The Devin’s Advocate: Marvel Studios Has A SHIELD Problem

Once The Avengers are assembled will Marvel lay off the intrusive SHIELD appearances?

In a few months we’ll see the final pre-Avengers Marvel film, and then begins a new era for the geekiest studio in town. The Marvel movieverse post-Avengers is an intriguing place, one that presents a lot of opportunities for films that redefine superheroes and summer blockbusters.

I just hope SHIELD is kept out of most of it.

There are a lot of problems with Iron Man 2 and Thor (I know you probably disagree with me on Thor right now, but let’s talk again when you’ve revisited the movie at home. I suspect in a year my position will be the default one), but to me the most glaring ones involve SHIELD. In both films SHIELD feels not just like an unwelcome distraction from the main story but also like a lazy crutch to keep the film sailing through stalled second acts. There’s an axiom in film editing that says if a scene can be cut from a movie and not impact the story, it should be cut. Removing SHIELD completely from Thor would have no impact on the story whatsoever, and the screen time wasted on Agent Coulson harassing Jane Foster or Thor beating up faceless SHIELD goons could have actually been used to flesh out the town of Generic, New Mexico or give Foster and Thor more time to establish an actual relationship.

SHIELD’s annoying in Thor, but they’re straight up problematic in Iron Man 2. The fact that they put Stark under house arrest to force a plot point through is bad, but what’s worse is that Nick Fury literally hands Tony Stark the solution to his problem. Stark doesn’t get to discover his father’s old work for himself, and SHIELD operates as deus ex geek so that the movie can get to the third act (and also as a roadblock so that the movie’s second act can be sufficiently padded out).

When we first saw SHIELD they were a minor element of Iron Man, but by the time of Thor’s release they are not just guests but major parts of the plots of these Marvel films. I suspect that there will be less SHIELD in Captain America, just due to the period setting of the majority of the film, but nothing is certain. They’ll definitely be a major, huge part of The Avengers. At least there they’ll feel integral to the setting, as opposed to Thor, where they truly feel forced in.

But what happens after The Avengers? Will Marvel insist on throwing SHIELD into everything? Will SHIELD be investigating Dr. Strange? Will they be tailing Cloak and Dagger? Would they be showing up in the second act of a Luke Cage movie for some reason?

Or does it get worse? If you read Latino Review’s recent major spoiler about a character who appears in The Avengers you might begin to get a sense of where the studio is planning to go with a 2017 ‘event’ they’ve teased. Will this mean five years of Marvel movies where cosmic characters get stuffed into the proceedings in order to build to yet another geeky crossover? I imagine the first time we see an Infinity Gem show up in a Marvel movie we’ll get excited; by the time the anthropomorphic personification of Eternity hijacks the second act of Moon Knight we’ll wonder what the hell happened.

As a longtime (now lapsed) superhero comic reader, there is nothing that better sums up the poor state of the industry than crossovers which force individual titles to interrupt the story they’re telling and unmotivated guest spots that are dictated by the higher ups and not the writers. How is it possible that these things have become selling points for comic book movies?