×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    CBS-Viacom Merger Details Revealed, Shares to Trade on Nasdaq

    Negotiations between CBS and Viacom went down to the wire on the day the long-gestating transaction was finally sealed on Aug. 13. CBS Corp. and Viacom revealed the timeline of the merger talks in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday that runs more than 650 pages. Also Thursday, CBS and Viacom said the shares [...]

  • DAYBREAK

    TV Review: 'Daybreak'

    “Daybreak” fits neatly into one of the genres that seems increasingly major for Netflix: The drama that places in counterpoint the big emotions felt by teens and the literal end of the world.  To wit: “The End of the F***ing World,” a well-regarded British co-production, is returning for a second season in November; Netflix’s Sabrina [...]

  • Guy Fieri Walk of Fame Honor

    Food Network Orders 'Tournament of Champions' With Guy Fieri as Host

    Food Network and celebrity chef Guy Fieri are teaming up again, this time on a culinary competition program. The five-episode “Tournament of Champions” will feature 16 chefs going head-to-head in a series of challenges using ingredients and special cooking tools and equipment  while racing against the clock. The difficulty of the challenges increases with each [...]

  • Daisy May Cooper Signs on for

    Daisy May Cooper Signs on for Baby Cow Comedy 'The Witchfinder' for BBC Two

    Daisy May Cooper, the star of hit BBC comedy “This Country,” is to play a suspected witch being escorted to trial in seventeenth century England in new BBC Two comedy series “The Witchfinder.” Cooper will star alongside actor and comedian Tim Key, who plays a failing witchfinder transporting her to a trial that could change [...]

  • Sky Original Anna

    Sky Sets Post-Apocalyptic Italian Original, 'Anna,' With Wildside Producing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Comcast-backed Sky is making a new Italian original titled “Anna,” centered on a 13-year-old Sicilian girl who must contend with a viral contagion that has killed off all adults on the island. The series, which has echoes of “The Walking Dead” and “Hunger Games,” is based on a book by the same title by author-turned-director [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content