The Defenders: Netflix’s Answer to ‘The Avengers’ Satisfies Without Surprising
Charlie CoxFinn Jones...
Action & AdventureScience Fiction
We’ve already seen Marvel’s shared universe concept come to full fruition, with the likes of Captain America, Iron-Man, Thor and friends coming together to form Hulkbusting– pun intended – feasts for the eyes with The Avengers 1 & 2. Netflix has now followed suit with its own Marvel franchises by uniting four characters DareDevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist into The Defenders; an Avengers-esque team dedicated to defending New York.
All the same cast members are back playing their respective roles offering a sense of flow; however, there have been some welcome improvements with Finn Jones’ Danny Rand/Iron Fist, who has been given better material to work with, making him a slightly more grounded and much more likeable character.
With these being four very different characters from four very different shows, this 8-episode mini-series manages to bring each one and his or her show’s aesthetic together, without losing their respective styles; everything from the tone, to the lighting and use of colour change scene-by-scene in the first couple of episodes, maintaining each one of the heroes’ uniqueness.
With each main character’s return, a member or two of their supporting cast return as well; Daredevil‘s Foggy and Karen, Jessica Jones‘ Trish and Malcolm, Iron Fist‘s Colleen Wing, and Luke Cage‘s Misty Knight, while Rosario Dawson reprises her role as Claire Temple – the only character that has been in all four.
What brings the four heroes together is The Hand; a secret organisation that is hell bent on getting its hands – no pun intended – on a mysterious commodity that is said to be the secret to immortality – and all that stands in its way is New York. It doesn’t sound like the most original plot, but the show isn’t ambiguous with it and establishes the villains and their motivations well, with Sigourney Weaver playing their leader.
Showing each solo superhero’s contemplation of joining this fight group fight, the show gets its depth in exploring themes of trust, friendship, haunting pasts, and good old ‘fighting for what you believe in’ – there aren’t too many surprises on that front, but it’s all dealt with efficiently in the context of the comic book genre. As the show moves forward, the characters come to develop chemistry and fit nicely together as a group – but it’s the overall pacing of the show that’s the problem.
With this being just eight episodes –five less than each individual show – The Defenders doesn’t have time to fully realise its ambitions. You can see that it’s trying to build on the characters and the universe, rather than just relying on the gimmick of the alliance, but at the same time, it often suddenly drags, particularly when it turns to over-explaining certain things, because it simply doesn’t have the time to build subtly and methodically.
Whether Netflix likes it or not, though, the gimmick of the alliance is a big part of the appeal of The Defenders. As a spectacle, show is fun and although it might not have surprised or exceeded expectations, it has at least satisfied them.