TV Review: ‘Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe’

With:

Announcer: Jeff McNeil. With: Kevin Feige, Joss Whedon, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson

Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five loosely connected movies from the same hero-filled world, beginning with the cinematically unproven “Iron Man” and culminating with superhero team “The Avengers.” As such, this fast-moving hour qualifies as more than just a cut-and-paste job from electronic press kits, although there’s an element of that, certainly.

Of course, Marvel’s positioning as an independent upstart with scant margin for error has changed since its acquisition by Disney, which beyond its deep pockets and marketing apparatus provides the shelf space for “Agents of SHIELD” and this special. At the time, though, the studio’s gamble was impressive, considering the whole house of cards could just as easily have collapsed had “Iron Man” or “Thor” tanked along the way.

There’s also the little matter, as is almost immediately pointed out, that Marvel’s best-known titles (including “Fantastic Four,” “Spider-Man” and “X-Men”) had all been acquired by other studios in the company’s checkered, occasionally bankrupt past, forcing its reliance on heroes without the household-name recognition possessed by DC Comics’ signature properties.

Mixing interviews, clips and a lot of footage from Comic-Con, the special extensively quotes execs like Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige. He and others point to the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as crucial in the early going — sending a message Marvel was taking the films seriously and seeking to enlist topnotch actors, despite the spandex and armor.

Writer-director Joss Whedon captures the daunting nature of making “The Avengers,” saying his first thought was, “How can you possibly bring them together?”

The studio’s run of good fortune will hit a wall sooner or later, especially with the looming challenge of selling the public on less familiar concepts like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man.” To quote a young version of Woody Allen, there’s inherent danger when the universe begins expanding.

Still, with an “Avengers” sequel in the offing (to be teased within the special, but not included in the advance screener) Marvel clearly has a cushion — and perhaps more significantly, a vision for leveraging its existing franchises to help launch and nurture new ones.

In that context, “Assembling a Universe” is a pretty instructive hour — as well as a break from the regularly scheduled mediocrity of “Agents of SHIELD.”

TV Review: 'Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe'

(Special; ABC, Tue. March 18, 8 p.m.)

Production:

Produced by M3 Creative and Marvel Studios.

Crew:

Executive producer, Dave Bushore; producer, Brad Baruh; editors, Meghan Leon, Adam Gallagher, Michael Fallavollita; music, Brian Tyler. 60 MIN.

Cast:

Announcer: Jeff McNeil. With: Kevin Feige, Joss Whedon, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson

More TV

  • Bobs Burgers

    Fox Will Be Lean After Disney Deal, But Will It Be Mean?

    Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five […]

  • Carrie Fisher Star Wars

    Fox Merges With Disney: The Storied Studio's 102-Year History

    Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five […]

  • 'Grown-ish' TV show premiere

    Meme Inspired 'Black-ish' Spinoff 'Grown-ish,' Creator Kenya Barris Says

    Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five […]

  • Bob Iger Disney

    Disney-Fox Deal: Bob Iger on Management Plans, Direct-to-Consumer Focus and Staying Through 2021

    Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five […]

  • Bob Iger Rupert Murdoch

    Disney-Fox Will Be Global Powerhouse, Especially in Asia and Europe

    Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five […]

  • Issa Rae’s Talent Drive Leads to

    Issa Rae’s Talent Drive Leads to Sci-Fi Pilot ‘The Awoken’

    Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five […]

  • DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER

    Dubai: Festival President Abdulhamid Juma on Growing The Market And Opening to TV

    Beyond its crass practical considerations — promoting the soon-to-be-released “Captain America” sequel, while giving “Agents of SHIELD” a week off — ABC’s super-synergistic special “Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe” contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content