Morman reviews ‘Marvel’s The Defenders’

"The Defenders." Courtesy Netflix

This is the moment the Marvel Netflix shows have been leading to. Two and a half years and five seasons of Marvel shows have led to the inevitable team-up between each show’s titular heroes. For the first time on screen, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist join ranks in a eight-episode miniseries that for the most part delivers a satisfactory superhero team-up arc.

“Marvel’s The Defenders” functionally serves as a narrative sequel to both the “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist” Netflix shows, as the major plot points from those two shows come to a head in the “Defenders.” Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) do have a couple of loose ends tied up from their own respective series, but the two of them are essentially in this show to give Daredevil (Charlie Cox) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) the much needed muscle to overcome the odds.

Cage and Jones don’t have much going for them, narratively speaking, in this show, but that doesn’t really detract from the story, which takes place a few months after the events of “Iron Fist.” Iron Fist/Danny Rand and Colleen Wing have been tracking down leads concerning the disappearance of K’un-Lun.

During their investigations, they come across an assassin who has been murdering various people with ties to K’un-Lun. The assassin happens to be a character from Daredevil’s past who is suffering from amnesia. Through a series of events involving the assassin, Daredevil, Cage, Jones and Iron Fist come together and discover the person pulling the assassin’s strings is the mysterious leader of The Hand, Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver).

Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver). Courtesy Netflix

Alexandra calls together all of the leaders of The Hand in order to summon a portal to K’un-Lun and to also destroy New York City. All four heroes have to work together to prevent the destruction of New York City and prevent The Hand from seizing immense power from the lost city of K’un-Lun.

In getting started in my review, I think it’s pretty important to mention just how well the four main characters work together in “The Defenders.” The four actors who play Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist have very good on-screen chemistry while in scenes together. Whenever any combination of those characters are on screen at the same time, the show really thrives.

In order for a show like “The Defenders” to work, every main character has to work well with the others, and it is a relief that this show pulls off the character interplay as well as it does. I wasn’t so concerned with Charlie Cox, Mike Colter and Krysten Ritter’s abilities to form relatable bonds. My primary concern was with Finn Jones because I wasn’t too particularly thrilled with his performance in “Iron Fist.”

While Iron Fist still has some character issues, many of the problems I had with the character in his solo series have been fixed in this team-up series. The performances in the show were good all around. Not only was the chemistry great between the main characters, but for the most part the performances were great as well.

“The Defenders” also brings in pretty much every side character from the previous Marvel Netflix shows, and their performances add to the continuity between the shows. I really enjoyed seeing characters from different shows interact, and it really helped to sell that this Marvel Netflix Universe feels authentic.

Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) and Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). Courtesy Netflix

Some last positive points are that the fight scenes in “The Defenders” are pretty well choreographed. The fight choreographer from “Daredevil” was brought on to this show, and it makes a really big difference. The fight scenes including Iron Fist in this show are far more exciting than they were in his solo series.

Now on to the negatives. The first is that the set up for the show is pretty cliché. We’ve seen this call to action in superhero media time and time again, and it is a bit disappointing that this story had to have the city-is-going-to-be-destroyed theme that centers around every other superhero team up.

I was kind of hoping that since the Defenders is a smaller team and the show was telling a story about a secretive ninja organization, it would tell narrative more along the lines of a spy-thriller.

I think this show had the opportunity to tell a story a bit more limited and personal than we see in big-budget superhero tales. I understand why the Avengers and Justice League always face these end-of-the-city/world/universe tales, but that didn’t need to be the case for the Defenders. It could have been a markedly different thing, but it was just like everything else but with a smaller budget.

That isn’t to say that the story is bad, it just doesn’t reach the heights in creativity and uniqueness that have come to define most of the other Marvel Netflix shows. Because of that, this show’s story comes in a bit underwhelming although it wasn’t boring. Plenty of action scenes and narrative trickery exists to keep this show interesting, but it is fairly predictable minus one pretty big surprise.

Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones). Courtesy Netflix

As stated earlier, Finn Jones’ Iron Fist still has some character problems. While he’s less droopy and uninteresting in this take, his character has these weird mood swings where he’ll go from this fairly fun and goofy character back to the brooding immature child that he was for most of “Iron Fist.”

With Daredevil already occupying the space of the dark, brooding, Batman-like character, it doesn’t make much sense to have another one of those in the same show. When Iron Fist comes across as light hearted, each character really stands out from the others, and the Defenders feels like a distinct and complete team.

My last criticism lies with Jessica Jones. Her character is really well presented, with emotional depth and a self-deprecating nature that might be the best in TV and film, but it is the inconsistency in the presentation of her powers that had me confused a few times. She’s supposed to be really strong, and that is presented at times during the show, but at other times she’s getting knocked down and even once knocked out by regular humans.

They really could have used some sort of continuity check for her character in the script. I love seeing Jessica Jones kick ass, bust down walls and toss vehicles through buildings. I don’t understand why she is also getting her ass handed to her in more than a couple of scenes by people whose arms should break when they throw punches on her.

All in all, “Marvel’s The Defenders” is a fun, albeit cliché, superhero team up show. Some of the inconsistencies in the show are thoroughly cancelled out by the unique use of color, the interesting and fairly distinct characters and some of the coolest fight scenes on television. If you’ve been a fan of the previous Marvel Netflix shows, “The Defenders” provides a pretty decent convergence of those shows and characters.

I give “Marvel’s The Defenders” 7.75 / 10


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