Last week “Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” introduced its first substantial movie-TV show crossover. The “Thor: The Dark World” tie-in episode notably focused on the aftermath of the preceding events, an innovation in the Marvel universe. However with the bold move into treacherous territory, a few complaints have been hurled towards the movie-TV union. The decision to unite the series and Thor film franchise undoubtedly wasn’t simple, especially considering the notable lack of movie-TV show crossovers. Marvel succeeded in further consolidating their already expansive universe, and luckily created the tie-in such that viewers didn’t necessarily need to catch the show and movie. The episode might not have been perfect, but this mutual exclusivity was a generous, though under-appreciated, gift.
Bringing movies and TV series together isn’t as common as it may seem. An abundance of shows and movies have in some way crossed boundaries, but there haven’t been many which directly and concurrently relate. The best and worst examples come from “The X-Files.” While the first “X-Files” spin-off film was nearly perfect, the second movie bombed. 1998’s “The X-Files: Fight the Future” served as a bridge between seasons five and six, continuing already established story arcs. However if you hadn’t remained faithful to the series, the movie didn’t make much sense. Unfortunately the follow-up flick simply resurrected X-Files’ characters, and felt awkward and unnecessary.
“Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” assumed a different approach, which caught flack but ultimately achieved their goals and satisfied most viewers. Complaints were largely that the crossover was too loosely based on the movie, or that there was a tie-in to begin with. Interestingly, these opinions are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Had the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” episode borrowed heavily upon “Thor: The Dark World,” viewers who hadn’t seen the film would have been lost. Allegations that this was a ploy to drive box-office revenue aren’t unexpected, but let’s face the facts. Marvel most likely assumed, and probably correctly, that the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” audience planned to watch the Thor sequel. This makes sense, as viewers must be fans of the Marvel franchise. Additionally, the tie-in allowed for an interesting, and before unseen, glimpse into the aftermath of superhero events without relying heavily upon Thor familiarity. Really it was the best of both worlds. Watch the movie, follow the show, check out both. Whatever path you choose, you’ll be fine.
The “S.H.I.E.L.D.”-Thor episode was brilliant in its standalone ability. Could it have been done better? Possibly. But then again, it could have been much worse (seriously, don’t watch “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”). As last Tuesday’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.” entry evidenced, the show apparently means to continue references to the events in “Thor: The Dark World,” but in such a capacity to allow for viewers who hadn’t seen the movie. How the show builds upon this idea is yet to be seen, but hopefully a Captain America crossover is in the works before or after the upcoming movie.