Movies & TV / Reviews

Marvel’s The Defenders Review

August 18, 2017 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Marvel's The Defenders
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Marvel’s The Defenders Review  

Author’s Note: This spoiler-free review for The Defenders is based on screeners for the first four episodes. This review does not contain any specific storyline information (other than what’s already been revealed in the trailers) and episodic spoiler information.

In 2013, it was first announced that Marvel and Netflix would together produce new TV shows based on Marvel Comics properties that would ultimately culminate in a miniseries for The Defenders. It was definitely an ambitious undertaking, but it was also a model Marvel Studios had similarly utilized to great effect for its theatrical films, making solo-superhero films that would eventually bring those separate heroes together in The Avengers. In 2015, Marvel and Netflix launched the first show of their Defenders initiative with Daredevil to great acclaim. That was followed by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Together, all four shows found great degrees of success, despite some maligned critical reviews for Iron Fist. However, after over two years since the launch of Daredevil; these four distinct shows finally come together in the ultimate comic book superhero crossover event series The Defenders.

The first episode of the new miniseries is mostly introductory, but it felt good to see a lot of these characters again because many of them were left in uncertain places in the season finales for their own respective shows. The Defenders wisely and competently picks up the respective threads of Matt Murdock, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Danny Rand from their own shows. Executive producer Marco Ramirez also does well in bringing in many of the main supporting cast members from each show in the first episode to round things out and organically bring the likes of Murdock, Cage, Jones and Rand back into the fold.

On a personal level, the finale of Luke Cage felt like a bit of a misstep. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that Luke Cage gets out of jail and is soon back in Harlem, so it was good to get some resolution to that particular Thread. Cage’s freedom eventually puts him on a path to meet the other heroes of the show. While Luke Cage already has a relationship with Jessica Jones that was established in her own series, he’s never met Danny Rand and Matt Murdock either. No matter what anyone has to say about Finn Jones and Iron Fist, which was flawed and far from perfect, The Defenders does a good job of adapting one of the all-time great comic book duos and partnerships in Power Man and Iron Fist. The trailer shows them getting quite physical during their first meeting, and it’s pretty electric. However, that’s only the start of what becomes an interesting, dynamic relationship later on in the series.

For Murdock’s part, he’s clearly struggling with his identity. He’s thrown himself back into his work and left his alter-ego of Daredevil behind; still mourning the loss of Elektra (Elodie Yung). However, he still feels anxious and restless with his abilities. There are still only things he can do that he can’t accomplish as a pro-bono lawyer standing up for the little guy.

It’s great to see Ritter back in the fold as Jessica Jones, since her own series premiered almost two years ago, and she hasn’t been seen since. Ritter’s cynical reactions to getting caught up in the hectic events involving the other heroes provide some of the best moments and laughs for the first half of The Defenders. Ritter in many ways acts like the outsider’s sounding board to what’s taking place in Hell’s Kitchen, but even she is unable to stay in denial for so long. Additionally, it’s equally great to see Rachael Taylor reprise her role as Trish Walker and see her relationship with Jessica Jones play out onscreen again. One might call all the connections the characters share throughout The Defenders coincidental, but Marco Ramirez and Drew Goddard manage to set up the interactions and ultimate meetings of these gifted individuals in a very organic way. The setup and payoff where this reluctant team of would-be heroes come together for the first time is incredibly satisfying and also provide another one of the standout sequences for the series.

In terms of the fight sequences, the action is definitely a step up over what was shown in Iron Fist, where some of the fights looked rushed, poorly shot and conceived. In defense of Iron Fist, Jessica Jones didn’t always have the best action or fight scenes either. However, while the action here and what’s been shown so far is a nice step up, it’s still a step below from the best signature action scenes from the first two seasons of Daredevil.

Sigourney Weaver is one of the best new additions to the cast. Alexandra is steeped in mystery, but right off the bat, Weaver allows the character to show an interesting sense of vulnerability. Weaver very much adds a nice sense of elegance and gravitas to the miniseries, and she gives a much stronger, charismatic presence to the villain’s side for The Defenders which was an area where Iron Fist and Daredevil Season 2 were somewhat lacking. Weaver playing off the other main cast members are also among some of the best scenes for the show. Weaver also provides a sense that despite her elegance, her pragmatism and love for the finer things, her character is holding back what could potentially be a vicious monster that would be unyielding and unforgiving if unleashed. Also, Alexandra’s relationship with Daredevil’s former lover, Elektra, are among some of the more interesting and compelling scenes. Hopefully, fans have been paying attention to the previous Netflix shows, since The Defenders references events that have been seeded and building since the first season of Daredevil.

The Defenders

Without giving too much away, if there are flaws, there are still some connections and elements that are very clear and at times a little convoluted. It’s hard to really address this flaw without getting too specific. Additionally, it’s strange how the Netflix shows will embrace the costumes in some sense, but completely ignore them in others. It’s a line on the comic book superhero spectrum that the Netflix shows do not always walk very well. For example, Elektra gets a new red costume that’s very evocative from her look in the comics.

The lack of appearance of certain characters usually get some type of offhand, lampshade explanation. However, credit to the show for at least supplying those explanations when needed instead of the somewhat clumsy way Iron Fist referenced Daredevil encountering the hand. If Danny Rand met someone who has dealt with The Hand and fought against them before in New York, wouldn’t he want to meet that person right away? Even if Danny couldn’t meet Daredevil in his own show, just have Claire Temple try to call him, and he won’t answer. That wouldn’t have been hard.

It’s hard to judge The Defenders without watching the complete seasons. The show definitely seems to have the format of one long continuous story. The Defenders comes off more like an eight-hour movie than an episodic series. The tradeoff here is that while there’s no filler at all here, it’s hard to judge the parts of a picture that is clearly not complete. Regardless, based on the first four episodes, I can’t wait to see what Marvel has in store for the rest of The Defenders.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
The Defenders is so far off to a promising start. The return of all these great characters is fantastic, but the heroes getting to meet and interact with each other for the first time is equally satisfying. Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra, despite being steeped in mystery, might turn out to be the show's most interesting character. Once The Defenders gets moving and Iron Fist meets Luke Cage for the first time is where the show really starts taking off.