When Marvel Studio’s The Avengers hits theatres tonight, it’ll be more than just another ubiquitous superhero flick. It’ll be the culmination of over a decade of blockbuster filmmaking… and two decades of dreck. In an era of critically acclaimed box office darlings like Iron Man and Thor, it’s easy to forget that the comic co.’s silver screen success is a very recent phenomenon. With earlier offerings like Howard the Duck, the direct-to-video Captain America (1990), and the direct-to-trash-can Fantastic Four (1994), Marvel’s movies were like an illegitimate red-haired child compared to D.C., with its smash hit Superman (1978-1987) and Batman (1989-1997) film franchises.
That’s what makes Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD such a fascinating (if not particularly entertaining) piece of superhero cinema history. It was produced at a time when Marvel Entertainment Group was on the cusp of a transformation – from making movies that were shit to making movies that were the shit. Nick Fury was released in 1998, the same year as Blade, the Marvel movie that almost single-handedly launched the current comic book movie gold rush. And both Nick Fury and Blade were written by the same man—David S. Goyer (Dark City, Batman Begins). But that, sadly, is where the similarities end. Nick Fury feels more like a desperate cash grab by the recently bankrupted Marvel Entertainment Group than any attempt at competent filmmaking.
From its abrupt opening credits, this movie makes no bones about its made-for-TV status. The soundtrack blasts a thumping drumbeat that sounds suspiciously like the “Miami Vice” theme song. Even the typeface screams “’80s cop show”:
“We couldn’t afford to make it about super spies. Would you settle for ‘Nick Fury: P.I.’?”
The super villain terrorist group, HYDRA, has attacked a U.S. military base and has stolen the cryogenically frozen corpse of Nazi war criminal and HYDRA founder, Baron von Strucker. Fearing that HYDRA will resurrect von Strucker, S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law Enforcement Division) calls their top agent, Nick Fury, out of retirement.
And no, Fury is not played by fan favorite Samuel L. Jackson. This movie came out two years before the “Ultimates” storyline reimagined him as an African-American. But fear not, true believers, Marvel managed to get one of the biggest stars of the ‘90s to play the cynical cyclopean super spy:
Yup, that’s David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury. Hiring “The Hoff” seems mondo moronic to modern sensibilities. But back in 1998 Hasselhoff was one of the most recognizable actors in the world, all thanks to “Baywatch.” As impossible at it is to believe, he was more famous than George Clooney! He actually was a bigger star than Robert Downey Jr. was when he agreed to make Iron Man (2008). In fact, when this movie was made David Hasselhoff was the biggest star a Marvel movie had ever nabbed.
I know, I’m scared too!
In spite of all his alleged star power, Hasselhoff is as bad as you’d expect, but not as bad as you’d hope. His idea of being badass is to sweat a lot, scowl, and deliver groan-inducing one-liners while chomping on a soggy cigar. He also holds his handguns sideways, like in those John Woo movies that were so popular at the time. He’s like the David Caruso of laughable false machismo.
Here’s his inauspicious introduction:
And here’s The Hoff at his most groan inducing:
Fury is oddly okay with the 6 million. But he’d kill a woman if she didn’t laugh at his terrible puns.
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