“The Defenders,” a miniseries produced by Netflix and Marvel Studios, is a crossover between the previous shows “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.” The story revolves around the titular heroes of each series having to put aside their differences in order to face a secret order known as The Hand seeking to destroy New York City.
“The Defenders” is similar to the Marvel film “The Avengers” (2012), following the same production formula: individual properties were created to introduce viewers to each superhero and then pushed together in a crossover event to face one large-scale threat. Even though the show follows a historically-successful formula, the series falls flat in its delivery.
Merging the plots and casts of four different TV shows is no easy task. The separate worlds, tones and motivations of each hero have to be blended together in a believable way while servicing an entirely new story and villain. The show excels in this difficult area but fails in most others.
As great as the acting and (some) well-written character interactions are, the plot of the show is a slow and predictable mess.
Too much time is spent with the characters at odds with one another due to ill-conceived plot devices and questionable character motivations that force unnecessary conflict. The constant group turmoil immediately turns from engaging to enraging as nearly every conversation between the heroes ends with dialogue along the lines of “we make a great team, but I don’t know if I can trust you.”
Along with mishandling protagonists, the villains are wasted here as well. One egregious example is the wasting of the terrifying leader of The Hand portrayed by Sigourney Weaver (of “Alien” and “Avatar” franchise fame), since her character is randomly abandoned near the end of the series in favor of another enemy entirely. The lost potential in Weaver’s character arc leaves an irreplaceable hole in the series making the writing process feel rushed.
The action sequences in the show only add to this feeling. Many fans and critics alike were excited to see what “The Defenders” would bring to the table since the Marvel Netflix series have been praised for their on-screen fights. However, these scenes in the show often have frequent editing cuts and claustrophobic camera angles in order to hide their mediocre choreography. Only two fights in the entire eight-episode miniseries ever felt as if proper time and care was put into the show.
Overall, “The Defenders” is only an engaging watch for the spectacular performances and emotional investment built into the show by watching the previous four Marvel Netflix series. The action, story and dialogue are unfortunately underwhelming until the very end. Hopefully, the showrunners can learn from the mistakes made this time around in season two.
Header image: the cast of “The Defenders” stand together in the promotional poster for the series. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.