Rumination and Review: The Defenders, Season One
Well it felt like forever for this to arrive after waiting for it since shortly after Daredevil (although in ways I’ve been waiting since the 70s when I were but a wee ginger lass). I devoured it. Here’s what I think.
The Defenders: Ruminations
First, as soon as I was aware of Netflix’s Marvel Universe, I knew any shows would be different than my expectations. That’s fine, too, I suppose. For a while I hoped to—but knew we wouldn’t—get the original lineup.
They teased me. I held hopes that Doctor Strange would create and lead the group, as he did in canon, but not high hopes. The movies taught me not to hold out hope for too much to make the transition between comics and video in any case.
The original Defenders were Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Namor, along with Valkyrie (who for some reason never gets mentioned at all as an original) and eventually Silver Surfer and a lot of other shorter- or longer-term members. Luke Cage was one of those who was a Defender for quite some time, and he has always been kick-ass and groovy, so I was happy he’s involved.
The new story is nowhere near as good as, and tragically petty to those of us who knew and loved, the original Defenders storyline(s). It was, and is, some of the best comic storytelling of all time (which is par for the course when Doc Strange is involved). I’m not even going to synopsize it, go subscribe to Marvel Unlimited and read it for yourself! It’s cheap enough, so just do it. It won’t take you a whole month.
Full disclosure: I never loved any other ‘official’ superhero team as much as the Defenders (except maybe the Justice League, but I was a Marvel fangirl more). I always slanted toward their mystical stuff so aside from Adam Warlock, Doctor Strange was my man, Hulk was the bomb, and Namor was the only male in a speedo I’ve ever lusted after. It was close to my comic book dream team when I started reading them in the late 70s/early 80s. Daredevil and Luke Cage would have made me like them even more, as they were early favorites of mine, and still are. I’ve never read Jessica Jones, even still. I liked Iron Fist and Danny Rand from the Heroes for Hire days, but he always seemed like sort of a fuddy-duddy twat compared to Power Man/Luke. There, my cards are on the table.
The Defenders: Review
Considering The Defenders on Netflix is built from other characters’ shows rather than other characters’ comic books, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to talk about it without mentioning them.
Daredevil is the best of the bunch. It set some high standards in every way. If you haven’t watched both seasons yet, you are missing out. It’s a great show in the abstract sense, and it’s so good it even undoes the abortion of a movie. The Netflix series is the first and only incarnation of Daredevil that has ever been on screen, in the same way that there is only one Highlander movie.
Jessica Jones was very good, and so was Luke Cage. I preferred Luke Cage, but both of them were eminently watchable, well-acted and written, and true enough to the comic characters to work (as I understand Jessica to be in the comics, at least—as I mentioned, I’m not very familiar with her in that context). They were lighter on action than I expected and hoped, but that was purposeful, and it succeeded.
Iron Fist was, well, it was a catastrophe. Bad acting, bad directing, bad action. I thought that most of that, especially the eye-roll-worthy acting, came from the bad directing, but now I’m not so sure. In other words, read the wikipedia origin of Iron Fist if you want and just skip the show. It’s not worth the hours.
I didn’t hate it because I sorta like Iron Fist the character, aside from the whole Rich White Man Is Better At Your Culture Than You Are thing. But I sure could have hated the show if I weren’t so forgiving with the MCU. I’ve waited too long to have my fill of superhero video to be overly critical now.
But seriously, it was distinctly not good.
The Defenders is a blend of all four of those shows, as expected.
You know what happens when you blend things? You get how averages work? Yeah. Like that.
I think it was things that carried over from Iron Fist that damn near ruined it for me. It’s worth watching…but it’s not a grand slam.
Hey! Bullet list. I’ll have this review wrapped up in no time!
The Defenders: Bad Things About Season One
- Shitty, blurry, impossible-to-follow-the-first-time action scenes
- Simpering, whiny, erratic performance of Finn Jones as Iron Fist
- Iron Fist’s random, badly-written, inconsistent motivations and behavior
- Iron Fist’s poorly-handled K’un L’un non-storyline dominating the plot
- Iron Fist being the ‘center’ or ‘heart’ of the team even though he comes across as a barely useful, weak-willed man-child who is less of a help than a thorn in the team’s side
- Iron Fist, repeated for clarity and generalization
- The unbelievably shitty filming of the fight scenes, even worse than those in Iron Fist, so bad it deserves multiple entries just like the Iron Fist character (and compared to the fight scenes in Daredevil, this is inexcusable)
- The paucity of exciting fight scenes and none of this kind of uplifting, adrenaline-boosting thing, where all four-or-however-many of them are coming right at you to kick your ass and save the day (there are barely any fights with all of them on screen at once in any case, and nothing iconic enough to stand out):
The Defenders: Good Things About Season One
- All the actors and the acting, except Finn Jones/Iron Fist (the stereotypical Police Captain kind of sucked too, but the actor didn’t have much to do with that)
- Hooking Cage and Iron Fist up, so they can do Heroes for Hire and leave the Defenders alone, and maybe redeem Iron Fist on video a little bit
- Misty Knight losing her arm (we know where this is going, Colleen Wing was right there! Yay!)
- Stick and Mrs. Gao
The Defenders, Season Two: Do Better!
Seriously. Please. Get this Iron Fist shit under control and come up with something worthy of the Defenders for season two. I’m begging you. Keep the Hand or don’t. I know you have a budget, but it wouldn’t hurt you to get some bigger, out-of-this-world stories happening. The Defenders was never a ‘street-level’ team, so if you keep it this way, that’s fine…but make it feel important, for fuck’s sake. It just really didn’t.
And either get a director who can bring out a good performance from Finn Jones, or find someone more Iron-Fisty to play Iron Fist. Or better yet, split this bunch back into street-level teams as they were all meant to be, and bring in the real Defenders.
Hey, check out my friend Son of Cthulhu’s awesome comic blog, too!