Spoiler-Free Reviews: The Defenders

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A blind devil, a man with diamond skin, a powerhouse snarker, and an idealist infused with positive energy all walk into a bar. The bar is destroyed, alliances are reluctantly made, and no one has the fun of a hangover.

The Defenders is the anticipated culmination of the Netflix’s street-level hero TV series. Netflix seemed to be going in the right direction after a Daredevil‘s first season was a huge success. Jessica Jones proved that you can make a dark series without putting everything in shadows and covering everything in teenage grit. Luke Cage was the series we needed when it came out, giving us a hero who wants to protect his home rather than the world. Daredevil Season 2 is a fantastic Punisher Season 1. Iron Fist…. well…. remember that opening in Jessica Jones? How cool was that?! It was a perfect homage to the comics.

I remember where I was when The Defenders was officially announced. I was there in New York Comic Con last year, and I was sitting halfway in the panel room. Jeph Loeb, of Batman: Hush fame, introduced the main cast. They were received with thunderous applause. Loeb then asked if we wanted to meet the main antagonist of the series, we screamed « YES », like a group of geeks is uninterested in a villain of a comic book franchise. Loeb said something along the lines of « SHE is Academy Award-nominated actor », emphasizing the SHE. The moment we heard that we are getting a female villain was a breath of fresh air, and the audience reciprocated positively. Then, we were gifted with the presence of Sigourney Weaver. The hype was strong, the crowd went wild, and everyone was speculating what will happen, whom she’s playing, and how everything will come together.

You should know by now that I am a major comic book fan. I’m not ashamed to say that I binged the entire series in one sitting. It didn’t take as long as I expected, since it’s only 8 episodes. It’s hard to do if you need to get a lot in. The Defenders did it justice. I’m also a defiant defender of spoilers. I will not go into great detail of anything not introduced in trailers, or promos/

*Spoiler warning!*

One of my biggest criticisms of The Avengers movie franchise is with their team dynamics. We are constantly told they’re the best of friends with a unique bond that can’t be broken. Then they fight and argue with each other, and eventually lament how such a terrible argument could have occurred. I am not convinced that they are friends. They say they are friends, they just don’t really show it. I can easily say « I’m friends with Chris Evans », but it won’t make it true.

This is where The Defenders differ. The four heroes are passionate, determined, and don’t work well with others. They bicker with their own friends, and have their own moral code. Luke Cage cares about his town of Harlem, and not much else, Daredevil brings out his inner Batman and constantly gargles gravel when he talks about « his » city. Jessica Jones rarely shows any sympathy for the people in her apartment, let alone her friends. Iron Fist is thinking globally that everyone has the right for safety, and the whole is greater than the part. Besides for a fanatic self-reliance and a cantankerous outlook on most people, these heroes couldn’t be any more different. Unlike the Avengers, their quirks are shown, and not simply informed. We are able to see who they are through their actions and words, they don’t need to declare to the world how they are feeling, and why they acted a certain way. This is probably due to the amount of time we were able to spend with each of them. We can get more character development from a series than we can with a movie. When they finally do become a super team to combat the forces of evil, it’s brought with believable resistance, they only become a team when the events become too much to handle on their own. It takes some time, but it feels organic, giving the show credibility. It’s refreshing to see a group come together for reasons better than « sure why not ».

Out of all The Defenders cinematic universe, Daredevil puts more emphasis on action heavy than the rest. It does have the classic alter-ego syndrome of balancing two lives but it resembles a martial arts flick more than it does a courtroom drama. The other series fit in their own genre, and The Defenders follow suit. It’s more of an origin story than anything else, and though there is a lot of brawling and defenestration, it’s not the prime focus. The fight scenes are not as flashy as Daredevil’s, but they far surpass anything in Iron Fist. It’s difficult to say if it’s due to the short-run time of the series, or if they wanted to focus more on team building than set destruction. What we do get to experience is still quite fun. Iron Fist attempting to take down Luke Cage is a comic-book geek’s dream, and seeing how they eventually all start to work together is loads of fun. It’s great to see how different each character fights, from swift kicks and precise hits with Iron Fist and Daredevil, to the sloppy bare-knuckled-beat downs of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Who needs skill when you hit like a tank?

Without giving too much of the plot away, The Defenders focuses mostly on Iron Fist and Daredevil’s with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones playing second fiddle. They are treated the same way Hulk was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which seemed to be more an Iron Man movie. Luke and Jessica still help move the story along, and their skills (both superhuman and normal-human) are used accordingly. They all discover that a great evil is on its way (hinted since Daredevil Season 1) and it must be stopped no matter the cost. Our four urban heroes, in typical team up fashion, clash with one another then realize they are on the same side and can do more together.

Earlier on, I mentioned that Sigourney Weaver was the big bad that the intrepid heroes needed to face. She was highly underused, and unfortunately, didn’t seem to be all that threatening, frankly, it was simply lacklustre. It wasn’t her role, or presence that gave this impression, it was the amount of screen time she was given. Trailers, promos, and hearsay throughout the show, boasted about her sheer gravitas. But there was no proof of it; she’s clouded in such mystery that I was not able to get too attached to her. Wilson Fisk (from Daredevil), on the other hand, pulled off this perfectly. We learned about his cruelty from third party crooks and criminals, we heard that there is a rumour that « Kingpin » pulling the strings of the criminal underworld, and there was enough teasing to make his big reveal mean something. It was a perfect build up to an urban legend that actually came true. The Defenders couldn’t do this for her character. The short run-time and focus on team building are most to blame for her uninteresting character.

The Defenders is a solid joining of existing shows. They play it safe by keeping it short, and narrow. Instead of hinting to possible future events using dangling plot lines, Defenders keeps everything close to home. Nothing exists outside their universe. The incident that occurred in The Avengers is alluded to once or twice, but it doesn’t go beyond that. If you enjoyed the majority of the previous shows (Iron Fist being the exception) then this is a good follow-up. If you only cared for one of the characters and didn’t like the other three, then The Defenders is not for you. It is a fun show, has enough dry wit to keep it light, and has enough fists flying to keep you pumped. It’s not a must watch, but it’s definitely worth your time, and will make most comic book fans happy.

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David Harris

David Harris has lived in Montreal his whole life. He thoroughly enjoys discussing most subjects including the arts, technology, and good food. He shows a great appreciation for good stories and dialogue, which suits his passions perfectly: television, movies, and graphic novels. But, deep down, he has to admit that his biggest love will always be with the movies and movie going experience.

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