One of the unquestioned elite tier Marvel Cinematic Universe films is Captain America: The Winter Solider. It had a perfect mix of a 70s spy thriller and the surging larger than life superhero spectacle that would soon become the norm for Marvel Studios films. Just like its chameleon-like antagonists, Secret Invasion looks to channel Winter Soldier’s who can you trust paranoia vibe.
If the first episode is a clue of what’s in store for the rest of the series, Secret Invasion is heading for a similar elite status among the Disney+ MCU series.
Secret Invasion is very loosely based on the shocking 2008 Marvel Comics event. That comic raised headlines as the Marvel heroes realized that some of their ranks had been infiltrated by the Skrulls, a shape-shifting alien race that was in the midst of a long-term invasion of the planet after losing their home world.
The comic series was a fascinating mystery and seemed like an ideal path to resurrect previously thought dead characters and explain away some of the more divisive storyline elements that fractured the Avengers in the comic book iteration of Civil War. Naturally, the comic series culminated in a big, sprawling battle with the Marvel heroes (and villains) as they repelled the invasion and regained control of Earth.
This isn’t the first adaptation of the comic series as it was a major theme of the highly regarded Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon series.
With a couple of strong blueprints to serve as guide points, showrunner Kyle Bradsteet (Mr. Robot) and director Ali Selim opt for a less superhero-filled spectacle and opt more of a sci-fi spy thriller. There’s a valid argument to be made that Secret Invasion could have played out through an entire phase culminating in a massive team-up like The Avengers.
And it would have been amazing to see Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow or even Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man resurface and not know if their characters are actually Skrulls. That doesn’t mean that some familiar faces running around are not shape-shifting green aliens.
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Going with a more toned-down version allows for the spotlight to focus on Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, who hasn’t been as integral in the MCU since Winter Soldier or retroactively since 2019’s Captain Marvel. If anything, Fury had been a character that audiences had somewhat taken for granted as just the guy who helps the Avengers. Jackson quickly serves notice that while he can be an excellent complementary player, he has no problems being the star in an MCU project.
Fury’s been off in space working on intergalactic responses to potential threats like the Chitauri or Thanos. He’s summoned back to Earth by his old allies, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to deal with the threat of a chapter of Skrulls that want to take Earth as their own. The Skrulls have been busy, in more ways than one, since the first arrived on Earth as a peaceful small band of survivors under the protection of Fury and Captain Marvel back in the 90s.
They’re done waiting their turn and under the leadership of a calculating and shrewd leader, Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami…), are ready to strike. To learn Gravik’s plans, Fury, Talos and Hill must navigate a British intelligence agent Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman, The Favourite) and a Skrull operative G’iah (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones) with close to Fury and Talos.
Bradstreet and co-writer Brian Tucker play to the strength of their cast giving Jackson plenty of scenes to show off his charms with Smuders and Colman among others. Jackson and Mendelsohn haven’t had a lot of on-screen time together, but they sell a decades long bond between their characters with ease showing that even in the vicious spy arena he operates in, Fury still has a few friends.
Selim skillfully builds the tension constantly elevating that uneasiness through character glances, ominous perspectives and the action still is exhilarating even if no one is firing laser beams from their suit of armor or channeling lightning from their mystical hammer.
The first episode ends on a note that basically demands viewers to ignore the time and head right into the next installment. If it can maintain that same momentum for the remaining five episodes, Secret Invasion might be the new standard for MCU Disney+ series.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Disney