A trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders just dropped, and it’s awesome.
I’ll never forget the first time I watched the pilot of Marvel’s Netflix series: Daredevil. There was something about the loveable characters, paired with fantastic cinematography and fight choreography that would make Doug Liman contemplate retirement that gave me genuine excitement to sit in front of a television screen for the first time since David Tennant’s Doctor Who era. After an array of mediocre entries to the small screen from DC and Marvel alike, Netflix finally descended from Asgard and said ‘Yes, superhero TV shows can be awesome’.
Two years have passed since then, and a trailer for the upcoming eight-episode series The Defenders has just dropped.
It’s been a long two years, so I figure now is a better time than ever to compare and reflect upon the five seasons of superhero TV that led us to this point.
Daredevil Season 1
With the beginning of Marvel’s Netflix offerings the producers saw an opportunity to tell a story that—while in the same universe of the Avengers movies we love—is in a whole different world. The attack on New York in the climax of The Avengers paved the way for villains who weren’t as powerful as Loki or Thannos, but just as evil. The bloodless carnage of Iron Man and Captain America was gone, replaced by car door decapitations and gruelling fight scenes where you can practically feel the bones breaking from every devastating punch. There’s not much else to say here; the show was gripping, well written, perfectly acted, and shot with a dark yet beautiful palate that captured the underground, forgotten mood of downtown New York. Charlie Cox was an excellent pick to play the man without fear, and with an identical twin for a stunt double every flip-kick looked spectacular.
Jessica Jones saw a slight shift in tone. The warm yellow, red and green of Daredevil’s palate was brushed over with a cold wintery blue. The titular character portrayed by Kristen Ritter was compelling not just through her strengths, but also through her flaws. Lacking the idealism of Matt Murdock, Jones was just a PI trying to get on with her life, but the ultimate possessive ex-boyfriend who gets everything he wants won’t let the past go.
Jessica Jones is the strongest screen portrayal of a female-led superhero we’ve seen to date. A well-rounded character combined with haunting themes of sexual and emotional abuse made for a show that was both entertaining, and valuable in substance to society at large.
Daredevil Season 2
I have to confess I feel kinda bummed when people say the Punisher was the best part of this season. Don’t get me wrong, Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the character was incredible; every scene he appeared in was either heartbreaking or terrifying. But I don’t mind admitting that it was the continuation of Matt Murdock kicking arse that really drew me back into the series. While this season lacked some of its initial punch due to Wilson Fisk’s absence as the primary villain, I feel it made up for it with an abundance of Punisher, ninjas and cool costumes.
Luke Cage was the first questionable addition to the Netflix lineup. While critics mostly agreed that the faithful portrayal of African American culture in Harlem was a positive, the show seemed to lack something. Mike Colter can certainly hold his own as a stoic tough guy as per his appearance in Jessica Jones, but seemed to struggle as a main protagonist with a full range of emotions. His performance certainly wasn’t Razzie worthy, just not Oscar worthy.
My biggest disappointments with this series was the unremarkable villain, and the frustratingly unrealistic plot, where huge moments were defined by apparently brain-dead police officers and contrived coincidences. That aside, the action was certainly up to standard, and Cage’s character remains a thrill to witness.
Iron Fist, I feel, was the Captain America: The First Avenger of the Netflix lineup. In the lead up to The Avengers, Marvel Studios were feeling the pressure to establish Cap’s character, and as a result his first movie felt rushed—particularly the in the writing department—resulting in a movie with three montages and not much else. I think the same thing has happened with The Defenders, because the writing of Iron Fist simply felt rushed and underdeveloped. Danny Rand’s character was a far cry from the source material, and the pacing is so unrefined that he spends at least two episodes at the series’ beginning imprisoned in a mental asylum.
The fight choreography was there, but the cinematography was lacking. There would be the occasional cool overhead shot of Danny punching fools that would cut away just too soon to be really cool. Though the series had a more than decent soundtrack, it really could’ve taken a leaf out of Daredevil’s book to create something truly spectacular.
That being said, I still got a massive kick out of watching this show. It was bad, but it was fun. And hey, Captain America 2 is one of the best Marvel movies there is, so fingers crossed Iron Fist will follow suit.
And now, The Defenders
I’ll start by saying I’m actually very confident that this series is going to be great. I have only two concerns: for one, how are they going to successfully combine the varying tones of every show? I actually really like how the colour palate visibly changes every time the trailer cuts to a different defender, that’s a cool acknowledgement of the different worlds these characters come from. That being said, there’s going to have to be some kind of unity for this to work. My guess is that they’re going to use a similar tactic that they used for The Avengers; make it a tad more light hearted. However in this case that simply won’t work unless the grit and badass action is still there. Thankfully, the trailer appears to show us they’ve got this nailed, and as we’ve come to expect, there will be an epic corridor fight scene.
My second concern is, what the hell are they going to do with Danny Rand? See, The Defenders was shot before Iron Fist’s release, which means that the producers and screenwriters never got the chance to apply audience and critic feedback. This concerns me, as the character in question needs some love as soon as possible. Thankfully The Defenders wasn’t rushed like Iron Fist was. It’s not a piece of the puzzle, it is the puzzle. Thus I hope our story tellers had ample time and resources to justify Danny’s child-like personality—which I have to admit I found charming—and often cringe-worthy dialogue.
In any case, we’ll find out come August 18. See you in Hell’s Kitchen.