history of Inhumans, written by former Inhuman leader, Jiaying.  The book turned out to be a trap for any human, who was exposed by the Terrigen mist from a Terrigen crystal hidden inside it.  Instead of dying, Dr. Garner’s latent  transformed into an Inhuman eventually named Lash.

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Daisy Johnson aka Skye – She was a talented hackvist who was born to future Inhuman leader Jiaying and American medical practitioner named Dr. Calvin Johnson in a Chinese village.  Not long after her birth, HYDRA agents raided the village and kidnapped her mother and a few village elders.  Dr. Johnson left baby Daisy in the hands of trusted villagers in order to find his wife.  S.H.I.E.L.D. agents investigating the massacre found Daisy and brought her back to the U.S.  After living in an orphanage and a series of foster homes, Daisy, who called herself Skye, became a hackvist who exposed the secrets of the U.S. government.  Phil Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. team eventually caught her and recruited her into the agency.  Over a year later, Daisy found herself inside the remnants of the Kree City with Raina.  She was exposed to the same Terrigen mist as Raina, and acquired new powers.  She eventually acquired the nickname, Quake.

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Of the four characters mentioned above, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Daisy Johnson is the only one who did not endure a complete physical transformation. She is also the only character who is not portrayed by an actor/actress of African descent.

There is another major supporting character who was an Inhuman (or enhanced being) on the show named Gordon. He was the right hand man of Daisy’s mother, Jiaying. Gordon did undergo physical transformation after becoming an Inhuman:


However, Gordon’s physical transformation was not as extensive or extreme as the transformations for Raina, Andrew Garner and Mike Peterson. So, could someone explain why three characters portrayed by actors/actresses of African descent had to undergo such drastic physical changes when they became enhanced beings? Or why the transformation for a fourth character, portrayed by a white actor, was not as extreme? Or why the fifth character – another person who was NOT of African descent, only underwent a name change and haircut when she became an enhanced being?

“Unnecessary Time Periods”

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“UNNECESSARY TIME PERIODS”

I am a big fan of the DCEU or at least the franchise’s first phase. I am also a fan of the 2017 hit film, “WONDER WOMAN”. I was also pleased to discover that the film has managed to convince Hollywood studios – especially Warner Brothers and Disney – to create more comic book movies with a female protagonist.

But my pleasure in both has somewhat been muted by what seemed to be a growing trend in Hollywood – to have these upcoming movies set in the past. Why? Because the successful “WONDER WOMAN” film was set in the past – during the last week or two of World War I? I had no problems with this, considering that “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” had established Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman’s presence during that conflict with a single photograph. Hell, the television series from the 1970s had established Wonder Woman’s origin story during World War II during its Season One and brought her character into the present (late 1970s to early 1980s) in the seasons that followed.

However, I learned that the second Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot will be set in 1984. To drive home that point, it is called “WONDER WOMAN 1984”. Personally, I do not understand this decision. Was this Warner Brothers and Patty Jenkins’ attempt to cash in on the first movie’s success? Was it to undermine the back story for Wonder Woman that was established by Zack Snyder in both “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” and “JUSTICE LEAGUE” in order to make her seem like a more ideal character? Who knows. But this movie will definitely establish a plot hole in the franchise’s overall narrative.

Warner Brothers also plans to create and release “SUPERGIRL”, who happened to be Kara Zor-El, the first cousin of Clark Kent aka Superman. And they plan to set this movie in the 1970s. Why? Apparently, Supergirl is the older cousin and to the movie’s screenwriters, it made sense that she would reach Earth before him. But . . . “MAN OF STEEL” and “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” had already established that Superman was the first powerful alien to become known to Humans. In fact, there have been others before the arrival of General Zod and his followers who were aware of Clark’s powers. You know . . . like Jonathan and Martha Kent, some of Smallville’s citizens and Lois Lane. By setting “SUPERGIRL” in the 1970s, Warner Brothers would again . . . undermining a narrative point established in previous films. Why not follow the example of the television shows like “SUPERGIRL” and “SMALLVILLE” on the CW by having Kara aka Supergirl’s spacecraft knocked off course and forced into the Phantom Zone for a decade or two? So, by the time Kara finally reached Earth, her cousin Kal-El would have grown up and become Superman. Why not use this scenario?

“WONDER WOMAN”, Marvel’s Kevin Feige had finally decided that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will feature a comic book movie with a woman in the starring role . . . namely “CAPTAIN MARVEL”. Mind you, I still find it cowardly that Feige had decided to wait until the success of another studio to produce a movie featuring a comic book heroine in the lead. Especially since the character Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow has been part of the franchise since the 2010 movie, “IRON MAN 2”. However . . . I discovered that “CAPTAIN MARVEL” will be set in the 1990s. And I ask myself . . . why?

The official word is that the movie’s time period is being used to set up Nick Fury’s trajectory toward forming The Avengers years later. After all, both Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg as future S.H.I.E.L.D. Directors Nick Fury and Phil Coulson will be in the film. But this is so unnecessary. I realize that Tony Stark aka Iron Man was not the first enhanced being or metahuman (so to speak) to attract the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury must have known about Steve Rogers aka Captain America’s war service in “CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER”. He must have known about Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne’s S.H.I.E.L.D. activities in the 1980s as Ant-Man and the Wasp. And she certainly knew about Dr. Bruce Banner’s experiments in gamma radiation and eventual transformation into the Hulk before the events of “THE INCREDIBLE HULK”. After all, 2008’s “THE INCREDIBLE HULK” was not an actual origin movie. So, I find myself wondering why Feige found it necessary to set up Fury’s trajectory with enhanced beings with Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel . . . in the 1990s. Unless “CAPTAIN MARVEL” is simply another attempt by a studio or producer – in this case, Kevin Feige and the MCU – to cash in on the success of “WONDER WOMAN”. Why not just admit it? Especially since it seems so obvious.

And by the way, why are all of these films led by a comic book heroine? Just because “WONDER WOMAN” was set in the past, there is no reason why every single comic book movie with a woman in the lead have to be set in the past? What is the point in all of this? Yes, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER” was set in the past. However, the following two movies featuring Captain America were set in the present. So, why did Marvel feel it was necessary to set “CAPTAIN MARVEL” in the past? Why is it that none of the other MCU movies led by men set in the past? Why did Warner Brothers believe it was necessary to set its second Wonder Woman and Supergirl films in the past? Has this been the case for any of their movies with a male lead or ensemble-oriented movies like “SUICIDE SQUAD”?

I found myself wondering if there is another reason why these three upcoming comic book heroine movies are being set in the past. But I could not find any. The time periods for these films are so unnecessary and an obvious attempts to copy the success of “WONDER WOMAN”. The thing is . . . Wonder Woman’s past during World War I and the photograph discovered by both Bruce Wayne aka Batman and Lex Luthor allowed them to recognize her as a possible metahuman or enhanced being. For me, there is no good reason for “WONDER WOMAN 1984”“SUPERGIRL” or “CAPTAIN MARVEL” to be set in the past.

High Point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

HIGH POINT OF THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE (MCU)

I have watched the movies and some of the television shows from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since its inception with 2008′s “IRON MAN”.  I am sure that many of the franchise’s fans have their own favorite movies and shows.

In my case, I have a favorite period of the franchise, which I personally consider its high point.  Which is that period, you may ask?  Well … I think the high point of the MCU had occurred during the spring and summer of 2014.

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For me, it began with the airing of the “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” episode, (1.13) “T.R.A.C.K.S.”.  It continued on for the next three episodes, until (1.16) “End of the Beginning”.  Then came my favorite MCU movie of all time, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”, which started the MCU’s best story arc in my opinion, “The Fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.”.  This story continued in the superb “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” episode, (1.17) “Turn, Turn, Turn”.    This story arc finally completed in the series’ Season One finale, (1.22) “Beginning of the End”. 

Two-and-a-half months after Season One of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” ended, along with “The Fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.” story arc, the MCU released my second or third favorite MCU movie of all time, “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY”.

I do not think I have truly enjoyed the MCU franchise since that six-month period between February and August of 2014 that not only unveiled the Fall of S.H.I.E.LD., but also introduced the Guardians of the Galaxy to the franchise’s fans.  That whole period of 2014 was so enjoyable and well-written to me.  And I personally feel that the MCU has never been able to recapture that consistent level of excellent again . . . even after five years.

 

 

 

 

 

“IRON MAN” (2008) Review

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“IRON MAN” (2008) Review

I had never heard of the Marvel comic book hero, Iron Man, until I saw the trailer for the new movie, a few months ago. Mind you, I had heard of Iron Man’s alter ego – Tony Stark. The latter’s name had been mentioned in several Internet articles written about Spider-Man. Which is why I could not summon any excitement when I saw the trailer for the new movie starring Robert Downey, Jr.

Until the release of 2000’s “X-MEN”, I have never been that familiar with most of Marvel Comics’ costumed crime fighters – with the exception of Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. I had spent a great deal of my recreational time with DC Comics characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Just about anyone could imagine my reaction when I learned that Robert Downey Jr. had been signed to portray Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Not particularly thrilled. But I was impressed by the major cast of actors who had signed up for the film – Downey, Gwenyth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges. All four performers have been favorites of mine over the years, along with director Jon Favreau. And since “IRON MAN” was a Marvel Comics film, I decided to give it a chance.

I might as well say it right now. “IRON MAN” has already become one of my favorite movies of 2008. And if I must be honest, I think it is one of the BEST superhero movies I have ever seen, hands down. I would place “IRON MAN” in the same golden circle as“X-MEN 2: X-UNITED” (2003)“SPIDER-MAN 2” (2004) and “BATMAN BEGINS” (2005). Yes, it is that good.

What would be the point of focusing upon the movie’s many virtues, when my previous statements pretty much said it all? But . . . I am going to try, anyway. And I would like to start with the excellent screenplay written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Arthur Marcum and Matthew Hollaway. They managed to create a good, solid story focusing upon Iron Man’s origins. In an unusual move, the writers began the story with Tony Stark in Afghanistan in the company of an Army escort. Stark had just presented a demonstration of Stark Industries’ latest weapon – the Jericho missile. While Stark jokes around with his military escort, Afghan terrorist group called Ten Rings. At this point, the movie rewind back to thirty-six hours earlier before Stark’s departure from the States. This opening immediately conveyed to me that the movie might turn out to be ten times better than I had originally assumed. By the time Tony Stark uttered those last words – ”I’m Iron Man” – it proved me right.

There are two aspects of “IRON MAN” that truly made it a cinematic gem for me. One happened to be Jon Favreau’s direction. The other turned out to be the movie’s superb cast. And speaking of the cast, I might as well start with the man of the hour. What can I say about Robert Downey Jr.? He IS Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Downey now owns the role. I have never seen an actor take possession of a role so thoroughly since Daniel Day Lewis in “THERE WILL BE BLOOD”, Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond in“CASINO ROYALE”and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN”trilogy. Downey is also the first actor or actress I have seen portray a comic book hero as a wiseass. And he also managed to produce sparks with not only his supporting cast, but also with an android and a computer voice.

Supporting Downey was Terrence Howard as USAF Lieutenant Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Air Force liaison to Stark Industries and personal friend of Tony Stark. Howard portrayed Rhodes as a stalwart military man who found Stark’s cavalier life both exasperating and enduring. I have never seen Howard do comedy . . . until this movie. And I was surprised to discover that his flair for comic timing seemed to match Downey’s. Some people have pointed out his role had been reduced. I cannot say that I agree. One, he had yet to become War Machine, Tony’s future armored crime fighting partner. However, his line – ”Next time, baby” – as he glanced at the extra armor suit seemed to hint that he will play a bigger role in future movies. And two, Howard possessed such a strong on-screen presence that no one was bound to forget . . . no matter how many scenes he had.

When I first learned that Gwenyth Paltrow would be playing Stark’s personal assistant, Virginia “Pepper” Potts, I found myself wondering if her career was in a decline. Playing the main hero’s Girl Friday seemed like a step down – even from her role in”SKY CAPTAIN: WORLD OF TOMORROW”. Fortunately, the script and Paltrow’s witty and elegant performance gave her the opportunity rise above the usual cliché of the Girl Friday role. Mind you, “Pepper” Potts never struck me as interesting as the charming and conniving Polly Perkins from ”SKY CAPTAIN”. But instead of becoming the “damsel-in-distress”, Paltrow ended up helping Stark/Iron Man to defeat the main villain. Good show!

Speaking of villains, I must applaud Jeff Bridges for portraying one of the smoothest that I have seen on the silver screen – namely Tony Stark’s business partner and mentor Obadiah Stane. Not even Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine from ”STAR WARS” had possessed such subtlety when it came to evil. At first glance, Bridges did not seem the type who could effectively portray a villain. Then I recalled his performance in the 1985 thriller with Glenn Close, ”JAGGED EDGE”, in which he portrayed a similarly subtle villain. Being a skillful actor, Bridges managed to convey many aspects of Stane’s personality – a superficial warmth and intelligence that hid a murderous and manipulative streak.

Another memorable villain was portrayed by actor Faran Tahir, who portrayed Raza, leader of the terrorist group – the Ten Rings – hired to kidnap Stark while the latter was in Afghanistan. Like Bridges, Tahir did an admirable in projecting villainy with suave, sophistication and a strong presence. In regard to a strong presence, I could say the same about Shaun Tolb, who portrayed Dr. Ho Yinsen, an Afghan surgeon and captive of the Ten Rings that saved Stark’s life. I have seen Talb portray some interesting characters over the years. But I must admit that his warm, yet firm portrayal of Yinsen made me realize that he possessed quite a commanding presence.

As I had earlier pointed out, the movie’s four screenwriters managed to produce a script that featured a very solid story. Unlike many other comic book movies, ”IRON MAN”seemed to be laced with a great deal of witty dialogue and humor. There were times when I wondered whether I was watching a superhero action film. But there was plenty of action-filled scenes to remind me that this movie was basically an adventure film – like Iron Man’s two encounters with the Ten Rings group in Afghanistan, his encounter with two USAF fighter planes and his showdown with Stane in downtown Los Angeles. Director Jon Farveau, along with the four screenwriters and cast, managed to bring together all of the action, humor and drama with perfect balance.

Okay . . . let me rephrase my last sentence. Perhaps ”IRON MAN” was not completely ”perfect”. In fact, it was not really perfect at all.  I do have  some quibbles about the movie. One of them happened to be the first sequence in Afghanistan. I realize that the setting of Iron Man’s origins could not be in Vietnam. And it would make sense for the setting to be changed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. The problem is that most of the sequence featuring Stark’s captivity by the Ten Rings was boring as hell. It almost seemed to drag forever. And matters did not help much that most of this sequence was set inside a series of caves. Another problem I had with the movie was its score. Quite frankly, I found it unmemorable. But I am not surprised. I can only think of three comic book hero movies that had a score or theme song I found memorable. Unfortunately, ”IRON MAN” is not one of them.  And if I must be brutally honest, I would not regard the film’s narrative as particularly original or mind blowing.  The plot for “IRON MAN”was basically a paint-by-the-numbers comic book hero origin story.  Only the character of Tony Stark made it unique . . . at least back in 2008.

But despite the first Afghanistan sequence and the movie’s score, it is easy to see why ”IRON MAN” proved to be one of the best summer movies of 2008. With Jon Farveau in the director’s chair and Robert Downey Jr. as the leading man, the movie became – well, briefly – one of the best of its genre.

Top Favorite Episodes of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Four (2016-2017)

Below is a list of my top favorite episodes from Season Four of Marvel’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Created by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen; the series stars Clark Gregg: 

TOP FAVORITE EPISODES OF “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” SEASON FOUR (2016-2017)

1 - 4.18 No Regrets

1. (4.18) “No Regrets” – This episode revealed how S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Leo Fitz had become a HYDRA official, while he and his team were trapped in the Framework, a computer simulation created by S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist Holden Radcliffe. Also, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Jeffrey Mace aka “the Patriot” lead a group of the Resistance to rescue colleague held captive by HYDRA.

2 - 4.20 Farewell Cruel World

2. (4.20) “Farewell, Cruel World!” – S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Daisy Johnson (Skye) and Jemma Simmons race against time to get their team out of the Framework. However, one team member is reluctant to leave for personal reasons.

3 - 4.03 Uprising

3. (4.03) “Uprising” – S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Phil Coulson, Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie and Fitz try to locate and neutralize a terrorist group called the Watchdogs, who want to stop Inhuman registration worldwide.

4 - 4.17 Identity and Change

4. (4.17) “Identity and Change” – Daisy and Jemma learn the identity of the Resistance leader inside the Framework, as they struggle to find an escape route to the real world.

5 - 4.15 Self Control

5. (4.15) “Self Control” – While Radcliffe and AIDA’s plan to entrap the S.H.I.E.L.D. goes into action, Fitz and Jemma are trapped in the Playground, unsure of which of their friends are real and which ones have been replaced by Life-Model Decoys (LMDs).

HM - 4.10 The Patriot

Honorable Mention: (4.10) “The Patriot” – Coulson and Mack discover a shocking secret about Director Mace, leaving the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency in a precarious position with the government and the media.

Favorite Moments in MARVEL Movies and Television

Below is a list of my favorite moments featured in Marvel movies and television: 

FAVORITE MOMENTS IN MARVEL MOVIES AND TELEVISION

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1. “Spider-Man 2” (2004) – After a brutal fight with Doc Ock on top of a Manhattan El Train and saving the train’s passengers, an exhausted Spider-Man aka Peter Parker is unmasked by the latter in what I regard as the most poignant moment in any Marvel production.
 
 
 

 

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2. “The Avengers” (2012) – During its fight against invading Chitauri troops, director Joss Whedon gave audiences an iconic shot of the newly formed Avengers, before they continued the battle.
 
 
 

 

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3. “Iron-Man 3” (2013) – Iron Man aka Tony Stark saves the surviving passengers and crew of Air Force One in this breathtaking sequence, using aerodynamics, one of his Iron Man bots and his brains.
 
 
 

 

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4. “The Wolverine” (2013) – In this exciting sequence, the Wolverine aka Logan battles members of the Yakuza on top of a Tokyo bullet train, as he tries to prevent them from kidnapping the granddaughter of a recently deceased businessman that he had briefly met at the end of World War II.
 
 
 
 

 

 

5. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” (1.20) “Nothing Personal” – Agent Phil Coulson rescues his kidnapped subordinate Skye aka Daisy Johnson from HYDRA agents, who had hijacked the fallen agency’s C-17 plane, known as “the Bus”, with his sports car called “L.O.L.A.”.
 
 
 

 

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6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) – While staving off rogue HYDRA agents in Washington D.C., Captain America aka Steve Rogers has a brutal hand-to-hand fight with the assassin known as “the Winter Soldier”. Best fight scene in any Marvel production … at least for me.
 
 
 

 

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7. “Iron Man 3” (2013) – In this hilarious scene, Tony Stark finally comes face-to-face with the “terrorist” known as “the Mandarin”, who proves not to be what many had assumed.
 
 
 

 

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8. “The Hulk” (2003) – The opening credits of the 2003 movie featured the chilling efforts of Dr. David Banner to create super soldiers by introducing modified DNA sequences extracted from various animals to strengthen the human cellular response. This sequence gives me the chills whenever I watch the movie.
 
 
 

 

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9. “X2: X-Men United” (2003) – The second movie in the “X-MEN” franchise featured an exciting attack by a brainwashed Nightcrawler aka Kurt Wagner on the White House, in an attempt to assassinate the U.S. President.
 
 
 

 

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10. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) – S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury is attacked by HYDRA agents and the assassin known as “the Winter Soldier” on the streets of Washington D.C.
 
 
 

 

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11. “Iron Man 2” (2010) – S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow fights off security guards at Justin Hammer’s factory in order to prevent Ivan Venko from using James Rhodes in the War Machine suit from killing Tony Stark aka Iron Man.
 
 
 

 

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12. “Ant-Man” (2015) – Scott Laing aka Ant-Man attempts to infiltrate the new Avengers headquarters for a particular device, and has an unexpected encounter with Avenger Sam Wilson aka the Falcon.
 
 
 

 

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13. “Iron Man 3” (2015) – An Extremis enhanced Pepper Potts saves Tony Stark from villain Aldrich Killian by killing the latter.
 
 
 

 

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14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – The recently enhanced Steve Rogers is recruited by a U.S. senator for a war bonds tour in this colorful montage, after the former is rejected by Colonel Chester Phillips when the super soldier formula is lost.
 
 
 

 

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15. “Thor” (2011) – Recently cast out from Asgaard by his father Odin, a now mortal Thor struggles to free himself from a hospital’s personnel before he is eventually drugged in this very funny scene.
 
 
 

 

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16. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) – A group of extraterrestrial misfits uses one of the Infinity stones to defeat Kree supervillain Ronan the Accuser, who is bent upon destroying the Nova Empire’s capital city, Xandar.
 
 
 

 

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17. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – In this emotionally sad scene, S.S.R. Agent Peggy Carter gives in to tears, when communication with Captain America aka Steve Rogers is cut short, after he forces a HYDRA plane with deadly weapons into the Atlantic Ocean.
 
 
 

 

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18. “Spider-Man 3” (2007) – Another sad scene features Spider-Man aka Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson grieving over the dead body of their friend, Harry Osborn aka New Goblin, after the latter is skewered by villain Venom aka Eddie Brock.
 
 
 

 

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19. “Agent Carter” (1.07) “Snafu” – S.S.R. Chief Roger Dooley jumps to his death in order to save the lives of his subordinates from the bomb device that had been strapped to his body.
 
 
 

 

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20. “The Hulk” (2003) – Ang Lee directed this bizarre scene featuring the death of former military officer Glenn Talbot, after the Hulk aka Bruce Banner escapes from a military base.
 
 
 

 

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Honorable Mention: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) – Director Marc Webb directed this heartbreaking sequence in which Gwen Stacy falls to her death, after Spider-Man aka Peter Parker fails to save her from Harry Osborn aka the Green Goblin.

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Three (2015-2016)

Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Three of Marvel’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Created by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen; the series stars Clark Gregg: 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” SEASON THREE (2015-2016)

1 - 3.10 Maveth

1. (3.10) “Maveth” – In this compelling mid-season finale, both S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Phil Coulson and Agent Leo Fitz deal with Grant Ward and a team of HYDRA agents on the same distant planet that Agent Jemma Simmons had earlier found herself trapped on, after using the Monolith to travel there.

2 - 3.17 The Team

2. (3.17) “The Team” – While the agency’s Inhuman team embark upon an inaugural mission in this tense episode, Coulson learn from the captured HYDRA leader Gideon Malick that the Kree being known as Hive has the ability to control all Inhumans. Coulson has to decide whom Hive has assumed control.

3 - 3.14 Watchdogs

3. (3.14) “Watchdogs” – While on leave, Agent Alphonso Mackenzie and his brother have a violent encounter with a group of vigilantes called “the Watchdogs”, who desire to kill all Inhumans.

4 - 3.04 Among Us Hide . . .

4. (3.04) “Among Us Hide . . .” – After S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Garner is found, after being assaulted by HYDRA agents, his ex-wife Agent Melinda May and Agent Lance Hunter increased their search for Ward and his HYDRA cronies. Meanwhile, Coulson believes that ATCU Director Rosalind Price is hiding a secret.

5 - 3.05 4722 Hours

5. (3.05) “4,722 Hours” – This unusual episode chronicled the period that Simmons spent on the Kree planet, after being dragged there by the Monolith in the Season Two finale.