Looking back at Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It's been 16 years since there was a Nick Fury movie. He was played by - really - David Hasselhoff. We made Matt watch it.
Nick Fury is introduced to us wearing a vest and an eye patch, smashing a pick axe against a wall while smoking a cigar. He is David Hasselhoff.
(Note –apparently the above is ‘not an article’. Please find ‘an article’ below.)
“Hey! This isn't a $150m blockbuster! That isn't Samuel L. Jackson! HEY!”
‘Matt,’ the email said ‘Do you want to cover a Marvel release for us?’ I thought I was getting called up to the Den Of Geek A-list, but it turns out that the Nick Fury film I’d be covering was not part of the current blockbuster parade, overseen by cinematic warlord Kevin Feige. Rather, it was an extended TV pilot that aired as a film to not much fanfare in 1998 starring David Hasselhoff. I’d actually been relegated to Den Of Geek’s E-list, it turned out.
Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is about the super-secret protection force convincing the grizzled old Fury, who is spending his retirement smoking and pick axing, to come back to work to stop Hydra, who are working with the children of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (whose frozen corpse is also a part of their plot, because why wouldn’t it be?), from unleashing the Death's Head virus and destroying Manhattan. Fury reluctantly agrees, hoping to avenge a dead friend, and leads a small team of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives on a mission that seems to involve them milling about and talking forever and ever.
I was curious about this film, partly because what the hell would a Nick Fury movie starring David Hasselhoff be like? I’ve also seen a few of Marvel's older movies and have found them to be a mixed bag, with the Matt Salinger-starring Captain America a complete toilet film and the Dolph Lundgren-starring Punisher flick a deranged, hyper-violent treat.
Then there’s the screenwriting credit to The Dark Knight and Man of Steel co-writer David S. Goyer. Goyer has since attempted to distance himself from the finished product, having written it a few years before it was finally made. I get it. If I fart in a lift in the morning and it still smells of farts in the afternoon, other people have been farting in that lift. Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a figurative lift where the air is thick with oppressive fart smog.
The film starts out a little zany. The first proper speaking role is a goon who shouts every line he has. Seriously, it's like he's speaking in all caps. I think he's commented on some of my articles before. "LET US ROCK AND LET US ROLL!” he hollers in the film, attempting to rally the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “MICHAEL BAY RUINED MY CHILDHOOD. THIS ARTICLE IS FAIL. I HAVEN’T READ THIS ARTICLE BUT IT MISSES THE POINT WHICH IS THAT…" he types into the box under my articles. We are mortal enemies.
Then there’s S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, the futuristic flying base, which looks flash and modern (like, 1998 modern) from the outside but, once we get inside, has an interior like an old submarine or a battle ship. It's amazing how hoping the film Under Siege will break out will have you sitting on the edge of your seat.
Unfortunately, zaniness can really start to grate once you bring boredom into the mix. Nick Fury is unbearably boring. It’s packed full of clumsy drama and is very notably light on action, which I really feel like you’d want a superhero film to have. As the drawn out nonsense starts to weigh on you it becomes difficult to accept what’s happening as good fun. In a pre-smartphone age you wonder whether people were actually able to watch this all the way through. I had to watch it in a few sittings, but then my attention span has been eroded by Twitter and FaceboI’m hungry I wonder what’s for lunch.
I was not delighted by the introduction of a psychic to the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Up until her appearance this film had definitely not been operating in a manner that made me think it could handle a psychic character without appearing ridiculous. This proved prophetic on my part. S.H.I.E.L.D. gets caught off guard surprisingly often for a team with an in-house psychic. At one point she has a vision of nuclear holocaust and I actually found it boring. How do you make the destruction of everything look boring? On that note, I'd like to address the team behind Nick Fury: what you were doing didn't need a nuclear catastrophe bit because what you were doing starred David Hasselhoff. Tonally, you got that bit wrong.
The film then introduces a magic face changing spray because it was somehow deemed the next logical step after depicting a nuclear attack. I think they just assumed everyone would have already turned off. They clearly weren't familiar with how cruel the Den Of Geek editorial team are.
You get the impression watching this that no one was quite sure what they wanted to make. It’s hard to think of a tone that doesn’t get some screen time. It’s like it tripped at the top of the tone staircase and theatrically tumbled down, cracking its head on every step. One minute the film is deadly seriously, then it’s silly and camp, and then they’re attempting to be self-referential and making in-jokes. Finally, the last 20 minutes of the film commit to campness. It's better but I felt done at that point. Even at its camp best, it wouldn’t have worked for the full 90 minutes anyway.
Still, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. has something for you, so long as you’re a huge fan of bungling the concept of in-jokes. One villain insults Fury with "…you comic book coward!" and then it's hard to hear the rest over your dry heaves. It gets even harder when the dries turn into wetties. Another joke, not an in-joke but just as terrible, has Fury actor Hasselhoff tasked with the line "That's the problem with The Third Reich - no sense of humour!" In this instance, Fury, I'm actually going to have to side with The Third Reich.
As Nick Fury, David Hasselhoff is the obvious highlight of the film. Take that in - David Hasselhoff is the obvious highlight of a Marvel film. The weird thing is that this wasn’t even that long ago. The 16 year difference in the respect shown to Marvel characters and their ability to bring in an audience is incredible. Could you imagine coming out of Captain America 2 and saying “The only person who seemed to get what was happening in this was David Hasselhoff”?
Still, the title character gets the best treatment of anyone in the film and, given the very limited success of this film in doing anything, Hasselhoff is more than up to what they give him, playing the role as straight as Leslie Nielsen in Naked Gun (albeit without anything close to the quality of material). One of my favourite character moments comes early in the film, with rebel Nick Fury smoking in a no smoking area, clearly demonstrating that he is a badass outlaw type, in case his eye patch left any room for doubt. Then, when he gets stuck in a lift, he shoots the control panel to make it start up again - a similar technique to the one used by the Den Of Geek editorial team to start writers back up when they say they don't want to watch the Nick Fury film any more.
Amusingly, Hasselhoff’s Nick Fury voice sounds similar to that of Breaking Bad lead character Walter White. It's fun to close your eyes and pretend it's actually him, as then you can't see the Nick Fury film happening. Elsewhere, I will reserve my complaints about the Nick Fury robot storyline, as any jokes I make about that will be tainted by jealousy. I’d love a Hoffbot.
If you do decide to buy the Nick Fury DVD, I’d advise you to do so with your eyes closed, as the front cover features a spoiler. Those of you who’d like to avoid that spoiler should skip to the next paragraph. Here it is; a woman tries to seduce David Hasselhoff in this film, but thanks to the 12A certificate I knew she wouldn’t actually get to sacrifice her life to the Hoff’s libido. A 12A wouldn’t allow sufficient scope for the resultant gore.
So, to any of you considering checking this out because you’re curious like I was, my advice would be to walk away. It’s not silly enough to be ‘so bad it’s good’ and it’s not even on the same planet as ‘so good it’s good’. The release of this Nick Fury film feels like the past attacking us for not showing more of an interest in the current Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.