Marvel Studio’s latest one-shot is the most ambitious to date, adding a whole lot of new ingredients to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But is it missing the most important one?
We were privileged to be invited to a special advanced screening of Marvel’s latest One-Shot by Disney at the Heroes and Villains exhibition in Sydney. The following review, provided by contributor Sean Riley, contains some spoilers. Read on at your own peril!
Item 47 sees Benny (Jesse Bradford) and Claire (Lizzy Caplan), a pair of hapless lovers and criminals (with more than a hint of Pulp Fiction’s Honey-Bunny and Pumpkin to them) manage to lay their hands on a piece of Chitauri weaponry lost in the climactic battle of The Avengers. Faced with a handheld howitzer in the general populace, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent Sitwell is dispatched to recover the gun and ‘neutralise’ Benny and Claire. Will Benny and Claire get away from their pursuer? Will Sitwell have the cold blooded ruthlessness to carry out his orders? Will Nick Fury personally review whatever policy sends out a single agent to stop two people with high powered weaponry?
I’ve been a great fan of the “One-Shots” series of short films; I loved the way that The Consultant acted as some spackle for the inevitable cracks that emerged in something as big and heavy as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the surprisingly charming and interestingly shot A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer. But Item 47 has a surprising amount of pressure on it, being both the first film of “Phase Two” of the mega-franchise, and the first One-Shot not to star fan-favourite Agent Coulson. It’s also the most technically demanding one-shot so far, without question. The short features a lot of flashy CGI, and multiple sets! (Believe it or not, that’s a first for the series!)
Sadly, it also doesn’t really pull together into anything much memorable. While we can’t really know how much set-up it’s doing for the future films, it notably fails to excite any sense of fannish speculation; although it’s a decent bet that one of smitten sackers might make a return appearance. (I was convinced for a brief second that the short was setting up an alien angle on the rumored Extremis inspired plotline for Iron Man 3.) As a novice of the comics, I might well be missing a tie-in to a key part of the comics universe, but short of that, it seems a very modest tale with little of major import to the wider setting.
And as Marvel’s first attempt to show what S.H.I.E.L.D. will look like post-Coulson, it does little other than emphasise just how good Clark Gregg was in the role. I liked Titus Welliver’s grouchy paper-pusher Agent Blake fine. Being more or less the lead, Maximiliano Hernández has considerably warmed into the role of Agent Sitwell since The Consultant, and as an actor he comes across as much more confident and assured, but it feels like he’s doing a Coulson impersonation instead of developing his character into its own thing. Hernández has a certain wonderful dorky humanity to his screen presence (he gets a lovely little moment upon receiving his orders; not a word, but a clear flicker across his face making his fear and distaste at them palpable) and I’d like to see him go more in that route. The panicky, oh-shit-making-it-all-up-as-I-go action hero has a grand history, and Hernández could kill in that mode.
But as a new Coulson? Well, he just can’t deadpan a line the way Gregg could. The script doesn’t help; there’s no wonderful discussion about Sitwell’s admirable qualities as a patsy here, or any lines as good as “Excuse me? I also have this gun.” Sure, Gregg turned even so-so lines into gold, but he also had more to work with than Item 47 gives. The line that most sticks in my head is one given to Sitwell, speaking of Agent Coulson: “We all miss him.” Yes we do.
Item 47 is released on The Avengers Blu-ray on 29 August 2012 in Australia, and 26 September 2012 in the US from Disney.