The latest MCU series from Disney+ sees Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury stewing over old regrets and finding himself labeled over the hill as a Skrull uprising threatens humanity.
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I think it’d be fair to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t as trustworthy as it used to be. Following the surprise success of films like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Ant-Man,” it really felt like the studio couldn’t do much wrong. Ever since “Avengers: Endgame” took the world by storm, something has felt off about this next phase of Marvel.
While there have been some major successes such as “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the so-called Multiverse Saga has also brought the studio its first major misfires with films like “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “Eternals.”
One of the major things that this new saga has brought is the introduction of streaming series and specials on Disney+. There have been some high-highs like “WandaVision” and “Loki,” but there have also been more divisive entries like “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “She-Hulk: Attorney At Law.” The studio is reportedly slowing down on its output of series, and “Secret Invasion” is its first series in eight months.
The series aims to have a more grounded take on the franchise, with franchise staple Samuel L. Jackson finally taking center-stage as Nick Fury, instead of being relegated to a supporting role. The series finds Nick Fury returning to Earth amidst a crisis between the Skrulls. He’s informed by his trusted colleagues Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), that there’s an uprising of Skrulls, led by the rebellious Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), that is jaded by the empty promises of Fury and Captain Marvel when they allowed them to seek refuge on Earth in 1994.
“Secret Invasion” trades in the quips, one-liners, and superhero capes, for something much more mature and adult. Yes, this is still a series about green aliens disguising themselves as humans, but much like “Andor” did for “Star Wars,” this new series gives the world of Marvel a new prestigious feel. It has a much different feel to it than the previous Disney+ series and it's all the better for it.
While the stakes feel high, the series also isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the mind of Nick Fury.
Jackson has always shined as the former director of SHIELD, but “Secret Invasion” is his best turn as the character yet, and it's arguably some of his best acting since his turn in “The Hateful Eight” all the way back in 2015. Jackson’s performance along with the writing gets to show this revered character in a much more vulnerable light, we’ve seen him feel jaded before, but he’s always been the man with a plan, this is the first time where he clearly doesn’t fully know what his next steps will be.
Mendelsohn has not missed a beat with his scene-stealing performance as Talos, who is just as quirky as ever. Other Marvel vets such as Smulders’ Maria Hill, Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross, and Don Cheadle’s Rhodey also get some time to shine as well.
“Secret Invasion” also introduces several exciting new names to the MCU as well, with Academy Award Winner Olivia Colman unsurprisingly being a big stand-out as Sonya Falsworth, an MI6 operative who has ties to Fury’s past. Emilia Clarke doesn’t get as much to do in the first two episodes as G’iah, the daughter of Talos, but she shows a lot of promise with her role which will inevitably end up being a major part of the series.
Kingsley Ben-Adir channels some of that charisma he’s brought in some of his past roles and injects it into his villainous role as Gravik. His character is sketchy, but you can’t help but be fascinated by him.
The first two episodes do take some time to get going, and only time will tell if this hits some of the same speedbumps that some of the past MCU series have fallen victim to (namely building up to an underwhelming finale), but it still feels fresh. There are no super-suits or Asgardians and yet it’s the closest the MCU has ever gotten to recapturing the feel of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
With a few exceptions, I’ve personally become a bit tired of a lot of the superhero films populating both the big and small screen as of late, but “Secret Invasion” felt like a breath of fresh air. It delivers some exciting twists and turns and has many of the hallmarks of a great espionage thriller, while also retaining many of the MCU’s greatest strengths.