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You know, after nearly 10 years it’s possible the Marvel magic is wearing off. I don’t mean that their films are getting objectively poorer or even that I’m enjoying them less, Civil War is a classic of the genre and Ant-Man, and Dr. Strange are two of my favorite Marvel movies. No, what I’m talking about is the shock and awe of “I can’t believe they did that!” as a cornerstone of Marvel’s cultural capital.
Where this is most evident is in the realm of Marvel TV, an arena in which they still struggle even though they’re making some serious gains. I’m speaking, of course, about The Defenders, Marvel’s impending team-up show meant as the capstone to the past 2 years of Netflix endeavors.
Earlier on the premise of Defenders felt like it could be a modern and daring new Marvel team but since the announcement that feeling has definitely faded. First, we realized that the Netflix shows would be more or less divorced from the cinematic universe, then there was the slow realization there wouldn’t be any costumes.
Then Daredevil season 2 was a seriously mixed bag, and Luke Cage was a well-intentioned misfire, then finally Iron Fist came out and we realized this whole thing might’ve been a mistake. Now, the series has its first full trailer and, brace yourselves, but it actually has me kind of excited for the show.
So, one of the biggest reasons I wasn’t feeling super excited about Defenders was how much the prospect of a character team-up seemed a little drab. I mean, the Defenders all wear street clothes, as a costume so just seeing them pal around in non-costumes with mostly invisible powers doesn’t really get the blood pumping.
This is particularly the case given how much Legends of Tomorrow has raised the bar as a consistently watchable superhero show that’s ripe with high concept action and cool costumes. What’s more, we’ve already seen the two best Defenders interact a lot in Jessica Jones with the Jessica/Luke subplot, so there didn’t seem to be a lot of promise in this.
However, throwing together Jessica and Misty Knight, the best character in all of Luke Cage, completely shook me out of that doldrums and, I won’t lie, having Matt Murdock as Jessica’s lawyer is a pretty fun addition. I’m not super excited for Matt tooling around because Charlie Cox actually has pretty weak chemistry with most of his fellow actors, but Krysten Ritter and Simone Missick are both fabulous performers that could probably cut through that like Jon Bernthal did as the Punisher.
After all, the whole point of a shared universe is that you can throw together various characters and situations in case one of them doesn’t work too well on their own, which is very much the case with Iron Fist in this trailer.
Let me just say that I hated the Iron Fist TV show so much I couldn't watch the whole thing. I made it part way through an episode or two, and that was it and make no mistake, my issue with the show is entirely wrapped up in Finn Jones’ Danny Rand. Rand is written as an obnoxious and self-entitled twerp, and Jones plays him as privileged frat boy that’s uncomfortably obsessed with Asian culture. He was, by far, my biggest concern going into Defenders, so the fact this trailer spent so much of its time making fun of him is delicious.
Seriously, making him the token jerk of the Defenders, with so much of character interaction centering around the heroes being aware of the fact he’s an odious little tick is an excellent way to handle this guy. It actually fits well into Danny’s identity in the current Luke Cage & Power Man comic right now, where he’s more of an annoying spastic sidekick to Luke’s longsuffering adult superhero.
Speaking of Luke, his story seems to have come the farthest from where we left off. That’s actually going to be Defenders biggest opening hurdle, resolving the handful of lingering plot threads from Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. If you don’t remember, Daredevil season 2 ended with Matt revealing his identity as Daredevil to his new girlfriend Karen Page. My guess is that this scene is where Defenders will open and will resolve it with Matt giving up his Daredevil identity, hence why he doesn’t appear in costume in this trailer and his gear seems to be locked away.
Jessica Jones was still being investigated over the crimes of her archenemy Kilgrave, whom she killed, which might be what Misty Knight is investigating her over. Luke had been sent back to prison in Georgia, though Claire Temple had the means to prove his innocence and promised to involve Matt Murdock to clear him of the charges. That’s probably how Matt gets sucked into the adventures of Luke after giving up as Daredevil, maybe even with Jessica Jones coming on as a PI collecting evidence for the case. With Luke free, he can run into Iron Fist and thus tie everyone together.
As for Danny, his last scene actually raises an interesting question for Defenders. All throughout his show, there’s a ton of dumb stuff going on with the Hand, the most tedious bad guys in all of the MCU. For a while now Defenders has been giving the impression the Hand will be their core villains, both through an earlier animated poster and their presence in Daredevil and Iron Fist. Indeed, Elektra and Stick showing up in this trailer confirm the Hand will be involved somehow.
Here’s the rub though, at the end of Iron Fist we see a ton of Hand ninjas have been slaughtered by some mysterious and unseen opponent at the gates of K’un-Lun, the mystic city where Danny learned Kung-Fu. Combine this with Sigourney Weaver’s presence and the decidedly non-magic ninja look of her villain HQ, and it seems like there might be something else going on entirely.
From the outset, it looks like Weaver might be playing some kind of corporate bad guy. At the very least she’s someone Elektra is aligned against given she appears to be headed to kill her in the requisite hallway fight this trailer features. A corporate antagonist would actually fit fairly well with the other lingering plot threads in the Defenders lead-up shows such as the private prison mad science from Luke Cage, the pharmaceutical super powers from Jessica Jones, and the Rand industries intrigue from Iron Fist.
Weaver’s character could easily end up at the hub of all that, though the idea that all of the Hand’s ninja nonsense really was just elaborate corporate misdirection would be a hell of a twist. Personally, I’m still holding out that Weaver is playing someone related to the government wet works team of super villains the Thunderbolts. The T-Bolts have been through a number of iterations, but a more recent roster featured Punisher, Elektra, and Ghost Rider, three characters Marvel TV has pulled together recently so it could fit.
Now I admit, the amount of hype and enjoyment I’ve gotten out of The Defenders trailer isn’t really comparable to any of the Avengers films or the CW crossovers. Part of that is just making up lost ground; I haven’t fully and unreservedly enjoyed a Marvel Netflix show since 2015. At the same time, though, there’s no denying that there’s a limit to the joy I can muster for putting down Iron Fist and not indulging in more Hand nonsense.
That’s probably the biggest flaw in the marketing so far, the stuff I’m most hyped about is just confirmation of what Defenders ISN’T doing. Still, progress is progress and after the incredible disappointment of Iron Fist I’m at least cautiously back on the bus- here’s hoping it stays on the right path.
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