Secret Invasion Series Review (Spoiler Free)
Marvel’s long-awaited adaptation of one of their beloved comic-book runs is finally out, with Nick Fury front & centre… and it was totally wasted!
Genre: Action / Drama / Sci-Fi
Created By: Kyle Bradstreet
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Don Cheadle, Charlayne Woodard, Killian Scott & Cobie Smulders.
Average Runtime: 50 min.
No. of Episodes: 6
Release Period: 21 Jun. 2023 - 26 Jul. 2023
The announcement that an adaptation, of the popular Marvel comic line, is at works, was made back in late 2020. Right after the high of Avengers: End Game and Spider-Man’s European adventure, news of a series based on the comic book crossover got me excited for the future of the MCU. After the disappointing releases of Phase 4, as well as the let-down that was Ant-Man: Quantumania, I stopped looking forward to this production. With all of the episodes finally released, Marvel’s first streaming show of Phase 5 turned out to be exactly what I expected; a wasted opportunity!
Nick Fury returns to Earth, after being absent for years. He teams up with Talos, the former leader of the shapeshifting Skrulls, to stop a renegade group of Skrulls who have infiltrated the highest levels of Earth's governments.
The screenplay had the potential to become a gritty, tense-filled spy thriller, with the shapeshifting Skrulls not only infiltrating governmental structures but also groups of superheroes. While it wouldn’t have been necessary to include a whole array of already-established characters, it would have been nice to see others alongside Rhodes.
Now, while it never fully delivered on what it promised, I never thought that this mini-series was an absolute travesty. It is definitely better than last year's She-Hulk, or this year’s February blockbuster Quantumania. So let’s begin with what the show does right; the atmosphere is more mature and the plot is more complicated, containing nuanced layers. The scope of the threat is immediately established, while revelations about Fury’s spy ring are made. The elements of a political paranoia thriller are there, sadly, they aren’t used properly.
That's about it, as the rest of the show takes a dip after the set-up of the first episode. It seems as if creator Bradstreet had a smart idea on paper, without knowing how to implement it on screen. As such the premise is stretched extremely thin along its six episodes, packed with a lot of convoluted filler content that leads to tiering, boring moments. It also makes up story beats on the go, leading to contradictory elements within its narrative, as well as other MCU entities. The finale leads to a generic superbeing CG battle, which we already saw in every other Marvel Disney+ instalment.
The dialogues are most of the time dramatically exaggerated, leading to earnest conversations about the loss of a home or racial discrimination to feel insincere.
Samuel L. returns as Nick Fury, finally in a centre role. His portrayal is, regrettably, a tiered one. Yes, he is still badass to some extent, however, he doesn’t seem fully committed anymore to the character. This is somewhat embedded into the plot, telling audiences about the former director of S.H.I.E.L.D. falling into a depression after the “blip”. That said, it also makes a surprising reveal about his personal life, plus explains how he managed to become the world’s greatest spy, having built a Skrull spy network for thirty years.
Ben Mendelsohn reprises his role of Talos, stealing every scene he is in! Talos bridges the gap between the Skrull aliens and the humans. The former leader of the aliens was cast out after Fury did not follow up on his promise. Mendelsohn gives his character a lot of charm, vulnerability, just like selling his emotions as a devoted father, worried not only for his daughter but the path his people are taking.
Emilia Clarke plays G’iah, Talos’ daughter. A morally grey persona, who seems a little lost in her ways, as the old path failed her people. Clarke is completely wasted, with the little she has to do. Olivia Colman as a high-ranking SIS agent, is a tour de force, though equally squandered.
Finally, we have Kingsley Ben-Adir, cast as Gravik the main antagonist. On paper, Gravik’s personality was supposed to be a reflection of extremists; growing up as a child with a lot of hatred for what happened in his past, feeling disillusioned by a change that was promised yet never came, and finally taking matters into his hands. The execution is once again at fault here, painting him as a generic 101 villain, who doesn't come off as threatening.
The cinematography is mostly solid, containing well-captured, gritty action with an impact. The imagery looks edgier, containing a lot of desaturated colours, which does suit the atmosphere of an adult spy thriller. Just like the camera work, the editing for the most part is well-handled. It includes well-placed jump cuts, smash cuts and fade-ins.
Effect-wise, the opening credits are among the most infuriating! Created by an AI program, the final product looks terrible, is lazy and absolutely disrespectful, given the current SAG-AFTRA strikes in Holywood. Good-looking practical effects, makeup plus prosthetics are mostly used. The final episodes shift more onto poorly executed computer-animated territory.
Verdict: Nick Fury’s “solo” chapter in the grander MCU is, unfortunately, one that comes too late. The adapted storyline, from one of the more beloved entries inside the Marvel Universe, is squandered on a mediocre narrative that probably sounded better on paper. The enactment of the concept was more difficult, as creator Bradstreet, together with director Ali Selim, had no clue how to implement a clever political paranoia thriller, into an action-packed superhero extravaganza. The result is a boring one, with episodes including a lot of filler, though rushing through to the end. The dialogues have no substance, Samuel L. Jackson looks tired of playing Nick Fury, Emilia Clarke and Olivia Colman are wasted. Ben Mendelsohn is the true show stealer as Talos, though his character conclusion is unsatisfactory. The acting is well-helmed, the editing is fine, however, the use of opening credits designed by an AI is tactless. In the end, Secret Invasion is better than She-Hulk, yet still doesn’t convince. It's a 5.5 out of 10.
Have you seen this new chapter of Phase 5 yet? Are you planning to? Leave a comment & let me know if you agree! Thank you for reading!