Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Defenders


Well this turned out a lot worse than expected. And my expectations were halfway based on the quality of Iron Fist, which was spectacularly bad. Read my review of it here in order to get the full impact of my opinion when I compare them and say The Defenders is actually the worse of the two, trading in accidental laughs for apparent intentional boredom. This is what we've been building towards for two years? Color me stupefied at the absolute lack of anything worthwhile.

"Gonna go save this city.... I guess..."

My problem was that 50% of my expectations came from Iron Fist, but the other 50% came from Daredevil Season 1. If the 50% had been based on Daredevil's second season I would have only been marginally disappointed, but for some reason the one exceptional thing Netflix's Marvel has done out of five sneaked in there and got my hopes up. I also thought Iron Fist was rushed and cheapened to get this heavy hitter out faster and better, but now I'm scratching my head; if the brilliant plots and great production quality was being saved up, where did it all go? It isn't here, that's for sure.

This series is 8 episodes long, and it takes until episode three for all four Defenders to finally accumulate into the same room. Slow like molasses. But not smooth like molasses, because every scene change feels like switching channels between a cheapened versions of the solo shows for whichever character is on screen. They're even color-coordinated! Daredevil is shown in red, then Jessica Jones is blue, Luke Cage gets yellow, and Iron Fist is green. So cute right? Except every scene is colored that way. Think back on Daredevil season one: what was the prominent color? It was actually green, and the green actually set Daredevil's tone better than red. And it wasn't nearly as oppressive, with many highlight colors going on too. Even Iron Fist had a varying color palate; I don't know about Jessica Jones or Luke Cage but I can only suppose they weren't limited either.

Defenders assemble! ... in a minute. Hang on, let's talk about this first (and wait didn't I leave wet clothes in the wash?) Almost ready... oh darn the show's over!

It was obviously done here on purpose, especially since once they team up, specific colors are thrown out the window and everything just looks muddy. I cannot understand why though, because while it occasionally made memorable shots, the main effect it had was to emphasize how separate the characters were, which made their slow pace toward collaboration all the more maddening. And even once they "team up" they are constantly in-fighting, and never click like a team; lone-wolfing in close proximity. At the end of each episode I was thinking to myself, "Well, it seems like it might be about to get started..." And then the season ended and would you look at that -- nothing happened!

They didn't even defeat The Hand. Instead four brand spanking new additional leaders of The Hand were added and promptly killed off. Hand oldie Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) is still puttering around. The only permanent damage this show did was killing off Stick (Scott Glenn) (cue collective sigh of relief, though honestly he was one of the better characters) and removing Luke's cop friend's arm. Though I expect with Danny's "connections" she'll have a nice mechanical one soon. I was shocked they killed Sigourney Weaver's character in episode 6. She was being geared up to be the main villain; we had to watch her go to doctor visits, and take medication, and put on weird dresses, and stare at herself in the mirror -- and then there was no pay off? She pushes Electra (Elodie Yung) in the right direction and then dies? All the time wasted, and Madam Gao could have done the same thing.

HOW-w can you seeeeeeee into my-e-eyes, like open doOORS?

I'm now wondering what would've happened if this show had been combined with Iron Fist, subtracting the multiple Hand leaders shtick and maybe even cutting out the team-up aspect. The root problem with The Defenders and Iron Fist was intolerably little content stretched thin over too many episodes, so double the content could only be an improvement. Of course that would still leave the Danny Rand (Finn Jones) character problem, because oh my goodness gracious sakes alive that kid is hard to like. Yet as irritating as he is, he was a central part of nearly all the most entertaining parts of the show. And honestly no one is particularly likeable. Even if their characters had been done successfully before, the lack of meaningful content in the show effectively keeps characters from having meaningful existences.

Daredevil's (Charlie Cox) abilities aren't as solid as they should be and have been. His drama with Foggy and Karen is boring, and his drama with Electra is forced and painful. Jessica Jones' (Krysten Ritter) investigating scenes are like actually watching people do real internet research, which is to say, boring; even by this show's standards. She pops off one-liners that occasionally warrant a chuckle but sometimes I could swear you can hear crickets. It doesn't help that no characters laugh, or even smile as far as I can remember. They're deadpan and deadbeat, and in some cases, literally dead. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) I found mildly interesting, but since I hadn't seen his show, I was expecting him to stand out more than he did. Maybe this show pulls him down like it does Daredevil. The fight between Luke and Danny was arguably the best scene altogether -- and certainly the most genuinely humorous.

Like, Danny is the most irritating character... but... at least he makes you feel something.

The Defenders is completely devoid of joy and feeling, moves like a glacier, and gets nothing done. It takes even fewer risks than Iron Fist did, if that's possible. They couldn't even manage the risk of leaving us in suspense of Matt's well-being. Conversations have no spark, and chemistry between characters is non-existent. Yet most of the show is characters talking; explaining what's happened and discussing what will happen. Fight scenes lack the originality we've come to expect and take no risks either. Violent things happen, but nothing feels violent. It feels... insignificant; boring; dead. There's nothing to surprise, nothing to impress, and at the end there's a Return of the King-style multiple endings going on, each one more dead and depressing than the last.

When did being a superhero and saving the city you love become such a downer? And when did watching downright boring superhero fodder become so inanely acceptable? I think it's time someone defends the superhero genre from this kind of inept lifelessness. Alas, none of these guys are up to the task.

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