MCU: Is The Defenders, Already Better Than The Avengers?

31 May

I don’t know if readers of this blog have noticed, but I’m not the hugest fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know, it’s shocking. I actually like movies with, like, plots and stuff. Maybe some character development.

For the people who actually do read this blog (if such people exist), the really surprising revelation will be that I actually don’t hate everything that’s come out of the MCU. I liked the first Iron Man movie, for example. Guardians of the Galaxy was good and fun. Ant-Man was solid entertainment. Agent Carter was better than Agents of SHIELD and should have been renewed instead of AoS… but that’s a whole other topic.

The real gems of the MCU, however, are the Netflix series. In fact, I’m of the opinion that these shows are of such different quality that we shouldn’t even pretend that they exist in the same universe as the rather cartoonish Avengers. Every time they make references to the events of those movies, it feels awkward and wrong.

This summer, all four of the current Netflix/Marvel series will come together into one big monster event series, called The Defenders. Will this series be an amazing convergence of awesomeness? Or will it be another Avengers, feeding more into the fanboy dreams of its creators than into a solid story of its own? Let’s examine the situation, both pros and cons.

 

Not all Netflix/Marvel shows are created equal…

This Netflix/Marvel universe began with Daredevil. I was skeptical going into this series, because of the Ben Affleck movie that came before it, but I was quickly won over by its grounded tone, it’s care for characters, and of course, it’s impressive fight scenes. The show has an amazing cast and its beautifully shot, making the much higher-budgeted Marvel movies look like cheesy Saturday morning cartoons by comparison. To this day, Daredevil is the strongest of these shows.

Next came Jessica Jones. Again, the show has a good cast and is well shot. That said, Jessica Jones suffers a little bit in the writing/pacing department. The characters don’t come together quite as naturally and perfectly as those on Daredevil. Also, the series had more episodes ordered than they had actual plot to cover. As a result, they wound up awkwardly retreading plot points and kept inflating and deflating the main arc, just to stretch it out. The series would have benefited from a format more like Veronica Mars, where we could see Jessica Jones taking on other cases and displaying her abilities in between the more arc-driven episodes. (side note: Netflix should produce a Veronica Mars mini-season)

After Jessica Jones came Luke Cage. This series is the weakest of the bunch. The slow-jazz vibe doesn’t lend itself to a comic book action hero series. The episodes were slow, boring, dry, and I often found myself yelling at the TV, because I’m pretty sure that this entire season-long story could have been told in a single movie. It took forever to get to Luke’s origin story, and even then, I was bored. While the series still looked better than the Marvel movies and I have nothing against the cast, this series was painful to get through. But I did… get through it… eventually.

ZzzZzzZzz—whah? Huh? Oh. I’m awake. Sorry. I dozed off thinking about Luke Cage. Where was I?

Right. Finally we come to Iron Fist. And y’know, despite the media bashing the series every which way, I actually didn’t hate it. In terms of story and characters, I would probably rank this as the second-best of the Netflix/Marvel shows. It wasn’t without its problems, of course. For example, I think that bringing Claire Temple into the series in such a large role worked against the Joy character quite a bit. We never got a feel for Joy’s relationship with Danny, and she wound up just sort of existing on the side, while the action happened around her. I think that Joy could have been a much stronger character than she was. I like Claire, but we didn’t need this much of her. However, Iron Fist was still a solidly entertaining series. It just wasn’t as finely tuned as Daredevil was/is.

So, what does all of this mean for The Defenders?

I think that this miniseries stands a good chance of being really good. One of the main problems with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage was that they were simply too long, so their pacing suffered. The Defenders will have more characters to work with, yet the miniseries will only consist of eight episodes, rather than the normal thirteen that we have been getting. Hopefully, this will result in a really tight, clean story arc. If they end up repeating themselves and stretching to fill time in eight episodes, they just shouldn’t have made the miniseries at all.

Even if I don’t think their shows were as strong as the others, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage aren’t bad characters. In fact, I really liked Luke Cage when he was on Jessica Jones’ show! So, interacting with Daredevil and Iron Fist, I think Jessica and Luke stand a good chance of shining more here than they did on their own shows.

I’m pretty optimistic about The Defenders, and I look forward to seeing what comes next from this Netflix/Marvel partnership (Punisher!!!!!). We will know once and for all how well The Defenders works out when it premieres on Netflix, on August 18.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know. Leave a comment after the beep.

Beep.

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