Every ’70s Thriller That Inspired the MCU’s Latest Series – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Every ’70s Thriller That Inspired the MCU’s Latest Series

Marvel’s latest series on Disney+, Secret Invasion, has captured the essence of a Cold War spy thriller set in the 1970s. This sci-fi comic book miniseries embraces a noir-style narrative of espionage. Prior to its release, the promotional materials intentionally resembled shredded documents, and sneak previews were showcased in dimly lit back alleys. By adopting the guise of a 70s spy movie, Secret Invasion has become one of the most enigmatic projects in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). While Marvel movies often reference their own comics or pay homage to iconic sci-fi films, Secret Invasion’s first episode alone is packed with references and allusions to classic movies. It is evident that the series draws inspiration from a specific genre of cinema.

The 1970s films that influenced Secret Invasion revolve around the theme of trust and deception, particularly in relation to extraterrestrial encounters. The series opens with a memorable shot reminiscent of the iconic scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where Nick Fury descends from S.A.B.E.R. amidst bright light. This shot was recognized by millennial fans as a reference to an old episode of The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror. Older fans, on the other hand, recognized it as an homage to Steven Spielberg’s renowned film. Close Encounters of the Third Kind remains a quintessential sci-fi movie depicting humanity’s first contact with aliens. Similarly, Secret Invasion revolves around the idea of aliens living among us, with the Skrulls being shape-shifting beings capable of assuming the appearance of anyone they encounter. Moreover, the Skrulls possess the ability to replicate minds with the right technology. This scenario is reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a 1978 movie that gained significant recognition and explores the paranoia and uncertainty that arise when the enemy is indistinguishable from trusted individuals.

Moving beyond the alien-centric films, Secret Invasion also draws inspiration from the spy movies of the 1970s, which were heavily influenced by the Cold War era. The tension between Russia and the United States during this period served as a fertile ground for espionage narratives in cinema. In Secret Invasion, when the storyline ventures into Russia, it alludes to a long line of films that capitalized on the Cold War as a backdrop for conspiracy and espionage. Notably, the character Agent Sonya Falsworth references Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film based on a 1974 novel that was later adapted into a miniseries. The Cold War atmosphere permeates through films like Alan J. Pakula’s “Paranoia” trilogy, consisting of Clute, The Parallax View, and All the President’s Men. These movies explore the theme of deep-seated fear and deception at various levels of society, from personal stalkings to political manipulation and government cover-ups. Secret Invasion embraces this tradition of films centered around conspiracy and espionage, even paying homage to classics like The Maltese Falcon when Fury activates a camera in Falsworth’s office.

In conclusion, Secret Invasion successfully captures the essence of a 1970s spy thriller while incorporating elements of sci-fi and alien infiltration. Its allusions to classic movies from both genres add depth to the narrative and pay tribute to the films that have influenced its creation. As the series progresses, viewers can anticipate a captivating blend of espionage, trust issues, and extraterrestrial intrigue.

Secret Invasion is Marvel’s newest series on Disney+, but it feels like a Cold War ’70s spy thriller. This comic book Sci-Fi miniseries puts its best foot forward as a noir-style tale of espionage. Long before Secret Invasion came out, all the advertisements we were given were meant to look like shredded documents. And all the sneak previews of the show took place in back alleys under dim streetlights. This new addition to the MCU canon comes to us wearing the mask of a ’70s spy movie.

In doing this, Secret Invasion becomes one of the most elusive projects in the MCU. A Marvel movie will often reference its own comic or point out a famous film in Sci-Fi history, but in the first episode alone, Secret Invasion snuck in a plethora of references and allusions to old movies. It’s clear that the series was inspired by a very particular genre of cinema.

The movies from the ’70s that influenced Secret Invasion might be some of the greatest that follow its theme of trust and deception. But along with being a spy thriller, Secret Invasion doesn’t forget it’s still a show about aliens. Come with us as we take apart all the ’70s movies that inspired Secret Invasion.


’70s Alien Films that Inspired Secret Invasion

Skrulls in Secret Invasion
Marvel Studios

Secret Invasion started with one of the most famous shots from any Sci-FI movie ever. When Nick Fury came down from S.A.B.E.R., we saw a door open, and a silhouette walked out surrounded by intensely bright light. Some of the millennial fans recognized this shot from an old Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons. And some of the still older fans knew this was, of course, a remake of the famous scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Steven Spielberg’s famous movie about humanity’s first contact with an alien race has been referenced thousands of times in various films and TV shows. Even from 1977, it remains one of the essential Sci-Fi movies about humans interacting with aliens. And Secret Invasion is, first and foremost, about aliens living among us.

The Skrulls are a race of shape-changing aliens that can impersonate anyone they see. But we also learned that, with the proper equipment, they can also copy their minds. Another famous movie from the ’70s gave us a similar situation. When the enemy is living among you, and they look exactly like the people you know, you’re not sure who you can trust.

Anyone could be one of “them.” We’re talking, of course, about Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Although the 1978 movie is a remake of the one from 1956, the 78 version is stuck much more firmly in fans’ minds everywhere. It’s from the 1978 movie that we get the infamous scene of that man pointing and unleashing a horrible screech.

Now be careful if you haven’t seen the show, because there’s a little spoiler ahead. Early in this episode, we learned that many of the MCU fan theories had been right. Many people hypothesized that Agent Everett Ross was a Skrull in disguise. And he has been a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent since Captain America: Civil War. All the work he’s done with Wakanda and everything he’s been coordinating with the US government was all in line with the Skrull agenda. Now we don’t know where we’ll see the Skrulls next.

Related: Film Noir: The Best Neo-Noir Movies of the ’70s

’70s Spy Movies That Inspired Secret Invasion

secret-invasion everett ross martin freeman
Marvel Studios

The ’70s were a time in cinema greatly influenced by the Cold War. Tensions between Russia and the United States were high, and movie culture took full advantage of it. If you were filming any movie that took place abroad and needed a bad guy, you could bet they were Russian.

Agent Sonya Falsworth even refers to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy when she mentions “the circus,” a covert term used to refer to Britain’s secret intelligence agency. Many people know Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy from the 2011 film, but it was based on a novel from 1974 that was adapted later in that decade into its own miniseries.

Related: 11 Great British Spy Movies That Aren’t James Bond

When Secret Invasion set itself in Russia, it referenced a long line of films that still use the Cold War as a prime setting for espionage and conspiracy. One could even say this overtone of fear and deception could have come from Alan J. Pakula’s “Paranoia” trilogy: Clute, The Parallax Viewand All the President’s Men.

These movies weren’t linked in a narrative sense, but each represented a theme of deep fear pervading society on different levels. In Cluteit was personal when a woman was being stalked. In The Parallax Viewit became larger when an entire company was trying to leverage its influence by manipulating politics. And in All the President’s Menit reached the highest levels of government when the system itself tried to stop two journalists from uncovering the Watergate conspiracy.

All these movies demonstrate an inability to trust one’s fellow man and how fear might worm its way into every level of society.

Secret Invasion gives itself over to this tradition of films about conspiracy and espionage. It even gives a literal wink to The Maltese Falcon when Fury turns on the camera in Falsworth’s office. It’s a miniseries that gives a lot of credit to the films it takes its genre from. And we can’t wait to see more of it.

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