The Defenders Series Review: Wait, New York is in Danger?

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Last week I gave my first impressions of The Defenders on Netflix having watched the first three episodes. Having now finished all 8 episodes, what are my final thoughts? By the way, there’s a few spoilers below.

Review:

If there is one thing that will kill a story for me very quickly it is when the writer’s are too lazy to make me believe in the threat or the danger facing the characters. The Defenders suffers very heavily from this problem. All the way through we are told The Hand are crazy terrifying. Scary. Far reaching. Unstoppable. But we’re told this by a handful of characters based on previous encounters (that kind of proved they weren’t that unstoppable) and because the characters repeat this fact a lot.

But what do The Hand actually do?

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They use the last of their ‘resources’ to resurrect Elektra as The Black Sky. And that sounds really impressive. They brought someone back from the dead. But why, as someone watching from the audience, am I supposed to think this is a real issue? They don’t have any more of these ‘resources’. The main villain has been dying from the start which you might think would mean she had nothing to lose and would do something reckless and crazy but instead she continues her methodical and fairly undramatic approach to her plans. Elektra spends most of The Defenders as a slightly buggy android and then in the final two episodes decides to gain a personality but has no grand plan. Nothing.

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So again, why are The Hand so scary?

Because the other four fingers are impressive?

One of them is killed early on after a fairly standard round of ask the captured villain for answers moment where of course he escapes and is then cut down fairly unspectacularly. The other three spend a lot of time complaining about Alexandra’s leadership but don’t actually have the guts to hold a coup and come the final fight, other than one or two moments, essentially just amount to screen filler.

So The Hand killed Stick’s group? Again, Stick’s a bit of a jerk and to be honest, his group wasn’t doing such a bang up job so maybe they just had that coming. They used kids from Harlem to clean up bodies and then disposed of them? Really? That’s meant to be scary? Admittedly, it is scummy and I am fully backing Luke in his desire to see them stop this behaviour, but it hardly screams criminal mastermind. There’s an earthquake early on? Okay, that could have been impressive, but they didn’t do anything with it.

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Basically our league of mysterious vigilantes are up against a fairly non-threatening threat. You can tell me that I’m supposed to worry about the city and that people are in danger. You can tell me that as many times as you like. What this show didn’t do was ever actually make me believe it.

Partly the blame for this is that the only two villains we spend significant time with are Alexandra and Elektra. While both of these characters had the potential to be quite interesting, instead the writers chose to focus on Alexandra having some kind of bonding experience with the pseudo daughter she brought into the world and then Elektra went through some kind of teenage rebellion thing. It wasn’t particularly well done and seriously undermined any threat you may have felt from the organisation. Not to mention, Elektra went into the final battle with very murky motives and basically you just had to wonder why she didn’t just walk away. I know they gave her a lot of lines trying to explain why she was there, but they weren’t particularly good explanations.

So as an overall narrative, The Defenders falls pretty flat in the second half. The first three episodes, and even the next couple, where we get the gang together and introduce the threat, and go through the usual banter and the like are all good fun, but without a culminating point for the drama there’s just nothing to invest in. Certainly the play between the characters continues to be genuinely well done and even Danny and Luke were growing on me by the end (it helped that Danny had less screen time toward the end), but mostly it didn’t feel like there was a big enough reason for these four to be brought together.

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And then the final fight sequence just needs to be cut and started over. Between the camera and sound direction as well as the sheer repetition of the action, not to mention how that fight ends, everything about it is dreadful. How you make an underground ninja fight with four superheroes dull and almost painful to watch I still do not know, but the evidence is right there in episode 8 of The Defenders.

That said, I’d still recommend this series as a watch for people who like their super heroes. The villains are ordinary, the plot ultimately unable to hold its weight, the heroes do all the heavy lifting and for the most part they do it well. While I think I’d still prefer a third season of Daredevil or more Jessica Jones, this wasn’t a bad series to sink some time into.

I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve had a chance to watch The Defenders.


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Karandi James.

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The Defenders First Impressions: I’m Half In and Half Out on This One

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What do you do when you watch something that for everything you love about it, you find something else completely cringe worthy, dull or irritating? Well, in my case you keep watching but then you write a blog post to both celebrate what this long anticipated series does well and to openly wonder just what the deal is with everything else.

Review:

The Defenders on Netflix finally brings together a group of heroes that on paper are exactly what I like in a hero. Daredevil amazed me when I saw the premier at Supernova and it is the reason I even have a Netflix subscription. It wasn’t a perfect series but for all the gritty retellings of superhero stories going on in the cinemas, Daredevil as a TV series just grabbed me in a way none of those other stories had. A lot of that is because of the main character and just how well Charlie Cox manages to portray both the devil and the lawyer.

Then I got stuck into Jessica Jones and was also utterly blown away. I loved Jessica’s character. Okay, sassy and downtrodden girl is getting a little old, but she wears it very well. Plus, we got David Tennant as a villain so there really wasn’t anything to complain about with that.

Moving along, Luke Cage got his own series. This is where I started falling out of love with Netflix superheroes. Luke Cage is one boring protagonist, and I know I just offended some of his fans, but I find him incredibly dull and as a result I never actually finished his series. Though, when I compared that to the mess that was Iron Fist… well, Luke Cage didn’t look that bad anymore.

And all of that leads me to The Defenders and their series. I was most definitely taking some personal time after mid-last week and I’d been dying to try this series so I took an early afternoon and watched the first three episodes back to back, so just until they got the four characters together in the same location really. And as the title of this post suggests, I half love it and I half don’t.

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Basically, any scene with Matt or Jessica kind of inspired the same love I’d had for their individual efforts, and bringing the two together, albeit very briefly so far, was pure joy. Watching the banter between the two as they see who can be snarkier or one up the other was highly entertaining. Honestly, the only downer with Matt is the whole inner conflict he’s going through about whether he even still wants to be the devil. Hopefully he gets over that soon, because that indecision has been played to death by other heroes and it is never very interesting.

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Marvel’s The Defenders

Conversely, any scene with Luke or Danny just feels emotionally overwrought (in the case of Danny’s opening scene), or completely flat (all of Luke’s scenes so far and Danny after the opening scene). Even putting the two together for a fist fight did nothing to impress as you have a guy with an iron fist pounding at a guy who literally stops bullets. Admittedly, Danny did finally get in one decent punch but this was basically like watching a guy spar against a cement post and finally at the end knock one tiny chip off of it. It was not an interesting fight and that’s because Luke doesn’t fight. He pushes, occasionally punches, stands stoically around, but he isn’t built for, nor is his style, flashy or interesting.

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Someone else who reviewed the whole series of The Defenders mentioned the use of colour so I was particularly looking for it (not that you need to) and it is both striking and very affective. That kind of attention to visual detail deserves recognition and it carries a lot of the characterisation and tone of the show without the characters doing anything other than being in the scene. Now if they’d applied that same simple is more approach to the camera direction at times this could even be said to be a beautiful show.

Alas, the camera blurs, takes on weird focuses, cuts continuously (particularly during skirmishes), it pans, it tilts, it shakes, it drives you absolutely crazy until you want to reach out and just hold the thing still so you can just watch what is happening. It is so needless and distracting.

I do have to briefly turn my attention to Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) and Elektra who are the face of the enemy so far. Alexandra apparently being on top and Elektra being the whole Black Sky thing (whatever that may end up being). To be honest, neither of these two have been overly impressive in the first three episodes. Admittedly, Alexandra has the potential to be a truly interesting villain at this point. She’s a reserved but fairly nuanced character and given more screen time could really flesh out the role and be quite chilling, but these first three episodes (given they are understandably focussed on getting the actual defenders together) don’t really give her much space. Elektra is more or less a blank slate at the moment so nothing really happening there.

So I’m fence sitting at this point. I really want to like this series and there are certainly parts of it I love so far. But, there are some definite issues going on and some characters I’m a little less fond of, so I guess it depends how it balances now that the whole team is together and whether the plot actually goes somewhere now. Once I finish watching this I’ll write up my final thoughts, in the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on The Defenders.


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Karandi James.

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