“The Defenders” (Netflix)
Created by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez
Wow. There hasn’t been a Marvel production this mind-numbingly bad since…uh…last year’s “Iron Fist”. What starts out as an interesting, fairly funny, and, occasionally thrilling exercise in Marvel-universe cross-talk and energy, devolves within three episodes in to a soul-crushing melodrama with LOTS of talking heads and very little action. And, just to make sure you feel unsatisfied, it ends with a thirty-minute shrug. Yet, there is some good in it, maybe even enough to watch it if you follow the outstanding “Daredevil” or “Jessica Jones” series (there’s not much here to connect it to “Luke Cage” that you wouldn’t get from watching “Jones”…and, if you actually follow “Iron Fist”, you should be forced to give your TV back to wherever you got it from).
Aside from some amazing fight work in the middle episodes and a clever way to bring these four together, the script calls for VERY serious (re: dull) conversations throughout. Luckily, these are interspersed with great lines and timing from Krysten Ritter, whose Jessica is even more acerbic and grounded than in her own series. Without her performance, you would have NO one to root for. Even Charlie Cox is woefully underused, emotionally. That’s what happens when you treat his awesome brand of vigilantism as a process addiction. It’s like attending a really depressing Superheroes Anonymous meeting. Other high points include the inclusion of Sigourney Weaver as one of the lead villains. Perfectly controlled, yet quite human, her performance is the only reason you care about the plot. Returning villains Wai Ching Ho (Madame Gao) and Yutaka Takeuchi (Murakami) also help give this slog some much needed heft. Elodie Young (Elektra/Black Sky) is gorgeous, convincing, hypnotic and might be the most believable fighter of the bunch. Mike Colter (Cage) is fine…and it’s always nice to see Scott Glenn chew up some scenery. Finally, major kudos to Rosario Dawson for her consistency & honesty…and for successfully saying “do you know how insane this all sounds?” about thirteen times throughout the series.
But, alas, Finn Jones is simply terrible as the Iron Fist. And, alas, the series OPENS with him in despair, and, really, he just can’t handle it. And, alas, every time he is on screen he manages to bring down everyone around him. I swear he doesn’t actually listen to a thing happening around him which is not the fault of the script…it’s Acting 101. I kept yelling “where’s the damned Green Fire when you need it”! Even his supposed once-in-a-lifetime fighting skills seem…meh. As Olenna Tyrell would say, “…Silver Roses indeed.” Mr. Jones should get on his knees and thank “Game of Thrones” every time he deposits a Marvel Studios check.
Production-wise, it’s fine. The world is believable, the lighting successfully conjures “Daredevil”, and the city looks like New York City. Although can we maybe get rid of the now prerequisite angled-shots-of-the-city to transition between scenes (a la “True Detective”, “Bosch”, and a million other series made in the last two years)? It’s no longer interesting or location-defining.
Off the top of my head, I can think of about 150 available streaming series that are more satisfying than “The Defenders”. It’s tedium incarnate. However, if you must watch, there are two more attributes that I believe will help get you through the darkness: It’s only eight episodes long, and the words “Sokovia Accords” are never mentioned. If that’s enough for you, have at it. It wasn’t at all for me. But, listen, if these written words keep even one of you from suffering through its six+ hours of length, then I suppose it will have all been worth it.
I give “The Defenders” a heart-felt oy vey.
Written on 8/22/2017