Prior to the release of the first Blade and X-Men movies in 1998 and 2000 respectively, the comic book genre wasn’t seen as particularly profitable or worthwhile throughout the movie industry. At the time it was assumed that the public interest just wasn’t there (or had dropped off due to Joel Schumacher’s treatment of the Batman franchise), but the real problem is that no one was giving these stories the talent and the budget needed to make them work.
You may have heard of some of the embarrassing projects that Marvel was involved in throughout the early 90′s, specifically the original Captain America and Fantastic Four movies. These are much worse than Batman & Robin ever was, and in fact, this particular take on the Fantastic Four was never officially released because Avi Arad (then, Marvel head honcho) actually bought out the movie and ordered all of the prints destroyed. (It has since leaked out online via torrents and file sharing sites.)
However, in light of the recent Iron Man and Incredible Hulk movies, which feature Samuel L. Jackson in a small, overlapping role as Nick Fury, I thought it might be fun to take a look at another dubious Marvel film that is probably even less known than the previous two.
Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a made-for-TV movie that aired on Fox back in 1998, with none other than former Baywatch/Knight Rider hunk David Hasselhoff donning the eye patch to play the no-nonsense cigar-chomping spy. Yep, they were really slumming it back then. How Marvel ever decided to let the Hoff near one of their characters is beyond me, especially since by that time he was well past his prime and everyone knew it.
In this particular adaptation, Fury is now retired and living a life of seclusion in the Yukon, when S.H.I.E.L.D. comes knocking at his cave (no, seriously). It seems that HYDRA, a terrorist organization run by his former arch enemy, ex-Nazi Baron von Strucker, has resurfaced with a deadly virus threatening to wipe out America. The children of von Strucker are now in charge of the group, and looking to raise what they are calling “The Fourth Reich”, and awaken their father from cryogenic freezing.
The movie co-stars Sandra Hess (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) as Andrea von Strucker aka Viper, who at one point in the film administers the “kiss of death” to Fury. This infects him with a venom that will kill him in 48 hours unless he can get an anti-venom from her blood. Fury and his crew are left with little choice but to mount an attack on HYDRA’s helicarrier headquarters.
As you can probably guess, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the most inspired comic book adaptation ever to grace the screen. Pretty boy Hasselhoff is ill-equipped to play such a bad ass, and seems somewhat out of shape during action scenes. Sadly, this was also before his “Don’t Hassle the Hoff” days, where he finally learned to embrace his cheesy public persona. In this movie, he plays it completely straight, and aside from a few choice one-liners it’s not nearly as fun as it could have been.
That said, it’s not necessarily as bad as I was expecting it to be either. I don’t think the story strays far enough from the comic book canon to anger fanboys, and some of the special effects in the movie are actually decent, particularly for a TV production. On the other hand, there are other things that cheapen the look, such as gun shots that have no muzzle flash or smoke whatsoever.
The most surprising thing about the movie is the fact that it was written by David Goyer, who of course went on to write the critically-acclaimed Batman Begins. I am guessing this is one project that he now leaves off his resume, although strangely enough, he also wrote Dark City and the first Blade movie around the same time, and Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. does share a similar gothic vibe with both of those flicks.
Most serious comic book fans probably want this production erased from existence, and if Marvel is smart they will never release it on DVD., but thankfully there’s always the internet and cable TV re-runs to keep farces like this from being completely lost. Even as a “so bad it’s good” kind of experience, I can’t really recommend Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., but still, it remains an amusing (if somewhat pitiful) footnote in the history of comic book movies.