The MCU has a Nick Fury Problem

The MCU has outgrown Nick Fury. Does he still have a place in the ever-expanding franchise?

Nick Fury used to be a man with a purpose. Starting way back with his first brief appearance over a decade ago at the end of Iron Man, Fury’s goal was to bring superheroes together to form the Avengers. 4 years later he succeeded and, well, he’s not done much of anything since. He was such an important aspect of the early days of the MCU, with him and SHIELD being the uniting presence in the then new and unexplored realm of a cinematic universe. Today the MCU has grown beyond him and he’s become irrelevant, floating through the movies making the occasional cameo but he no longer serves a purpose. And it’s becoming a problem.

Since Fury’s pinnacle achievement in The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it’s called this side of the pond) the character has been mishandled. I absolutely love Captain America: The Winter Soldier; it’s my favourite film of the ever-expanding series, in fact. Nick Fury plays a fantastic role in that film; his trading of philosophies with Steve Rogers being just as intriguing as his spy craft and action sequences. But the impact of that film, which seemed huge at the time of release, has been lessened by subsequent instalments. Remember when Black Widow released all previously classified documents concerning SHIELD and HYDRA and completely exposed her past to the public? It seemed like a huge moment but were there consequences? No, not really. Maria Hill left Fury and SHIELD to work for Stark Industries but when we next catch up with her she’s back working with Nick Fury. And Fury is the worst example. The organisation he was director of has collapsed after being heavily infiltrated, the world thinks he’s dead and he leaves to work by himself in the shadows, burning his recognisable eyepatch to represent his moving on with his life. And yet when we next see him in Age of Ultron, he’s in the same position he was in the first Avengers film. He’s somehow in charge of a large staff, commanding a Helicarrier, known to the world and is even wearing an eyepatch for good measure.

And that was the last we got of Fury for quite some time. Well, apart from some unimportant cameos in Infinity War and Endgame. What a boring place to leave the character. His role in world events unknown, commanding a team we never see again and know nothing about, and we don’t know if he’s working for himself (if so, how is he funded?) or for the government. They completely ignored any consequences of the ending of The Winter Soldier, returning Fury to the character he was and yet giving him no part to play. Looking back, I almost wish that Nick Fury died for real in Winter Soldier. He certainly would have gone out on a high.

And then, last year, we got Captain Marvel. It’s a film I enjoyed a lot, and I particularly liked what was done with the younger Nick Fury. Set over a decade before his appearance in Iron Man, we saw a very different Nick Fury and for the most part it worked. In the film he’s a lowly SHIELD field agent and has yet to grow into the more world-weary, cynical and experienced character we’ve seen him be in his other appearances. He’s light hearted, funny and inquisitive. You know, the kind of guy who sings while washing the dishes. It’s a fun way to reintroduce the character and the end of the movie sets up his goal seen throughout the MCU’s Phase 1: The Avengers Initiative.

Next we saw Fury appear in Spider-Man: Far From Home and this brings with it a reprisal, if not an expansion, of my problems with the character. I do like the post-credits scene which reveals the shape-shifting Skrull Talos was impersonating Fury throughout the whole movie while Fury himself is stationed on an unknown spaceship, seemingly vacationing, but the scene brings with it some issues. First of all, there’s the question of how much of the real Nick Fury have we seen over these 23 movies? Did Fury get ‘blipped’ in Infinity War/Endgame or did Talos while impersonating Nick Fury? Was he real in Iron Man, The Avengers or The Winter Soldier? If I were to guess I’d say we’ve been seeing the real Fury the entire time apart from Far From Home. Maybe he hooked up with Talos and the Skrulls again after Endgame, but we don’t know for certain and the reveal could change the entire context surrounding the character throughout the franchise.

Fury changes slightly as a character every time we seen him; maybe because of his penchant for espionage but it probably just depends on whose writing him, and Far From Home is no different. He’s saying things like “Bitch please, you’ve been to space”, which doesn’t seem like the old Fury at all. Now it is Talos saying that as Fury but are such lines supposed to be clues that Fury isn’t what he says he is, or is that just how he speaks now? Or is Talos more familiar with the Captain Marvel-era Nick Fury and that’s why he’s acting like that? Or could it be that Marvel has lost track of the character and, like they’ve done so before, are rebooting him as a more comedic figure? I hope not because that destroys the character progression that we see from ‘Captain Marvel Fury’ into ‘Avengers Fury’ if he devolves back into ‘Captain Marvel Fury’ just because it worked well in that movie.

The comedic aspects of the post-credits twist should all be on Talos’ side of the deception but revealing that Fury is seemingly taking a vacation seems very unlike his character. Everyone believed that the Earth was in danger of being destroyed and yet Nick Fury is off sunbathing. If we see him doing something of galactic importance then fine, and maybe he is doing and simply taking a quick break, but it’s played as a joke and that he was taking a vacation the entire time, something which betrays his character. And how much of the backstory that Talos-Fury gives Peter earlier in the movie is true? He apparently feels like the whole game has changed, and while he was gone for what felt like an instant, the entire world – hell, the entire galaxy – has drastically changed and his intelligence is now meaningless. He’s the spy that once knew everything but now knows nothing. That’s a fascinating direction to take the character, and that mindset makes perfect sense, but we see Fury doing something completely different at the end of the movie. Is that how he really feels or did Talos just make it up?

That post-credits scene certainly sets up something but what exactly I don’t know. He’s on a Skrull ship in space, hopefully beginning a new journey for the character where he actually has something to do. If he’s sent Talos to help protect the Earth then his priorities must be much bigger. I hope they do have something planned for him. For too long it’s seemed like Marvel doesn’t know what they’re doing with the character anymore and are testing new directions without committing to any. I hope this is the start of a new arc for him and not just another false start. Whatever happens, Nick Fury needs to be a man with a purpose again.

What are your thoughts on Nick Fury in the MCU? What did you make of the twist in the Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.

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One Comment
  • Adam Thomas
    18 February 2020 at 12:14 pm
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    Great article Kyle!

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