Saturday, June 20, 2015

Recap/Review: Marvel One-Shots "The Consultant"

Marvel One-Shots were a series of short films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They weren’t essential to watch by any means, but they were a fun little way to breathe a little more life into the universe outside of the scope of the films.

Many different shorts were pitched, including ideas for Jessica Jones, a young Nick Fury, Luke Cage, the Black Panther, a young Loki, Damage Control, you name it. But not all of the ideas came to fruition. As of the time of this writing, June 2015, there have only been five of them. And the announcement was made that there are no plans to continue, which is a darn shame, but understandable. They’re not what you’d call a high priority, seeing as how they’re only available on the Blu-Ray/Digital Copy releases of various MCU movies.

But they really are something special, and I wouldn’t really be covering the whole MCU if I didn’t talk about them. So let’s begin with our first short film set in the MCU. It has to do with The Incredible Hulk, which is why it was naturally included on the Thor Blu-Ray. Mainly because the MCU wasn’t even a sure thing when they made The Incredible Hulk.

Now let’s begin.

Hopefully, this isn't just a four-minute clip of an IT guy giving advice.
At the beginning of this One-Shot, we find ourselves with Agent Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) shortly after the events of Thor, which is why he’s in a New Mexico diner drinking out of a Dr. Pepper mug. You might be wondering why the mug says “Dr. Pepper” when soft drinks aren’t known for being served in coffee mugs, but I like to think that he’s drinking hot Dr. Pepper. That’s not even a joke. Hot Dr. Pepper. Not only is it a real thing, but it’s freaking delicious.

Fie on those who say otherwise!
He’s soon joined by everybody’s favorite Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg).

Sitwell: “You hungry? They make great pancakes here.”

"And have you tried this hot Dr. Pepper?"
But Coulson isn’t in the mood for Dr. Pepper, hot or otherwise. He’s just been talking to the World Security Council about the Avengers Initiative. You know, that thing that they invited Tony Stark to be in. Before telling him to get lost. It seems that the Council has made a specific request.

Coulson: “They want Blonsky on the team.”
Sitwell: “The Abomination?”
Coulson: “They really don’t like when you call him that.”

Sitwell brings up the elephant in the room and mentions the “Harlem Incident,” which is followed by footage of the Abomination destroying Harlem in the climax of The Incredible Hulk. But alas, the Council is blaming all that damage on a certain Bruce Banner while calling Blonsky a war hero.

Coulson: “They want him exonerated, released, and then added to the roster.”

"While they're at it, why don't they just give him a promotion and a whole city to lord over?"
"They didn't."
"I wouldn't go to Vista Verde any time soon if I were you."
But here’s a snag. S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t have Blonsky.

Coulson: “What’s your clearance level?”
Sitwell: “Level Six. Like you. …Come on, there’s a Level Seven?”

Welcome to Level Seven.

As Coulson explains, General Ross (William Hurt) has Blonsky in custody. And the World Security Council wants S.H.I.E.L.D. to get him, meaning that Coulson has been tasked with an order he can’t refuse that everybody knows is stupid. Within 24 hours, S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to send a liaison to negotiate with General Ross to get Blonsky released. Even though they don’t even want Blonsky to be released.

They think about this for a few seconds before Sitwell gets the idea to send a patsy to sabotage the deal.

Coulson: “A patsy?”
Sitwell: “Yes. Someone to screw it up.”

The next question… who?

Sitwell: “I could do it. I do a great patsy.”
Coulson: “Yes, you do. Your patsy’s legendary. In fact, when I think of the word ‘patsy’….”
Sitwell: “Alright.”

"No, I mean it. You've got a knack for pretending to be something you're not."
"Um... thank you."
"I'm just glad you're on our side."
"Yes. 'Our' side."
But Coulson thinks they need someone who is guaranteed to mess it up. Somebody arrogant and abrasive, who hates authority and will simply offend the General to his core. Sitwell realizes that Coulson is describing “the Consultant.”

Coulson: “I am not calling the Consultant.”

So, before we cut to the Consultant at work, it’s time for a quick lesson in the chronology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In order of release….
  1. Iron Man
  2. The Incredible Hulk
  3. Iron Man 2
  4. Thor
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger
But these films are absolutely not in chronological order.

First, Captain America: The First Avenger, seeing as how it takes place in World War 2. Second, Iron Man. Third, Iron Man 2 and Thor happen at roughly the same time, as seen the scene where Coulson leaves Iron Man 2 to go be in Thor for a bit. Then The Incredible Hulk. Then the final scene of Captain America. Then The Avengers.

This scene takes place after Thor, which is why Coulson and Sitwell are in the desert, but also after The Incredible Hulk. And Iron Man 2. ...And Iron Man 1, but that's not important.

Remember the post-credits scene from The Incredible Hulk? Kevin Feige, one of the MCU’s producers and the actual president of Marvel Studios, didn’t really like it. All the other post-credits scenes in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America were all building up to The Avengers. But the scene at the end of The Incredible Hulk was just Tony Stark saying he was putting together a team, which clashed a bit with later continuity and didn’t really lead up to anything. So The Consultant was cobbled up as a quick fix to explain some stuff away.

After the events of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark was denied Avengers membership, but still was kept on as a “Consultant.” And so, the post-credits scene of The Incredible Hulk was retconned, making him be the jerk we all know and love, deliberately sent in to keep the Abomination off the team.

Unfortunately, the next part of the One-Shot is just the stinger from The Incredible Hulk, where Stark walks into General Ross’s favorite bar as he drinks an “Incredible Hulk.”

Tony Stark: “I hear you have an unusual problem.”
General Ross: “You should talk.”
Tony Stark: “You should listen.”

The next morning, Coulson’s back at the diner having some of those pancakes before Sitwell joins him.

Coulson: “Mission accomplished.”

Apparently, General Ross tried to get Tony kicked out of the bar. So Tony bought the place and scheduled it for demolition. And one can only imagine what Tony said to make Ross so angry.

"I like the mustache, Ross. It takes a brave man to go around looking like a geriatric porn star."
And with that, the One-Shot ends.

Marvel initially set aside money in the budget for two short films. The Consultant, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer. The latter was filmed first and ate up 80% of the budget, leaving only enough money to film two guys talking.

Having said that, it gives us a nice little moment that not only feels like good buildup to the Avengers, but also lets us get a little bit closer to Phil Coulson, the dark horse fan-favorite. Maximiliano Hernandez also gets a bit more to say this time around, setting him up for future appearances in Marvel One-Shots and beyond.

All in all, it’s a couple minutes of fluff with a bit of already-seen filler in the middle. But it’s a fun little scene that gives us a little taste of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s full presence in the MCU before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you haven’t seen it, I… well, I was going to recommend it, but I just realized that I probably have half the script transcribed in the Recap. Well, that’s what you get with a three-minute short film.

Our next Marvel One-Shot will go back in time and see exactly what happened on the way to Thor’s hammer. See you then!

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