Review: Netflix’s new ragtag supergroup harnesses attention after slow beginning
By Jeffrey Waitkevich
After Marvel’s “The Avengers” crushed its opening weekend, superhero team-ups have been spreading across the silver screen.
Now, Netflix wants to bring that recipe for success to their streaming platform, in full binge-worthy glory.
Released in full Aug. 18, “The Defenders” hits all the right notes of a superhuman mash-up tying together the heroes of the other four Netflix Marvel shows.
The heroes come from Netflix’s four other Marvel TV shows: “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.” Opposing this super team is Alexandra, played by Sigourney Weaver, and The Hand, a group that was previously featured in “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist.”
Similar to the Avengers, the Defenders are battling to protect New York City. However, rather than fighting off an alien invasion, this Marvel team is combating the five villains that make up The Hand.
But where the Avengers team felt larger than life, “The Defenders” harnesses a gritty, street-rat realism that feels closer to Hell’s Kitchen then Manhattan.
Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have superhuman strength but they never feel unstoppable. Iron Fist actually seems to use his glowing fists for more than making doors out of walls.
The result is a bunch of ragtag underdogs fighting The Hand, a well-equipped team with Kung Fu mastery and fading immortality.
While Alexandra is supposed to be the main villain, she’s mostly all talk. Her team of villains does nearly all the fighting and her only real battle is with her newfound mortality.
Thankfully, Alexandra resurrects a major character from the “Daredevil” series, Elektra, who outshines her in every way.
A lot of the supporting cast from the four source shows bring some much needed character and comedy to the show. Misty Knight, from Luke Cage; Colleen Wing of Iron Fist; and Claire Temple, who has appeared in each show, all combine with solid B-plot stories.
The two memorable characters Foggy Nelson and Karen Page from “Daredevil” and Malcom and Trish from “Jessica Jones” are essentially useless. It almost feels as though they were only included so every show would be equally represented.
The plot is fantastic but is dragged down by a slow start.
The first three episodes provide half-baked introductions to the characters that essentially erase any overlying themes from their respective shows.
Only giving minor nods to the racial conflict in “Luke Cage” and the sexual assault themes in “Jessica Jones”– Daredevil’s and Iron Fist’s identity crises are the only ones that carry over.
Once the team comes together and the Defenders are formed, everything seems to be exceptionally executed. Elektra’s development is riveting, while the team learning to coexist fuels the rest of the plot.
Aesthetically, the show is also sound. The fight scenes —of which there are plenty— are beautiful displays of finesse through martial arts, brutality, super strength and steel-hard skin.
However, the fight scenes get redundant when too many henchmen get involved. The transition between scenes is also a glaring weakness. Instead of a smooth transition into the next scene, randomly cut visuals are thrown around before a new scene opens.
The soundtrack was a weak side character which mostly fluffed scenes and was barely noticeable.
This is a surprise, considering that “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” both had powerhouse soundtracks that radically affected the atmosphere of the show. In “The Defenders,” it felt like the soundtrack was thrown in as a formality, rather than as something with purpose.
As for the future of the Marvel Netflix universe, “The Defenders” set up the following seasons of the four individual shows well. It is hard to tell if there will be a second season of “The Defenders” or if it was used like one of Marvel’s annual comic book events.
Nonetheless, it should allow for more crossover among the superhero shows in the future—something DC Comics has done well with its own quartet of superhero TV shows on CW.
The Crow’s Nest rates shows between one and five stars, with five stars being the highest possible score.