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  • Nate Adams

'Secret Invasion' review: An engaging political thriller molded within the MCU


Courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

My favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe projects are the ones that try something different and, briefly, feel like their own singular journey. We saw it with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in how it was basically an espionage thriller with spandex; and the early days of “WandaVision” with its clever dissection of sitcom-y troupes. You can see those elements in Marvel’s latest series “Secret Invasion,” which mirrors as an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” homage crossbred with a taunt political thriller. Only two episodes were provided in advance to reviewing press, but the series is off to an enticing start. 


Created by Kyle Bradstreet (“Mr. Robot”) and directed by Ali Selim, the new mini-series stands in contrast to recent MCU offerings, specifically in its scaled back and grounded storytelling approach. It’s wild how much better things look when you actually shoot on real locations instead of blue screen soundstages. I don’t think “Secret Invasion” is going to start a trend, however, for the time being it offers a refreshing change of tone, even if audience members won’t remember the events that tee’d up the show in the first place. Hell, if not for a generous recap at the beginning of episode 2, I’m not sure I would've even pieced it together either. 


The main thing you need to remember is the alien lifeforms called Skrulls, a shape-shifting species who can morph themselves to resemble any human (think Mystique in the “X-Men” films) and their desire to take over earth. From the beginning of “Secret Invasion,” it’s hard to tell who are Skrulls versus humans, which immediately captures this uneasy feeling of paranoia. The series also credibly introduces a villain that has genuine purpose in the form of Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), the leader of the Skrull uprising who wants retribution for false promises made to his kind decades ago. 


Enter Marvel mainstay Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson - returning), the former S.H.I.E.L.D leader who hasn’t been himself since The Blip and is portrayed as this hardened veteran with an ax to grind. He’s called back into action to stop whatever world altering plans Gravik has planned, working alongside Oliva Colman’s Sonya Falsworth, a spunky MI6 agent and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, the Skrull leader you may or may not recollect from “Captain Marvel.” All turn in solid performances.  


Elsewhere, other Marvel favorites, including Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross, and Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes, are heavily featured throughout the first leg of the series, perhaps hinting at major ramifications for the MCU. But regardless of whatever continuity plans Kevin Feige has in store, “Secret Invasion” is a callback to the old days of Marvel storytelling with an emphasis on the individual story it’s telling while blocking out excess noise. It’s the first MCU property in quite some time that has both piqued my curiosity and left me eager for more. 


Grade: B+ 


SECRET INVASION streams on Disney+ Wednesday, June 21st with subsequent episodes dropping weekly.  


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