The character of Nick Fury has certainly seen quite a few changes over the years, from his first appearance in Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, a cigar-chomping leader of an elite U.S. Army Ranger unit, to him later sporting an eyepatch as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. an espionage agency that would put both the CIA and MI6 to shame, and sure, he is now known by modern audiences via his filmic portrayal by Samuel L. Jackson in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe but his first live-action incarnation was not with the badass Samuel L. Jackson in the part, nope, he was first brought to life by none other than Baywatch’s very own David Hasselhoff.
Say what you will about New World Pictures when it comes to Marvel backdoor television pilots these guys wrote the book, of course, most of the chapters in that book would be titled “Chapter Eleven” as they all failed whenever they got up to the plate; from Thor to Daredevil these guys didn’t know a Marvel character they couldn’t screw up, but what makes Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. an interesting entry in their list of comic book adaptations is that it’s one of the more faithful-looking attempts. Now, this is not to say it doesn’t make some drastic changes yet a person familiar with the comics wouldn’t need a chart and a slide rule to figure out who was who, but it’s terrible still a terrible made-for-television movie and one the people over at Marvel Entertainment probably hope the world forgets.
The movie opens with the terrorist organization known as HYDRA invading a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility so as to steal and then revive the cryogenically preserved body of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Campbell Lane), but in the process, the HYDRA agents kill Agent Clay Quartermain (Adrian G. Griffiths) which then triggers S.H.I.E.L.D. into seeking out Nick Fury (David Hasselhoff) who has spending his forced retirement working an abandoned mine shaft in the Yukon – don’t ask me why he’s mining, maybe it’s therapeutic – and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Alexander Goodwin Pierce (Neil Roberts) and Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine (Lisa Rinna) are sent to bring Fury back so that he can take down HYDRA once and for all. The terrorist organization is now being led by the children of Von Strucker, Andrea “Viper” von Strucker (Sandra Hess) and her brother Werner von Strucker (Scott Heindl), of course, Fury isn’t interested in rejoining S.H.I.E.L.D. because he’s still bitter about the way he’d been “put out to pasture” five years ago, but when he finds out that his old friend Clay has been murdered, he is quickly ready to suit up for some old-fashioned revenge.
Note: This made-for-television movie has a bigger budget than most of its ilk and they were so proud of their cool model of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier that shots of it were used whenever possible.
The villainous plot surrounds the fact that Von Strucker’s body contains a pathogen known as the Death’s Head Virus, which was developed by Arnim Zola (Peter Howarth) for Hitler as a doomsday weapon, and with it, HYDRA plans to extort the United States government for $1 billion dollars and if money is not received they will release the virus in Manhattan. There is one wrinkle to their evil plan and that is to weaponize the virus HYRDA needs Zola and he is in custody at a S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse in Berlin and soon to be picked up by Nick Fury and company, including S.H.I.E.L.D. telepath Katie Neville (Tracy Waterhouse), unfortunately, their Interpol contact turns out to be Viper in disguise, which allows her to plant a poisoned kiss on Fury’s lips, leaving him unconscious and enabling Hydra to retake Zola. Back aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier we learn that Fury has only 48 hours to live before the poison takes its toll and they only have two days to recover a sample of Viper’s DNA from which to develop an antidote. Fury, Katie, and Pierce head off to HYDRA’s secret compound while de Fontaine’s team heads to New York City to find the refrigerated truck they believe will be needed to deploy the virus, all the while, it’s clear to almost everyone that even if the ransom is handed over, Viper will still deploy the virus.
- The movie opens with the camera flying across the ocean to a techno beat and we immediately wonder if we’re watching an episode of Baywatch.
- Why exactly does S.H.I.E.L.D. have Baron Wolfgang von Strucker cryogenically frozen? Do they hope to revive him one day so he can team up with the frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
- For some reason, Alexander Pierce is British in this movie, whereas, in the comics, he was an American, but don’t worry, he gets an acting upgrade in Captain America: Winter Soldier with Robert Redford playing the part.
- David Hasselhoff would eventually return to the Marvel Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.
- Viper uses the venom of a Columbian tree frog to poison Nick Fury but the secretion from that particular frog, at best, can really irritate your eyes or skin, if touched, but certainly not kill. Now, if she’d used the venom of the South American Golden Poison Frog, which contains enough poison to kill ten men, Fury would have been dead in seconds. Why Viper would choose a toxic cocktail that would take 48 hours to kill Fury is the real mystery here.
- For this movie, HYDRA’s green uniforms from the comic have been ditched and they now look like bald ghouls in Men in Black suits.
- Viper shoots Nick Fury but it’s only his LMD (Life Model Decoy), but how did he get that thing to HYDRA island in the first place? Did he manage to fit a full-sized robot in his backpack?
When watching Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. it’s clear that Hasselhoff wasn’t all that invested in the role, he didn’t even want to wear Nick Fury’s trademark eyepatch, and as shit rolls downhill his attitude pretty much permeates the entire production and the end result was a lacklustre made-for-television movie that was populated by B-grade actors in the service of script laden with some of the worst lines of dialogue ever written. This brings us to the screenwriter of this telemovie, David S. Goyer, a man notorious for his hit-and-miss attempts at the superhero genre, and while this movie has a more marketed comic book feel to it than many previous made-for-television Marvel movies it’s still godawful and the biggest failure is the fact that Nick Fury comes across as a sexist misogynistic asshole, one who wouldn’t be able to command the respect of a group of Boy Scouts.
As mentioned, this was another backdoor pilot that failed and so a Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series was never greenlit, with the fate of Viper and her resurrected father forever remaining a mystery, and while the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to redefine the genre this entry will forever be nothing more than fuel for some fun pub trivia night questions.
Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)
Movie Rank - 4/10
Was David Hasselhoff’s campy performance intentionally bad? Will he appear as Nick Fury as part of the Marvel Multi-verse? These questions may never be answered but regardless of any events in future films, this entry will always be remembered as a fairly low point in the history of live-action Marvel movies.