The build-up to Marvel’s “The Defenders” has been going on for three years, and as of August 18, it’s finally available to watch on Netflix as a brilliant 8-part series. Judging from early fan reaction online, “The Defenders” seems to have done the impossible: it has brought together the story lines and plot lines for each of the four main characters (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) in a way that’s fun to watch.
“The Defenders” unites the strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
For three years, Netflix and Marvel have partnered on shows for each of the four main heroes (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist). In some cases – as with “Iron Fist” – there was the sinking feeling that Netflix and Marvel were simply going through the motions, just to make sure all the pieces fit together when it was time to create “The Defenders.”
The basic premise of “The Defenders,” of course, is that four different characters are leading four different lives in New York City, each one of them individually focused on saving the city from villains. And, at some point, they decide that their powers are best used together, as part of a group called The Defenders.
That’s why the action in the first 2 episodes of “The Defenders” sometimes seems a little slow and clunky according to fans – the show is still setting up all the exposition and background to tie together all the strands in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In other words, there has to be a very good reason why all four of these individuals decide to meet up and fight crime together in New York.
“The Defenders” does a great job of mixing and matching the styles of the four superheroes
A lot of thought went into the creation of “The Defenders.” What the show’s producers wanted was a very seamless transition between all 4 of the shows, but also something that felt very new and different.
Take, for example, the fight scenes. We all know that each of the superheroes has a different fighting style. Daredevil (played by Charlie Cox) is trained as a boxer. Jessica Jones (played by Krysten Ritter) takes no interest in fighting, and simply wants each fight to be over as soon as possible. And Iron Fist (played by Finn Jones) can be somewhat hot-headed. Each of them has different fighting styles, and so the natural question of fans everywhere became: How would they all fight together as one unit?
The results, according to fans, have been breathtaking. “The Defenders” easily has the best fight scenes of any of the four Marvel/Netflix shows that preceded it. There’s an exuberance and energy on screen that’s a joy to watch. That’s one big lesson that the Marvel team took away from shows like “Jessica Jones” – they learned that fans wanted very tight, very streamlined fight scenes rather than ones that dragged on for a long period of time.
And the meshing of styles goes beyond just fight scenes. “The Defenders” also does a great job of capturing the right look for New York City, bringing us into the lives of our favorite superheroes. In some cases, it’s the result of re-creating the noir feel of “Jessica Jones,” in other cases, it’s capturing the type of music that would appear on the soundtrack of “Luke Cage” (which happens to be a big fan favorite).
Sigourney Weaver underwhelms as the villain in “The Defenders”
If there’s one thing that fans complained about, it’s the role of Sigourney Weaver, who plays the role of the evil and enigmatic Alexandra – the woman who may be trying to bring New York City to its knees. The show develops her as a particularly refined type of villain who enjoys classical music and Italian sculpture – but not as someone who’s “The Big Bad.” In short, fans found her to be “bland” rather than “menacing.”
In part, though, that’s a conscious choice made by the show’s producers. In many ways, they were threading a needle. They didn’t want to create the sort of over-the-top villain like you might expect from “The Avengers.” And they wanted a way to tie together the story of The Hand, which had already been developed in previous Marvel/Netflix shows. Finally, they needed a villain who was distinctly New York.
So, in many ways, Sigourney Weaver was the perfect choice. You could completely imagine her going for a stroll through the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue to check out some new Italian artwork from the Renaissance period before heading over to her high-powered corporate office near Central Park to cause evil and mayhem.
“The Avengers” vs. “The Defenders”
It’s hard not to be impressed by the number of superheroes that Marvel has created. The only problem, according to fans, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of which superheroes belong to which superhero unit. Moreover, which superheroes are from Marvel and which ones are from DC Comics? A common type of question that you’ll find online is something like, “Is Wolverine part of the Defenders?” (The answer is NO)
Right now, there’s the Defenders, the Avengers, the New Avengers, the X-Men, the Justice League, and the list continues to build. What makes things confusing is that Luke Cage was once part of The Avengers, and now he’s part of The Defenders. Moreover, the new trendy plot development technique by Marvel and DC Comics is to create all sorts of tension between the superheroes, such that they engage in feuds and wars with each other.
That’s why fans have been dying to hear from the show’s creators at events like Comic-Con to understand how the Defenders fit into the broader Marvel vision. The answer is a little confusing, but it seems to be that the Defenders are meant to be “street level heroes.” They are the type of hero who help the “everyday man” and are more like street vigilantes willing to take justice into their own hands. In contrast, the Avengers are more global, and tend to take on world-ending events – like a spectacular alien invasion, or a terrorist threat made by gods from another planet.
If you think of “The Defenders” as just a “war for New York” (as the trailer for the show suggests), it will help to make everything clear. These are distinctly New York City crime fighters with a bit of edge and grit to them. We’ve been waiting a long time for “The Defenders” to save New York City, and it’s a real joy to watch Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones all on the screen at one time.