*The following post contains NO SPOILERS whatsoever.*
Besides making the phrase “I am Groot” part of the pop culture landscape, the great and lasting legacy of the Marvel Films will be the introduction of the “shared universe” concept. The idea that, within a series of films, hints and plot threads can be woven together to build to a bigger, bolder super film! From that first end of credits scene at the end of Iron Man, right through to the leaked trailer for Avengers: Infinity War; this has all been going somewhere. And wherever that place is, its full of money.
With that success under their belts, Marvel has applied the same world building concepts to the cinematic universes emo kid brother, the Netflix-verse. After introducing audiences to lesser know, less powerful, street level heroes Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist in their own series (2 for DD) the group has now assembled to form their own team: The Defenders, which debuts for streaming on today.
Before we get to the four preview episodes I was able to check out, a quick note on the comic book version of the Defenders: This was never the team. In fact, besides Iron Fist, none of these characters has ever even been a member in the 616. Past members have included: Dr Strange, The Hulk, Silver Surfer, Namor, the revolving cast of Secret Defenders, the all-female Female Defenders and more. However, the book has never stuck around long enough to gain the mainstream attention it is now receiving. (note: Marvel is now launching a comic series with the Netflix roster.) The cool thing about the various teams, and what drew to me to the Matt Fraction run a few years ago, was that they were always the C-team. The oddballs. The guys who weren’t Avengers. And that is something the show has showcased really, really well.
Since I promised “no spoilers” I won’t get much into the plot as it has been revealed so far. The four heroes pick up more or less where their series left off: Iron Fist is on the trail of The Hand, Luke is getting out of jail, Matt Murdock seems to have hung up the red and is focusing on being a great lawyer, and Jessica Jones is drinking whiskey for breakfast.
The first compliment I want to throw at this thing is that all the characters are treated with both a unique visual and audio palette. From the title sequence and through the show, each character’s scenes are highlighted by their colour, stylishly cut from one to the next. It’s a slick move on the part of the creators and makes the show feel more like an anthology than a shared series at first, until the characters are united against a neutral white background that acts as both a cleanse and to unify the visual look of the series.
Also worthy of spoiler-free praise are the performances of the leads. These guys, even Finn Jones, who I will get back to, all step up to the plate and swing for the fences in these roles. The dialogue is sharp, the banter is spot on, and Kristen Ritter’s Jessica Jones is the perfect antidote for anyone tired of cliche super people. Charlie Cox brings his well-established Daredevil to the game and gives everyone instant credibility, while Mike Colter continues to actually be Luke Cage.
The big question mark for me going into this one was Finn Jones as Iron Fist. I really couldn’t get into that series at all and a big part of my problem with it was that I just didn’t believe Jones was anything like an unbeatable warrior. Mostly because it didn’t seem like he got any more training that your average Power Ranger (much less if you include Jason David Frank on the list.) How was that guy going to hold his own next to the next level ass-kicking of Daredevil? While I only got to see four episodes, so he may let me down still, I have to say Finn has grown into the part. He has poise, he looks a little tougher, and his moves look less rehearsed and more natural (still only the one glowing fist, but I’ve resigned myself to accept that at this point.)
Still in the non-spoiler zone, Sigourney Weaver is great (and NOT a shared universe Dana Barrett possessed by Zuhl); Misty, Colleen, Foggy, Claire and all the other supporting members get a moment to shine and I finished all four episodes in one night wishing for the rest of the series to drop right away.
So if, like me, you love the Netflix suburb of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then with great characters, stylish production and quality action sequences, Defenders is going to be just what the doctor ordered.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be sitting here wishing the Netflix Marvel Legends wave had a Luke Cage so I can get my shelf display looking right while waiting eagerly for the next episodes of this worthy entry to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.