‘The Defenders’ Review: Netflix series skillfully blends unlikely heroes, although its villains disappoint

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV, Reviews
Marvel heroes Luke Cage (Michael Colter,) Matthew Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox,) Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones) combat the Hand together in their first on-screen series. (Courtesy of Netflix)

The heroes in Marvel’s “The Defenders” aren’t the typical bright, exciting and glamorized heroes that fans are used to in Marvel films. In fact, they’re quite the opposite; the show dives into dark story elements, intricate character development, a view into street-level crime and combat sequences that don’t shy away from brutality and gore.

Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones), who all previously starred in their own Netflix series, unite together in “The Defenders” to defeat the deadly ancient ninja organization known as The Hand. “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist” are crucial viewings since their events regarding The Hand heavily come into play in this series.

Before all four heroes team up to take down The Hand, “The Defenders” picks up where each character left off in their individual shows.

Daredevil has retired from his nightly vigilantism and attempts to live a regular life as pro-bono lawyer, Matthew Murdock. Jones has stopped taking cases as a private investigator after the traumatic Kilgrave events, and starts to come to terms with being considered a hero. Cage has been released from jail and returns to the streets of Harlem after being wrongly imprisoned. Iron Fist has been fighting The Hand all across the globe with his partner Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick).

Fate brings the heroes together as their own personal battles all lead them into the middle of The Hand’s evil plot. The Defenders arrive and meet for the first time in the third episode. Their unintentional rendezvous in The Hand’s headquarters leads to a combat-filled hallway fight scene, where they unveil their unique powers and abilities to one another for the first time.

Ever since the notorious scene in season one of “Daredevil” blew everyone away, hallway fight scenes have been a staple to fans of the Marvel Netflix shows. Even though it was exciting to see all four heroes fighting, Iron Fist’s fighting is a bit underwhelming. No matter how precisely choreographed Iron Fist’s fighting is, it just isn’t as believable or captivating as other heroes’. Iron Fist is arguably the most powerful hero out of the four, but the way he is portrayed in “The Defenders” makes him seem like the weakest and most naive.

Despite the initial hesitation and distrust for one another, the heroes find themselves under great pressure to work together. Their own personal motivations turn into a common goal to save innocent lives both locally in Hell’s Kitchen and globally from The Hand’s deadly agenda.

One notable element of “The Defenders” is its ability to stay close to the roots of the shows it derives from, while maintaining a collective narrative. The distinct color tones that are found in each series (i.e., yellow tints for Cage’s scenes and bluish-purple hues when Jones appears) reintroduce the characters to the audience and blend as they become a team. The rap, soul and hip-hop tracks in Cage’s scenes are especially apparent, paying homage to his own show and bringing elements of his life in Harlem.

Marvel shows are praised for their ability to spend more time and explore deeper character arcs in ways that their major motion picture counterparts cannot. As important as the heroes and villains are to the story, the supporting characters seen in past Marvel shows on Netflix enhanced “The Defenders.” Characters such as Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Colleen Wing and Stick (Scott Glenn) establish continuity between the shows and find themselves involved with The Hand.

There is plenty of character development in “The Defenders,” but not when it comes to the “five fingers,” or leaders, of The Hand. It would’ve been interesting to learn more about their past, including what they achieved, how they maintained their power and how they became involved with the organization.

The major issue this show has is establishing the main villain, Alexandra Reid (Sigourney Weaver). Past Marvel shows have often thrived because of their great, ruthless villains. Viewers even find themselves empathizing with them because of the time spent on their backstories. The struggle to craft compelling villains in “Iron Fist” is continued in “The Defenders.” Reid isn’t very threatening or intimidating. Also, as deadly as Elektra (Elodie Yung) is made to seem, her fight sequences lack lethality, which leaves audiences in the dark.

Overall, “The Defenders” is a quality show that tells the story of unlikely heroes who overcome their own unwillingness to work together to form an even unlikelier team. The cliffhanger ending sets the stage for exciting, upcoming seasons for each character’s individual shows. A post-credits tease leaves die-hard fans of the Netflix Marvel series even more enthused for what’s to come.

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