Jennifer Garner's Alias Meets Dick Tracy
Season 1 Review
With Marvel’s ever-expanding small-screen universe dominating the present with Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil and now Jessica Jones, the only way forward is to go... back in time.Following suit after the “One Shot” short movie, Item 47, inspired the subsequent Agents of SHIELD TV series, Marvel’s 1940s spy-girl – first introduced as Captain America’s tough, no-nonsense love interest in The First Avenger – was given the same treatment after its short movie of the same name, Agent Carter, was well-received. Its popularity, and the popularity of Hayley Atwell’s eponymous character, saw a full season commissioned with surprisingly strong results. Set apart from almost everything else in the Marvel Universe, mostly thanks to its period setting, Agent Carter is driven by a commanding lead performance from Atwell and centred on a warmly nostalgic action-adventure-mystery vibe which nods to everything from The Temple of Doom to Dick Tracy (and makes you wonder why they haven’t gotten around to adapting the latter for a similar TV format). Although confined within a limited budget (though suitably Marvel-scale explosions and ‘events’ distract well-enough away from this), they do well to evoke the post-War vibe, whilst warmly drawing parallels with the present-day Marvel universe that is already so well established.From Stark Senior’s deadly-inventions-in-the-wrong-hands and womanising to his butler – a welcome mainstay across the season – who provides intel, backup, advice and chauffeur services to Carter and happens to be called... Jarvis; the loving reflections into the future are well-received. Indeed the show is at its strongest with Carter going solo (but for Jarvis’s limited services) and investigating a mysterious organisation known as Leviathan. Whilst arguably getting off to a better start than SHIELD, Carter doesn’t have as much time to develop itself (or herself) in is short run, and suffers occasionally from the increasingly tedious misogyny-of-the-time scenes that give many of the male characters little more to do than embarrass themselves. However Atwell can kick ass and look classy doing it, whilst providing a dominating female presence that makes the series almost feel like a period-set precursor to Jennifer Garner’s enjoyable Alias (complete with wigs and outfits). It’s easy, fun watching – neither as light nor as dark as Agents of SHIELD can get, but a welcome addition to this universe nonetheless – and it’s easy to see why they’re bringing us a second season.
Agent Carter reaches UK Region Free Blu-ray complete with an excellent 1080p/24 AVC-encoded presentation framed in its original production ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen.
Matching up to its Marvel heritage, Carter entirely escapes its budgetary restrictions to remain as polished and stylish as you would expect from the monolithic franchise. Maintaining a surprisingly authentic period tone - in no small part thanks to a slight soft-focus sheen that pervades the piece - detail remains superior throughout, with strong clarity evident in every corner. The colour scheme is broad and boasts so vivid, vibrant tones, as well as some rich wood backgrounds furthering the 40s setting. With strong black levels and no significant interference from digital defects, it's a very impressive and fits in well within the Marvel oeuvre.
The accompanying DTS-HD MA 5.1 track does a top job too.
Again, notwithstanding the TV restrictions, Agent Carter pushes to remain a strong player within the ever-expanding franchise, promoting dialogue front and centre; stable, clear and coherent, whilst engaging effects and a largely period score provide the support. In terms of the latter, the score isn't exactly inventive, and takes a certain by-the-numbers approach to its period tones, but it does provide plenty of material which the track can disseminate across the array, giving the surrounds a more constant background offering, and even bringing the LFE in for some added weight. Effects are myriad and surprisingly punchy, with plenty of gunshots and steampunk flourishes to give the track a more engaging edge.
Nothing but a gag reel on this release, but at least the front cover looks classy.
That's more than can be said about the rear, however. The UK Zavvi-Exclusive Steelbook release of Agent Carter: The Complete First Season surprises with a stylish front cover, complete a debossed, off-centre title and an elegant, almost iconic near-silouette shot of Carter herself, replete with signature red hat and outfit. The colours are superb, rich and subtle all at the same time, and it's a strong front cover design. When you see the back cover, however, you wonder what went wrong. Firstly, why is there an embossed frame on the back of the steelbook? Secondly. "Marvel"? Really? Did it take a team of trained monkeys to come up with that, or were there simply too many great designs to decide from, so they settled for... none of them. Some might think it's minimalist but it isn't: it's cheap and appalling; a lazy cop-out of a design which even the designers probably knew was a terrible (lack of) effort, which is why they slapped a frame on it. Thankfully, you can still have the case face-forward, but considering the premium paid for steelbook releases, it's shocking that Marvel/Disney would allow this kind of lacklustre effort to make it to the production line without some kind of quality control in check to see it's up to scratch.
Marvel goes period for this solid addition to the ever-burgeoning franchise.
This first season of Agent Carter hits UK Region Free Blu-ray complete with impressive video and audio but zero extras, not even the original short that inspired the show (although they may not have wanted to draw attention to the inconsistencies between the two). Fans should definitely check it out, and the steelbook release makes for a nice way of doing that, notwithstanding the double-edged artwork.
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