Superhero team-ups are actually pretty difficult things to pull off. Even the comics their based on only get it right every once in awhile. The Avengers tends to make us think the code’s been forever cracked, but this really isn’t the case. Take The Defenders, for example. Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe before it,
Superhero team-ups are actually pretty difficult things to pull off. Even the comics their based on only get it right every once in awhile. The Avengers tends to make us think the code’s been forever cracked, but this really isn’t the case. Take The Defenders, for example.
Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe before it, the Netflix Marvel series have been carefully crafted over a few years. Two seasons of Daredevil, and one season apiece of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have built up a sort of sub-universe, based entirely in New York. There’s even been some crossover between characters, which should mean that a team-up should be practically seamless. In fact, before Iron Fist came along and screwed up Netflix’s hitting streak, The Defenders looked like a grand slam.
But what happened is that instead of harnessing the four series’ strengths, it instead collapsed under the weight of their collective weaknesses. Daredevil‘s worrying sidekicks and nagging guilt. Building up a villain only to kill them off suddenly and anti-climatically, like in Luke Cage. Danny Rand from Iron Fist still being exactly the same character that most people found so aggravating the first time around. And while Jessica Jones doesn’t suffer too much, she’s largely relegated to sarcastic quips and the dramatic finale of her series is barely touched on.
The Defenders is a weird, uneven creature that sputters and staggers its way around a version of New York that’s seen alien behemoths rain down from the sky but couldn’t possibly wrap its head around the “intricate” mysteries of The Hand. And these quasi-immortal gang leaders who’ve been a legitimate threat for centuries hardly seem like the danger our heroes breathlessly describe them as. Despite all their resources, none of them even thinks to call in some of the bullets that felled Luke Cage in his own series. The Hand also never strikes at the police precinct where all our heroes’ friends and family are being held. Even in a straight-up fight, Daredevil seems to easily hold his own against two Hand leaders, even though a single lieutenant nearly killed him in his own series. And none of these bad guys are as horrendously captivating as The Purple Man or tortured and volatile like Cottonmouth. In fact, there’s not much to them at all except a bunch of one-liners about destiny. (Oh, and if you took a shot for every time they say “the substance,” you’d be comatose by Episode 3.)
Danny Rand, Master of the “I’m Not Crying You’re Crying” Face, (and occasionally the Iron Fist) remains a petulant doofus. The Defenders takes this once step further, by making him a petulant doofus AND a McGuffin. This goes about as well as can be expected, and the easily-manipulated Danny is easily and predictably manipulated into opening the very thing our heroes were trying to prevent him from opening. If Netflix was hoping to rebuild some of Iron Fist’s reputation headed into his second season, this didn’t do him any favors.
Budget limitations also seemed painfully obvious at times. Fight scenes, one of Daredevil’s strongest suits, are actually few and far between and generally take place in cramped, dimly-lit locales. The gravest threat to New York seems to be shaky-cam. So the heroes spend a lot of time doing things like “laying low” and “visiting their apartment” and “laying low in a different place.” And talking. So much talking.
I’m not opposed to dialogue-heavy shows. I am opposed to shitty dialogue, and that may be The Defenders’ main offense. A lot of lines feel forced, repetitive, and cliche. The humor, what little of it there is, comes from Jessica Jones’ “done-with-it-all” mentality, but even this doesn’t seem as sharp as it did in her own series. There’s an especially awkward moment near the end when Daredevil tries to get inspirational, Jessica shuts him down, and Luke blurts out “I’m not hugging you” for no reason whatsoever.
It’s too long (even at eight episodes), too boring, and too reliant on cardboard-cutout villains. Its heroes never truly gel, its “shocking” ending is immediately wiped away, and its Spielberg-ian epilogue stretches on for what seems like infinity. The Defenders is a disappointment.