Skrulls, Skrulls, Skrulls…It’s Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this time, Kevin Feige’s latest hot take on the MCU takes a lead from Star Wars and Andor in attempting to fashion a more adult espionage story as an add-on to the popular family friendly movies many millions know. Andor worked as a grown up entertainment without directly appealing to the family audience who might dig Ewoks, but Secret Invasion is far too drab, derivative, slow and downright silly to mark anything more than the MCU treading water to shill subscriptions for Disney.
The chess-set glimpsed in the shonky AI generated opening credits suggest some kind of John le Carre influenced prestige spy product, and that’s a welcome promise with a cast of top drawer actors like Emilia Clarke, Ben Mendelsohn and Olivia Coleman. Details are sketchy, but they’re all working for or against a mysterious entity known as ‘the circus,’ which does sound kinda familiar; the background is supposedly Moscow, but it’s clearly the UK with a couple of inflatable Russian dolls added. Samuel L Jackson is back but without an eye-patch as Nick Fury; the lack of an eye-patch made me think this was some kind of prequel, but maybe his eye has grown back or something. On this occasion, Fury is trying to sort out a potential alien invasion of earth in the form of the dreaded Skrulls and their leader Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir).
‘He preys on the collective rage of young, displaced Skrulls’ we’re told about Gravik, and if you don’t know your Blip from your Snap, here’s everything you need to know about Skrulls. The Skrulls can disguise themselves as people, reverting back to their Nosferatu form usually after they’ve been killed; the opening ‘gotcha’ sequence sees a Skrull disguised as Martin Freeman as whoever he was meant to be in the Black Panther movies. The Skulls are boring, visually dull villains to say the least; there’s a reason why my entire notes for the Captain Marvel movie were ‘Jude Law, 90’s, Blockbuster, Skrulls’. They’re the silliest looking aliens this side of Sinestro and his little pedestal pals in the Green Lantern; they make the super-goofy Jedi Council look like The Expendables.
‘Imagine a world where you can’t trust information,’ is the opening line here, and that suggests some kind of educational story that might encourage kids to identify or consider what fake news is. But that was how Secret Invasion started; how it’s going is more cringe dialogue like…. “Is that why you came down from your space station?’ or ‘I’ve got hands-on experience with Skrulls.’ Secret Invasion is the usual glib MCU nonsense, far less persuasive than usual; if you’re having, Skrull problems, I feel bad for you son, but I’ll got 99 problems and a Skrull invasion probably ain’t gonna be one on the basic of this drab, hackneyed show opening.