It’s hard to hit the bull’s eye with just one shot. But Marvel is slowly improving its aim, and what began as cute bonus for the home video releases of the studio’s superhero films is now becoming a franchise of mini-movies generating their own big buzz.
The so-called Marvel One-Shots are short films featuring secondary characters from the various Marvel movies, included as bonus features on the home video versions of the superhero flicks.
Last week, Marvel released a preview teaser for All Hail the King, which catches up with Ben Kingsley’s very memorable Mandarin from Iron Man 3. All Hail the King will be available for digital download on Feb. 4, as well as on the Blu-ray release of Thor: The Dark World later that month.
To be honest, these One-Shots are kind of a cool idea. They forge new connections between the various parts of the Marvel cinematic universe, while also focusing on interesting characters who don’t quite merit their own spinoffs.
And they’re getting better with each new release, as Marvel spends more time and money crafting these extras. Here’s a quick primer on these bite-sized adventures.
The Consultant (found on the Thor Blu-ray)
Legendary S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is in a pickle: government higher-ups want Emil Blonsky (the baddie played by Tim Roth in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk) to join the Avengers, which Coulson thinks is a terrible idea. His solution: send “the consultant” (Tony Stark) to meet with the military and resolve the issue.
Hit or miss: Depends on whether you’re aware that the scene between Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Gen. Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) was cribbed from The Incredible Hulk’s post-credits bonus scene. Even then, it’s a minor chuckle at best.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (found on the Captain America: The First Avenger Blu-ray)
Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg, again) stops at a gas station on his way to investigate a mysterious object found in the New Mexico desert, and ends up foiling a robbery in progress.
Hit or miss: A glancing blow. It’s cool to see Coulson’s physical badassery, and his fleeting fisticuffs are better than any fight scene we’ve seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But this is a bit of throwaway fluff.
Item 47 (found on The Avengers Blu-ray and digital download)
Down-on-their-luck couple Ben (Jesse Bradford) and Claire (Lizzy Caplan) find an alien rifle left behind in the Battle of New York, and use it for a spree of bank robberies... until Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) tracks them down and deals with them.
Hit or miss: Solid hit. Marvel upped the budget on this one, so there’s some nifty action to go with the laughs. Also, we’d watch Caplan in pretty much anything.
Agent Carter (found on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray and digital download)
A year after Captain America crashed the Hydra bomber into the arctic ice, we see what became of his comrade and companion, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, reprising her role from Captain America: The First Avenger). Despite a misogynist boss (Bradley Whitford), Carter proves she’s more than a match for the enemies of the Strategic Scientific Reserve.
Hit or miss: Hit. Atwell is great, and although she doesn’t do much more than beat the crap out of a bunch of goons, it’s cool to see how things worked out for her after the events of Captain America. It worked out well enough for her that it seems she might be getting her own show.
P.S. Watch for the mid-credits cameo – this is Marvel, after all.