'The Defenders' review: Reluctant heroes come together in spectacular showdown.
Shyama Krishna Kumar, Copy Editor
At the beginning of Marvel's The Defenders , Netflix's brand new all-star superhero team-up series, we find our four reluctant (some more than others) heroes battling the consequences of the choices they made when we last saw them in their own series.
Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is facing a spiritual crisis over hanging up his horned suit as he continues to stick it to 'the man' in courtrooms as the attorney-with-a-heart-of-gold. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is still finding redemption at the bottom of a bottle while running from her superhero identity, trying in vain to fight the popularity surge after defeating nemesis Kilgrave (David Tennant). Luke Cage (Mike Colter) returns from his brief prison exile and proceeds in his endeavour to keep the kids off the streets in Harlem. And finally, millionaire kid Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones) is hot on the heels of the Hand, the sinister organisation that's on a mission of world domination or some such, with sidekick/lover Collen Wing (Jessica Henwick).
And it's with this final hero that the showrunners get ingeniously sneaky: By putting Iron Fist at the forefront of this story, they give him a chance at redemption from all the negative press he received early this year over whitewashing allegations in his debut series. In the first four episodes, we see Rand take all the punches: his white privilege and relationship with big money (as a 50 per cent shareholder of Rand Enterprises, he's basically swimming in billions) is constantly questioned and he's shown taking time to address these issues earnestly and with honest intentions.
As a foil to his much-older and world weary companions, Iron Fist works astonishingly well, infusing fresh blood into the tired tropes of the sulky-brooding vigilante. Young, hot-blooded and morally incorruptible, Rand sees no options: you fight or die trying. This is in huge contrast to the existential confusion that belays characters like Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
Also, cloaking some of Rand's personality flaws is his relationship with Luke Cage: the two are old buddies from their comic-book days. While their small-screen introduction to each other doesn't go down too well, as expected, the development of their friendship is done with a light touch and heart-warming humour.
This is not to say that the other characters are just sitting around. While the four of them only come together by the middle of episode three, which is a pretty long time to take considering there are only eight episodes to go around, the time's not all wasted. By giving each character the space to come to terms with the magnitude of what they are about to face, the series of events that follow feel more lived in and natural.
And when they do come together, sparks fly. The characters are allowed to play off each other's personalities in different ways, creating unique bonds, like the afore-mentioned Cage/Rand. The defenders' first action scene together, a beautifully choreographed piece, set to hip-hop music and sans major CGI, could easily put the pomp and bombast of the Avengers to shame.
While the general enemy they're facing is still the Hand, a carry-over from both Daredevil and Iron Fist , the face of the Hand has now changed. More powerful than Kingpin (Vincent D'Onfrio) or Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), Alexandra Weaver, played to perfection by genre goddess Sigourney Weaver, is the embodiment of all the evilness in the real world today. The understated menace that shines through her perfectly groomed visage and pleasant manners is both, exciting and terrifying.
Helping matters along are all the tertiary characters from the previous Netflix Marvel series, who mostly happen to be badass women (and will hopefully lead their own miniseries some day) - Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios/Black Sky, Claire Temple (Rossario Dawson), Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) and Trish Walker (Rachel Taylor). Foggy Nelson (Elden Hensen) and Stick (Scott Glenn) also return.
For anyone who's a fan of the Marvel properties, whether big screen or small, The Defenders is a must-watch.
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