How to Improve Marvel’s Netflix Shows

“There’s always room for improvement.” — various people at various times

I was thinking about Marvel’s Netflix shows the other day and remembered an article about them that I’d seen a couple months ago. The author, Max Farrow, notes:

“[W]e can’t help but admit that 2017 was something of a stumbling block for the superheroes of Netflix. For all the grit and timeliness of The Punisher, several factors ensured that neither The Defenders or Iron Fist managed to inspire that much enthusiasm in fans. How can Marvel and Netflix get their mojo back, then? What can they do to get their superhero shows on track once more?”

He suggests five ways to do just that, so I figured we could look them over, and I’ll add a few reactions and comments of my own….

1) Stop Killing Villains

Farrow lauds the “fleshed out and highly memorable” main villains (especially as compared to some in the movies) and the “titanic talents” (e.g., Ali, Tennant, Weaver) that have portrayed them. But, he finds it somewhat odd and disappointing that at least twice a major villain has been offed part-way through the series.

“[T]his isn’t to say that show execs can’t, or shouldn’t, kill villains off full-stop. Unique and unpredictable storytelling is a fantastic quality in a series. But, having villain number three die midway through a season is precisely why Netflix shouldn’t opt for it again.”

I agree with him. These were strange moves that interrupted the flow of the respective stories. If they can attract such talent for these roles, why kill them off early? (Of course, it’s possible that they may only want to sign on for 5 or 6 episodes, and that would be a shame.)

2) Kick Ass, But More Efficiently

Farrow lays it out:

“The Marvel/Netflix shows may be gritty character studies, but we wouldn’t love them as much without their alleyway (or corridor) brawls. However, it’s been two years since Daredevil and Frank Castle dished out some quite frankly jaw-dropping beatdowns in Daredevil season 2. Aside from several notable moments in The Defenders, there’s been very little in the way of truly electrifying showdowns since. So, why are these kinds of moments becoming scarcer?”

As Farrow acknowledges, “action scenes are expensive and tricky to film.” But, no matter how “real-life” these shows are, they are still about characters with amazing superpowers and fighting skills. People who tune in expect to see these powers/skills used and, hopefully, not only executed well but in ways that seem authentic and make sense.

“From Daredevil’s radar-sense to Jessica Jones’ limited flight, honing on in [sic] these iconic abilities in fight scenes could really make the Marvel/Netflix shows stand out. Moreover, given enough resources and planning time, a great choreographer would be able to turn these prerequisite punch-ups into something truly special.”

Yes, indeed.

3) Planning Makes Perfect

Unlike the (mostly) “efficiently cohesive, detailed world” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Netflix shows, according to Farrow, seem to struggle with reminding us of their interconnectedness. In particular, he points to “The Defenders” and its slow ramp to get viewers up to speed on “picking up where each of the solo shows left off” and “a lot of work into maneuvering [the characters] into suitable positions for the story at hand.”

At first, I thought he was being a little hard on the writers/producers regarding efforts to a) show us what our heroes were currently up to and b) orchestrate their eventual “team-up” against their common foes. I mean, that’s a lot to juggle. Plus, more generally, the appearances of ‘Claire Temple’, ‘Karen Page’, and other supporting characters help to remind us of the shared city in the other series. But, after re-reading Farrow’s comments, I have to admit he makes some good observations.

“A bit more pre-planning would be hugely beneficial in this regard. Moreover, it would help any inter-show crossovers to feel more natural, such as in the rumored second season of The Defenders. Plus, it will allow for terrific new stories to be told, which change and shape the wider Marvel/Netflix world.

Sure, the shows all feel alike with their similarly grungy Manhattan, but it’s strange how inconsequentially huge events – such as Kingpin’s bombings – are rendered within the context of The Defenders.

It’s even stranger when we consider that all of the characters operate only a few blocks away from each other as well.”

I can’t help but agree with him there, too. This leads into the next gripe/suggestion…

4) Get To Grips With The Wider MCU

When “(Marvel’s) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debuted on ABC back in 2013, it was essentially a spin-off that followed the “Battle of New York” seen in the first Avengers film. Agent Phil Coulson was the crossover player (with an appearance or two by Nick Fury), and there have continued to be references to stuff from the films sprinkled about in the TV series. Unfortunately, despite the hopes of the fans, connections between Netflix’s Marvel-based series and the MCU movies have been quite slim, with references even fewer and farther between.

“This hasn’t been hugely detrimental to these shows, though. Moreover, The Punisher barely features any inter-world connections and still manages to tell a rich and compelling story without relying on references. However, it is getting to the point where passing lip-service to iron suits isn’t going to cut it anymore.

At what point in the MCU timeline does Daredevil’s showdown with Fisk take place? A year after The Avengers? No one knows. Plus, the lack of Defenders references from the movies are conspicuous by their absence. Surely S.H.I.E.L.D. would have a use for someone like Matt Murdock?”

Farrow is fair to note the various challenges of things like logistics, varying development times, the “notoriously fractious relationship” between the movie and TV divisions, etc. Still, if the Netflix series are firmly set in the same world as the MCU, and I hope they are, then they really need to make a better effort to make that clear. It would only make sense, and it would further please the fans who value such continuity.

5) Shorten The Series

Farrow contends that the thirteen-episode structure of each season of the Netflix shows — except for the “The Defenders” mini-series, of course — is just a tad too long. I’ll let him explain…

“Regardless of what theme each show is exploring, at their hearts they’re superhero stories, right down to their adrenaline-fuelled needs. That isn’t to say they can’t be deep or cerebral (these shows have frequently proved that it’s possible), but they do need that burgeoning, dramatic tension to keep them chugging along.

Unfortunately, because of their structure, the Marvel/Netflix shows can’t sustain this drive for the time that they’re required to. Even the best of these series are forced to tread water for some period of time, be it the opening episodes of The Punisher or those where Kilgrave’s imprisoned in Jessica Jones. When this happens, the bloat sets in and the show grinds to a halt.

Again, it’s not that we don’t love spending time with characters like Jessica Jones. But if the show around them suffers for it, then something’s got to give. And that something is the series’ length.”

My instinct is to deny it. I mean, I love my superheroes (regardless of how much I complain), so the more episodes the better. Right? But, after briefly reflecting, I have to admit that Farrow is probably right, and I’ve even had similar thoughts. Most (each?) of the Netflix shows could probably have been improved by tightening up the writing/pacing, thereby cutting each season down to 10(?) to 12 episodes each.

I’m tempted to add a point or two of my own, but you all already know my gripes and preferences from the reviews I’ve done on these series. (See ‘Review Posts’ link at top of page.)

So, what do you think? Is Farrow unfair or otherwise “off” in his assessments? Am I an “unfaithful” fan for generally agreeing with him? Is ‘Kilgrave’ overrated, ‘cuz Tennant makes Whovian fangirls swoon? Should I stop asking questions? Just wonderin’…

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Review of The Defenders (Netflix)

“It’s been a long week.” — Jessica Jones, “The Defenders”

The much(?)-anticipated “The Defenders” mini-series has finally been released, capping off the first four Marvel/Netflix series. I finished watching it a few days ago, so I have a few thoughts to share….

You probably figured I’d put out some sort of review, right? Regular readers already know how I feel about the actors and these versions of the characters from my earlier reviews, so I won’t say too much on that front. (Too many to link to here; just do a search on “Netflix” or go to the Reviews page linked above.) I assume most people who are interested in the show have already watched it, but I’m adding a Spoiler Alert, anyway.

SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!

Let’s start with… I liked the opening/closing credits music. It reminded me of a cross between those for Daredevil and Iron Fist.

I also really appreciated the getting-to-know-each-other scene at the Chinese restaurant, after our heroes survived their first team-up. It was reminiscent — probably intentionally so — of the shawarma shop scene at the end of Avengers.

Our heroes all remained very much in character. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones did their usual strong-guy/gal thing, smashing, slamming, punching, and kicking the crap out of The Hand’s lackeys. Nothin’ pretty. Luke also got to play “human shield” on occasion. (I think he actually enjoys it, despite the costs to his wardrobe.) Once he was on board, Matt Murdock / Daredevil re-confirmed that he’s the best fighter of all of them, in my opinion. However, he also takes some chances — specifically, re Elektra — that put himself and others in danger. Of course, the writers can make even foolish decisions turn out to be the “right” ones in the end.

Each of these three, at some point along the way, had their doubts about taking on The Hand, preferring to stay out of the “war” or just not ready to go “all the way”. But, they realized the threat that The Hand represented to the people of New York (and likely beyond), and they stepped up. They knew they might not survive, but they were the city’s only real chance. That’s what makes them heroes.

I would really love to see Daredevil pair up with Cage. That could be an awesome partnership. (Cage and Rand, not so much.)

Not surprisingly, I thought Danny Rand / Iron Fist was quite disappointing. Without the chi-powered fist, his fighting skills are still mediocre — clumsy-looking, even. Good thing The Hand seems to only have mediocre-level soldiers, rather than the ninja-assassins from the comics. (Elektra aside, of course.) He also continued with the part-petulant child, part-stranger-in-a-strange-land bit, while never understanding why people aren’t impressed by his “I am the immortal Iron Fist” claims, followed by tales of dragons and mystical cities. Sheesh! Either give it a rest, or at least show off the “fist” a bit earlier.

Colleen Wing’s presence mostly made up for that of her boyfriend. She’s attractive, passionate, willing to do what needs to be done, and brings some much-needed skill with bladed weapons to the good-guy side. She seems to start many fights by charging at her opponents, which doesn’t seem too smart to me, particularly when it’s a superior fighter like Bakuto. Then again, it’s not like she’s gonna surprise him/them, especially beginning from several feet away. Maybe the head-on approach is best, just to get the fight underway?

Some of the best acting in this series was in scenes with the Colleen and Claire characters, especially the one where Colleen briefly broke down in tears. Well done, Miss Henwick.

Claire’s how-did-I-get-myself-into-this reflections and lines were welcome as usual. She really is the heart of the (non-)team, and not just because she is the acquaintance that they all had in common. She also probably surprises no one more than herself that she is still in the thick of it and, well, not dead, yet. Like Colleen said, Claire’s a hero, too.

It was nice to see Malcolm, Trish, Karen, and Foggy, too, and to find out what they were up to since we last saw them. There wasn’t much for them to do in this story but hide out. But, it made sense in the plot to have them involved, since they were the closest associates of our heroes. However, it still seems odd to have them essentially camp out in the police station, when the cops never really understood what The Hand was or how dangerous they were.

Misty Knight… yowza! (Ahem, sorry.) The lovely Detective Knight returns! Yay! (“Detective Knight” sounds like a twist on a certain Distinguished Competition’s pointy-eared vigilante, doesn’t it?) She continues to be frustrated by our heroes, but she comes through in the end and supports, even aids, them. Yay, again! She pays a dear price for it, though, since she (finally) loses her arm. Triple-yay! That’s right, I’m glad she lost her arm, ‘cuz that means she will probably, eventually, get a super-strong bionic arm, just like in the comics. (I have a feeling her benefactor will be Rand, though, instead of Stark.) Then, she just needs to become a P.I. and partner with Colleen Wing, and I’ll be a happy man. (Especially if they get their own series!)

It sort of makes sense that Stick would be the one to unite — however reluctantly — our heroes. Or, at least, try to keep them together after that initial big fight. (Btw, since we already know these Netflix shows take place in the same world as the films, it would have made sense to have someone say something like, “Why not tell those Avengers guys? Let them HANDle it!” OK, maybe without the pun.) I’m a little surprised that they killed him off, but not real disappointed. For one, he was getting annoying; for two, with The Hand out of commission (thankfully, at least for now), there’s little reason for Stick to show up, and this should help our heroes — well, Matt, anyway… and Elektra — move on.

I hate to say it, but Sigourney Weaver looked… old. But, then I realized she’s 67, so she’s allowed to have a few wrinkles and such. Don’t know that I would have thought of her as a villain for this series. But, as the Alexandra character was written, she was a decent choice. We suspected they would bring Bakuto back, as well as the ever-present and deceptively powerful Madame Gao. The other two new Hand leaders — Murakami and Sowande — seemed formidable at first. But, the latter was too easily defeated, and the former was ultimately not that impressive.

I have mixed feelings about the whole Elektra thing. I mean, we already knew she was being resurrected by The Hand, so she’d probably be involved in another series storyline. And, it makes sense the way it was done and why. I think. Her betrayal of Alexandra was a surprise, which made for a nice plot twist. However, I don’t understand why she suddenly became so cold, amoral, etc. I guess it had something to do with her soul being affected (seared? tainted? infected?) by her brief time on “the other side”. I don’t remember hearing a good explanation for her behavior, but maybe I just missed it or didn’t put the pieces together.

If Elektra survived and if she eventually returns (though hopefully not for awhile), I hope she becomes more the assassin-for-hire that comic readers are familiar with. One with a damaged, yet still present, moral compass and ethical code.

The overall plot wasn’t bad, though it seemed to take a little while to get moving. Definitely room for improvement here and there, which might have been do-able if they had another episode or two to work with. Or, maybe fewer episodes would have forced them to tighten it up and get to the good stuff sooner. For the most part, though, the four heroes’ individual stories came together fairly well. It all flowed OK (though the earlier episodes were a bit rocky), and there was some good character development. (Even Rand.) Most of the interaction between our heroes was good, too, and I appreciated the occasional doses of humor.

Open questions: Why didn’t the NYPD file a report? Why wouldn’t they charge our heroes with terrorism? I’m not saying there isn’t a plausible way around it, with Jeri Hogarth (and Foggy, of course) coming to their aid. (Even “The Defenders” sometimes need a legal defense of their own, right?) But, the “wrap-up” at the end seemed too easy.

Overall grade: When feeling generous, I’m tempted to give “The Defenders” a solid ‘B’. Other days, I might go as low as a ‘C’. So, let’s split the difference and go with a ‘C+/B-‘.

Review of Daredevil (Netflix series), Season 2

Daredevil_Season_2_Trio_PosterYes, yes, I know. Season 2 was released ages ago and everyone has already watched it and read all the reviews they care to. But, as I’ve said before, I don’t binge watch, preferring to spread the good stuff out over time. As it was, I watched two episodes each every Sunday and Wednesday, so I finished up a couple weeks or so ago. Then, I wanted to get the Axanar post and the quarterly Mr. Zeus post out, so… now I’m finally getting around to my second Daredevil review. I hope it’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

To be honest, initially I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the time reviewing Season 2, since I had the Axanar review and a follow-up “Supergirl” review planned. I’d also said just about all that I wanted to about the casting and about these versions of the characters in my Season 1 review. But, this time they gave us Punisher and Elektra, plus some, you know, character development in & between the central three, so I almost felt obligated to say something. But, I may not be quite as verbose as in the first review.

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

Regarding those central three, I maintain that the characters could have been better cast, but they’re growing on me. I always thought Foggy should be more supportive of Matt’s nightly exploits, so I’m having to mentally get past their verbal sparring. Still, Elden Henson’s doing a fine job. I am more impressed with Matt/DD and Karen, though. I still think Charlie Cox’s jawline is a giveaway, and I would prefer that he be redheaded and more muscular. Nevertheless, Cox does a great job bringing a conflicted Matt Murdock / Daredevil to life. (Not sure how much he is in the DD action scenes and how much is a stunt-double. Probably almost all the latter.) Seems like the big cases/problems they deal with are due to Karen’s determination to solve puzzles — and, y’know, dogged determination to see justice done. I’m of two minds about her being such a forceful character. Not that I don’t like strong women, but I don’t remember the comic version doing that. I guess they couldn’t have the 2016 TV version be a simple receptionist/secretary. The character is growing into herself, as they say, and that’s usually a good thing. I’m also appreciating Deborah Ann Woll’s talent more. I’m glad they finally decided to pair Matt and Karen romantically — some nice scenes there — though it sure didn’t last long. I still think he should reveal his secret to her — c’mon, already! It would explain so much of his behavior, and she could cover for him, etc. (Like Foggy should be doing.)

There may have been additional, minor, recurring characters, but I’ll limit my comments to the top seven. I hesitate to even call Wilson Fisk / Kingpin a “minor” character, but he was only in 3 episodes this time. That said, his scenes were memorable and his actions significant to the plot. I may not care for the Netflix version of Fisk’s personality & eccentricities, but I can’t fault Vincent D’Onofrio, who always gives a riveting performance. I haven’t decided if I like Sgt./Det. Mahoney (Royce Johnson), but I guess I can understand his uncertainty about DD’s activities and whether or not to help him. In Season 1, I didn’t like Ben Urich’s editor, Mitch Ellison (Geoffrey Cantor), especially when it seemed he might have been corrupt. But, now he’s turning out to be a decent guy and a good new mentor for Karen. It was great to see Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) back again, too, if only for 3 episodes. She’s a great character, even if (like Foggy) she isn’t entirely supportive of Matt’s extracurricular activities.

Some of the cast of "Daredevil" Season 2 at AMC Lincoln Square on Thursday, March 10, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Some of the cast of “Daredevil” Season 2 at AMC Lincoln Square on Thursday, March 10, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The returns of the next three were just as surprising — to me, anyway — as that of Fisk. Not entirely unforseeable, but I hadn’t heard/read any rumors that any of them might show up. The mysterious Madame Gao’s (Wai Ching Ho) cameo was welcome and satisfying, if brief. (Hope we see her again.) Nobu (Peter Shinkoda), the Hand’s formidable warrior, seemed less impressive in his fights with Daredevil this time. Although, that “resurrection” trick is pretty , er, handy. The appearance of Stick (Scott Glenn) was both enjoyable and exasperating. Man, that guy’s a royal pain in the butt (among other places)! Still, I wouldn’t wish that torture he endured on anyone.

Now for the new vigilantes/assassins on the block…

Elektra was OK — certainly attractive — but not close enough in look or mannerism (imo, anyway) to the original for my liking. (E.g., should be a little taller and could stand to have more meat on her bones.) She had some great moves, though. Since Elodie Yung is a black belt, I wonder if they bothered with a stunt double…. I was glad that they at least retained some aspects of her “origin” story and early relationship with Matt from the comics. Not enough, though. I’m not sure if I want her back in another season (if there is one), but events from the Season 2 finale make me think she will be.

Frank Castle’s portrayal was mostly satisfying, but not entirely. Jon Bernthal was a pretty good casting choice, though I’d have liked to see him bulked up a bit more. I expected Punisher to be very cold, emotionally distant, as he initially was. But, then, between the talks with DD and the scene in the hospital with Karen in ep. 6, they humanized him a bit. Not sure I approve of that choice for his story. Also, the hospital pursuit scene reminded me of something from a Terminator film, as did the times when he unloaded tons of firepower on his targets. THAT’s the sort of “machine” Frank needs to be! Lastly, I was glad that they finally gave him his trademark skull-shirt at the end. If Netflix goes forward with a Punisher series, that symbol must be front-and-center.

Plot-wise, this season had a different feel to it than the first did. I guess that’s because the core of it was less of an origin story and more about our hero coming to terms with who he is and what he does, and how that affects his career and those around him. Throw in an old flame who has a few dark secrets, a returning SOB of a mentor, and a gun-happy vigilante/client, plus a few other surprises, and it makes for a pretty exciting time in the old town tonight… and the next night… and the next. I admit, there were parts that seemed to play slow, or where I didn’t like where a relationship was going, or I was frustrated with changes from the source material. (Not surprising, eh?) But, the occasional surprise revelation or twist helped keep it interesting, and it was generally quite fun.

Amazing cosplayers, Kevin Porter and Tatiana DeKhtyar

Amazing cosplayers, Kevin Porter and Tatiana DeKhtyar

The costumes… I’m OK with Daredevil’s red-n-black outfit, I guess, though I would prefer a few changes. For example: more red, simpler, without the black leather/kevlar inserts (especially on the abdomen). I am thrilled, however, that he finally got his extendable, nunchuk-like billy club! That was cool! Ditto for Elektra: her costume should be all red (like Yung wore in G.I. Joe: Retaliation), but at least she eventually got her trademark sais. True to form, Castle stole a *lot* of ordnance from the bad guys and then used it in his war against them. Bravo! I already mentioned his skull-shirt making an 11th-hour arrival, but at least he was predominantly in black the whole time — minus the white prison jumpsuit, of course.

With or without weapons, the fight scenes in this series remain a highlight. They are simply some of the most brutal stuff written and choreographed for the small screen, and they are exactly what is called for in a realistic portrayal of these sorts of characters — mobsters, biker gangs, hardcore prisoners, martial artist warriors, vigilantes — in this sort of environment. Guns, blades, fists, and whatever else may be at hand… they’re all deadly weapons. Not for the squeamish! (Major props to the stunt team, by the way!)

Overall, I thought Season 2 was an enjoyable and worthy successor to Season 1. Looking forward to more….

Review of Daredevil (Netflix Series)

“It ain’t how ya hit the mat. It’s how ya get up.”  — Battlin’ Jack Murdock

daredevil0107151280jpg-7f7705_1280wI never binge-watch any TV show — partly because I have many other shows I like to keep up with, partly because I like to make a good thing last a long time. That said, when Netflix released all 13 episodes of “Daredevil” at once, I thought I might be too weak to control myself. But, I managed. In fact, it was 5 days until I even saw the pilot and a full week until episode 2. Meanwhile, the rest of the world — I imagined, at least — were watching multiple episodes per week. Just like with other cult-favorites — e.g., “The Walking Dead”, “Game of Thrones”, “Orphan Black” –, I was several episodes behind everybody else.However, when a recent vacation threw my usual TV-watching schedule all out of whack, I took the opportunity to watch a few more “Daredevil” episodes. Then, I kept to a mostly bi-weekly schedule, and… I finally watched the season finale last week. So, this will be my first review of a new series where I watched the whole season first. I wonder, are there any genre fans who haven’t already watched the entire series by now? (If so, consider this a SPOILER ALERT!, though I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)

I will admit that, as usual, there were changes from the comics that annoyed me. And, yes, I’ll refer to some of them below. But, for the most part, I will try to contain myself. In fact, I have to say that, despite my being irked by certain changes, overall the characters and the feel/tone of the show was… shall we say, reasonably faithful to the source material. Plus, whether I liked the casting or the writing or not, I thought all the performances were top-notch.

I thought the seasonal arc made for a decent story, paralleling Murdock’s initial efforts in crime-fighting with Fisk’s start as a mover-n-shaker in NYC, both in the criminal underworld and as an ostensibly (but not really) legit real estate investor and city benefactor. (More on them below.) Or, as producer Jeph Loeb put it more simply, “This season is about both the rise of the hero and the rise of the villain.” It made for pretty good drama and was certainly about more than just a costumed crimefighter battling punks and villains. (Especially since Murdock didn’t get a real costume or the titular nom de guerre until the final episode.) At the risk of using some overused descriptors, there was a very realistic, “gritty”, street-level feel to the series. This was partly due to the lack of any flashy superpowers but also because the fights were rather nasty & violent. Bone-crushingly, sinew-tearingly, flesh-rippingly, blood-drippingly brutal, in fact. And that’s a good thing.

Now, allow me to give my reactions to and impressions of the primary and main supporting players, beginning with the good guys:

Matt Murdock/Daredevil is quite impressively portrayed by a British actor who was not previously on my radar (pun alert!), Charlie Cox. Even if I had heard of him, I would never have thought of casting him for this role. In my opinion, the role calls for someone a bit taller and more muscular. (I suppose he might bulk up more for the second season.) Also, there is something about his mouth & jawline that doesn’t look right behind the mask, and I think it would be quite identifiable by anyone who knows Murdock fairly well. That could be a problem when you’re trying to keep your identity a secret. Plus, he didn’t seem to try to mask (hah!) his voice, either. So, for those reasons, Cox isn’t my ideal casting. But, he does have talent and did a terrific job showing the different sides of Matt Murdock — from loyal friend to driven vigilante. Also, it was good to see him struggling (as in the comics) with what he thought he needed to do “on the street” and when dealing with Fisk et al., as opposed to what the law allows and what his Catholic faith would seem to allow.

Daredevil_Armor_SuitI don’t know why, but the people who adapt comics for the screen seem to have an aversion to red hair, especially for the heroes. Both Barry Allen (aka “The Flash”) and Matt Murdock are supposed to be redheads, but they both have dark hair on TV/Netflix, and I haven’t read anything about why they couldn’t apply a little coloring to keep the character authentic. Is that really too much to ask? Anyway,… Regarding Matt/Daredevil’s abilities, the martial arts and gymnastics were well-done. They need better F/X to demonstrate use of his radar-sense, though. As for the costume, it definitely looks bad@$$! (Or, DD looks bad@$$ in it.) I don’t know if he’ll ever get it completely red, but I think I can accept the red/black combination. Now, if we can just get a swingline (or whatever) to eject from the billy clubs, so we can see him swinging between buildings and onto rooftops and such….

Franklin “Foggy” Nelson is ably played by baby-faced Elden Henson, another actor that I was not familiar with. I know I’ve seen him here and there, but nothing really stands out in my mind. I don’t know if I would have considered him for Foggy, though he does fit the general physical description. On the other hand, the character was written as a bit more jovial and playful (and with longer hair) than he is in the comics. I would have preferred sticking to the original characterization, but maybe they decided the show needed someone who was (usually) a little more fun and able to joke a bit amidst the doom & gloom. I didn’t care for his relationship with the lawyer (their former colleague) at the big firm. It just seemed like a really unlikely pairing, and the only reason he let her treat him like that was because she was hot and would “sleep” with him.

Deborah Ann Woll does a fine job as Karen Page. My gripes are that she is too tall and, to be honest, not pretty enough. (My personal preferences, of course.) She can look quite attractive, especially with red hair. I just wanted someone with a very different look. So, I obviously would not have cast her. But, acting-wise, I thought she was very good. They obviously gave her a different “origin” than in the comics and had her be more personally involved in the case(s) in the show. There were hints at her instant attraction to Matt but a growing attraction to Foggy. (Of course, she spent more time with Foggy, who is also a more open person.) It will be interesting to see how her relationships with her two bosses develop next season, as well as how involved she gets in the cases. Also, will Matt reveal that he is Daredevil to her? I suspect he will, especially if they get romantically involved, though I don’t think it is as necessary as it was to reveal it to Foggy.

Ben Urich is played by the terrific actor/director Vondie Curtis-Hall. He did a great job as the dogged-yet-weary investigative journalist. Unlike in the comics, they gave Urich some extra, emotional stuff to deal with — namely, his wife’s slowly succumbing to dementia and the financial struggles to continue her care. His interactions with Karen Page were interesting, and I can’t help but wonder if she will eventually start a blog of some sort. (Sort of like Iris West did in the early episodes of “The Flash”.) The Urich character is white in the comics, and as usual, I would have preferred a white actor. However, Urich’s race is not integral to who he is, so I did not mind the change. And, while Curtis-Hall is a few years older than the character should be at this stage in DD’s career, I couldn’t have asked for a better talent to portray him. That is what makes Urich’s fate in this series doubly troubling. (I think it was a mistake.)

daredevil-tv-series-on-netflixTo be honest, I don’t remember the Claire Temple character from the comics. Maybe she appeared at a time when I wasn’t reading “Daredevil” for awhile? A quick check of Marvel’s wiki reveals that she had connections with Luke Cage and Bill Foster (aka “Black Goliath”) but it says nothing about Daredevil. (Will she show up in Netflix’s “Luke Cage” series?) Nevertheless, I think Rosario Dawson was a great choice, and she knocked this version of Claire out of the park. As suspected, Scott Glenn’s portrayal of Matt’s gruff, pain-in-the-butt mentor, “Stick“, was spot on. My only complaint is that he was only in one episode! We need more Stick, even if only in flashbacks to young Matt’s earliest training. Matt Gerald’s Melvin Potter is also pretty good. I think the writers made the character a bit more dim-witted than in the comics, but generally they got him right.

Fisk’s “business associates” are an interesting bunch and each deserve a brief mention. The Russians, Vladimir and Anatoly Ranskahov, are played by Nikolai Nikolaeff and Gideon Emery, respectively. The characters were stereotypical, macho bullies — Vladimir in particular — but well played. Too bad they weren’t around longer, but they did serve as, er, object lessons re doing business with Fisk. Yakuza representative Nobu is played by Peter Shinkoda, who brings a sufficiently serious (and cocky) air to the character. Wise and wizened Madame Gao is a great character, played by the wonderful Wai Ching Ho. I hope we see more of her next season, or maybe after that. The only “business associate” not created solely for the Netflix series is that of ruthless financier, Leland Owlsley. The comics version creates his own small criminal empire, calling himself “the Owl” and his organization “the Owl’s Gang”, and becomes one of Daredevil’s persistent foes. He also gains powers of limited flight, enhanced strength, enhanced senses, and sharp talons. Of course, this version pushed Fisk too far and will not be able to do any of that. (He did refer to a son, though.) Still, Bob Gunton does a fine job playing the role of the perpetually perturbed “money guy”.

Famed Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer was an interesting choice for Vanessa Marianna. I would never have thought of her for it, but, of course, she did a wonderful job. (I don’t find her particularly attractive, but that’s neither here nor there.) Though I don’t know a lot about the comics version, I do know that she and Fisk married and had a son long before Daredevil appeared in Hell’s Kitchen. In fact, the adult Richard Fisk would become a deadly thorn in his parents’ side. That Vanessa was eventually driven to try to clean up the underworld (while Wilson was out of the picture for awhile), but died of “heartbreak”. I am curious how any of this may play out in the Netflix series, though I doubt there will be any Fisk heir to cause trouble. I also wonder if Vanessa will get the white streak in her hair like the original has.

Toby Leonard Moore does a great job as Fisk’s multi-talented and always reliable right-hand, James Wesley. In the comics, the character is never given a first name, seems rather quiet and bookish, and is only seen in four issues of “Daredevil” — in the “Born Again” storyline (see below). Moore’s Wesley is a bit more calm and cold-hearted, but it works for this version, this Fisk, this story. I just wish we could see more of him next season. (Perhaps a twin or clone…?)

My thoughts & feelings about Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk are rather mixed. On the one hand, D’Onofrio is a wonderful and talented actor who did a terrific job revealing the intellectual and emotional layers of the latest screen-version of Fisk. Some might even say it was “masterful”. There were interesting eccentricities — from Fisk’s social awkwardness (especially with Vanessa) to his oddly-paced speech patterns to his sudden and deadly fits of rage. The problem for me is that none of that — with the possible exception of the rage — is part of the Fisk/Kingpin who I grew up reading. The comics version is much more confident, for one thing. He is also clearly a brutish thug with only a veneer of control and respectability. D’Onofrio’s version, it could be argued, was that, but it just wasn’t the same. These and other elements (e.g., the bit with his mother) make me think that the writers/producers were trying to make Fisk more relatable and sympathetic, despite his ruthlessness. IMHO, this was a wrong move.

kingpin-netflixThen there are the physical issues. D’Onofrio is in his mid-50s, which seems a little too old for this stage in his and DD’s careers, but that’s a minor point. While D’Onofrio is a large man, 6’3.5″ and barrel-chested, he is nowhere near big enough to fill the Kingpin’s shoes. However, I have to admit that it would be difficult to find someone who is over six-and-a-half feet tall, roughly 450 lbs. of muscle, and have sufficient acting ability to do the character justice. (Btw, Fisk is supposed to be trained in multiple martial arts, sumo being his primary discipline, and the comics often show him working out.) So, that being said, D’Onofrio was probably quite a coup.

Fisk’s character arc, if you can call it that, had two major focuses: 1) dealing with his criminal business associates as they all tried to keep their plans on track; and, 2) figuring out how to attract the lovely art dealer, decide how much to tell her about his business, and then allow himself to be loved (or some such thing). Of course, Murdock vexes Fisk et al. in both of his identities, which was very faithful to the source material. The bit about Fisk’s childhood was, as far as I remember, not in the comics, but it was believable for someone who turned out the way he did, and it served the writers’ apparent purpose of making him a tragic figure. Not sure how I feel about that. What was more interesting was how they gave Fisk a real love for Hell’s Kitchen, much like Murdock’s own, so that he really is trying to help in his own, twisted way.

I don’t think anyone ever called Fisk “(the) Kingpin (of Crime)” in this season of the show — perhaps because he is only beginning to form his criminal empire. If he returns for season 2, perhaps he will then take on that appellation. I also hope that he will begin wearing his trademark white suits and carrying his jewel-topped cane. Those nods to the comics would help fans like myself accept him even more as “The Kingpin”.

Despite my misgivings over areas that break from established comics history & characterization, I greatly enjoyed Netflix’s “Daredevil”. As I said, for these versions of the characters, the performances were fantastic. The story was pretty good (though not great), and I eagerly await the second season, which we already know will include Frank Castle (aka “The Punisher”). Hopefully, we’ll get a few more familiar faces — Bullseye? Elektra? Rosalind Sharpe? Avengers cameo? Keep your fingers crossed….

P.S.  I highly recommend reading the TPB titled Daredevil Legends Vol. II: Born Again (or, just Daredevil: Born Again) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, which reprints one of the best and best-known story arcs for the title and possibly within all of Marvel. One might even call it “iconic” in many respects, in terms of characterization of the main characters — especially Matt/DD and Fisk/Kingpin. (Note, this is the one where Karen betrays Matt by selling his secret identity in exchange for drugs.) There have been other notable runs, of course, but this one is certainly representative of a significant time in Matt/DD’s life and career(s), not to mention Karen’s. It also demonstrates Fisk’s physical size, the size of his empire (at one time, anyway), and just how patient, sadistic, and menacing he can truly be.

Fan-Cast: Daredevil, part 2: Foggy & Karen

Continuing on from last week’s post (not the Leonard Nimoy tribute), I’ve come up with some potential candidates to portray Foggy Nelson and Karen Page in a live-action adaptation of “Daredevil”. (What? There’s already one coming out next month on Netflix? Dang it!) I don’t know if any of them are “perfect”, but I think they’re pretty darn good!

Franklin “Foggy” Nelson

Foggy NelsonFoggy Nelson is Matt Murdock’s best friend from law school, confidante, law partner, boss (when Nelson briefly became District Attorney of New York City), and law partner again. They have been through thick and thin together (no pun intended), including many personal and professional ups & downs. Loyal friend that he is, Nelson also plays the serious “straight man” to Matt’s sometimes impulsive and/or irresponsible side and (once he was in the know) helps to keep Murdock’s secret identity safe. Physically, Nelson has been drawn as ranging from slightly to very “chunky”, though never (to my knowledge) obese. Marvel’s wiki lists him as 5’10”, 220 lbs, so that’s a pretty good place to start. I would broaden the height requirement to between 5’7″ and 6′ (or so).

It’s not enough to just cast a chunky guy for comic relief, else we could get someone like Patton Oswalt (5’3.5″,b.1969) or Jack Black (5’6″,b.1969). (Although, they are also too old for the part and below our height parameter.) Some have suggested Jonah Hill (5’7″,b.1983), but I’m not sure he’s believable in a serious role, especially as a competent attorney. As indicated above, the character goes through a lot, so the actor must be able to do comedy and drama, portraying a range of emotions believably. I considered Sean Murray (6’1.5″,b.1977) from “NCIS”, assuming he would put back on some of that extra weight he had in the early seasons. But, he is just a mite too tall and maybe too old. A pre-Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt might have been a good choice, though I don’t know how much serious drama he has done. (He’s rather buff now, of course, and has his hands full with GotG and possibly an Indiana Jones reboot, among other things.) If we were casting this 10 years ago, I would consider Sean Astin (5’7″,b.1971), whom others have suggested, too. Since we aren’t, I’ve come up with these three, instead:

Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen

That’s right — Seth Rogen (5’11”,b.1982) of Superbad, Pineapple Express, and The Interview fame. I know he usually does comedic stuff, but I think he might actually be able to pull this off, too. He has also been in “Freaks and Geeks”, Donnie Darko, The Green Hornet, and did voice work on things like Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens. I’m not exactly a fan (except for that last movie), but at least he looks the part….

 

 

James Corden

James Corden

I admit, I wasn’t actually aware of James Corden (5’8″,b.1978) until I saw the ads and trailer for Into the Woods a few weeks ago. (Looks like a younger Andy Richter, no?) He’s older than I’d prefer but young-looking. He is a Brit, who has appeared in Heroes and Villains (actually a rom-com), Vampire Killers, Gulliver’s Travels, and “Doctor Who”. Even did a little voice work on Planet 51. I think he’d make a great Foggy Nelson.

 

Josh McDermitt

Josh McDermitt

If you are trying to place Josh McDermitt‘s (6’0.5″,b.1978) face, you are probably a fan of “The Walking Dead”. McDermitt has been playing the “odd” Dr. Eugene Porter — the man who knows the cure — since season 4. He is a stand-up comedian who only started acting a few years ago, but he has been in “Retired at 35” and a comedic video short called “Iron Man 2 Table Read”. Though the same age as Corden, he has also retained his youthful appearance, and I think he could be just right for ol’ Foggy.

Karen Page

Karen Page

Karen Page

Karen Page - daydreamingKaren Page, of course, has a complicated and tragic role in the “Daredevil” mythos. She begins as a sweet, young secretary with a crush on one of her bosses, Matt Murdock. (Of course, Nelson also falls for her.) Often the damsel in distress who gets saved by Daredevil and/or another hero, Page does eventually become romantically involved with Murdock for a while. She later pursues an acting career, but, thanks to bad decisions and bad luck, she falls into prostitution, drug addiction, and pornography. Though she betrays Matt/DD, Murdock reconciles with her. Unfortunately, she is killed by the supervillain Bullseye. Depending on how closely the writers/producers stick to the comics version and how far/quickly into that life-arc the character progresses, there could be plenty of opportunity for an actor to portray (as with Nelson) a great range of emotional situations.

In the issue where Karen is originally introduced by Nelson to Murdock, the latter thinks to himself that she is 5’4″. But, Marvel’s wiki page lists her as 5’7″. That’s a pretty good height range for her, though I considered actors that are shorter (Elisha Cuthbert (5’2.5″,b.1982)) and a couple inches taller (Maggie Grace (5’9″,b.1983)). As for her age, she might be the same age as Murdock and Nelson, but she could also be in her early- to mid-20s when they all meet. One I considered on the younger end of the age range, then, is Margot Robbie (5’6″,b.1990), who recently nabbed the plum role of “Harley Quinn” in the Suicide Squad feature film. One actor who would be great for the role, except that she is already in her early-40s, is Melissa Sagemiller (5’6″,b.1974). (Could easily pass for 5 years younger, though.) So, I would like to present these three for your consideration:

Gillian Jacobs

Gillian Jacobs

Anyone who watches the sitcom “Community” knows the lovely Gillian Jacobs (5’4″,b.1982). As for her genre work, she has appeared in (or done voice work for) “Fringe”, The Box, “Robot Chicken”, “Tiny Commando”, and the “Monsters vs. Aliens” TV series. Though a little on the short side, I think Jacobs could probably handle all aspects of the Karen Page character very well.

 

 

 

Rachael Taylor

Rachael Taylor

Rachael Taylor (5’7.75″,b.1984) first came to my attention in last year’s TV drama “Crisis”, where she played a federal agent. The role of Karen Page would obviously be quite different. But, she has done plenty of other types of roles, including in Transformers, Ghost Machine, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Charlie’s Angels”. And, ironically, Taylor has been cast as Trish Walker (aka Hellcat) in the “A.K.A. Jessica Jones” series that will follow “Daredevil” on Netflix.

 

 

Abbie Cornish

Abbie Cornish

I brought up Abbie Cornish (5’8″,b.1982) before, back when I was fan-casting for Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman. She has appeared in Stop-Loss, Limitless, Sucker Punch, the recent Robocop remake, as well as a number of movies and TV series in her native Australia. Cornish has a pretty good range of work and would likely enjoy delving into the many facets of Karen Page’s life.

 

 

 

What do you think of my choices? Not bad? Suck? One o’ these days, I’ll get around to fan-casting Daredevil’s main villains (e.g., Bullseye, Kingpin, Typhoid Mary) and other supporting characters (e.g., Elektra, Rosalind Sharpe), though many of them cross over with the Spider-Man “universe”. But, at least I got the central players done.

See ya next week!

Fan-Cast: Daredevil, part 1

Daredevil_65

I really like Daredevil. He may not have made my “Top 5 Marvel Heroes” list, but as I said at the end of that post, he would definitely be in the next five. To me, he is an interesting combination of Batman (i.e., normal human strength & speed; martial artist; “dark”, street-level hero) and Spider-Man (i.e., regular guy w/ regular problems; enhanced sense(s); swings around and quips while he fights). Actually, Nightwing might be a closer match at DC, though he isn’t quite as “dark” & brooding as his mentor. Of course, they all have tragic pasts, too.

When I heard about Marvel’s plans to produce a Daredevil series as part of their deal with Netflix, I was thrilled. One would think a Daredevil TV series would have been produced long ago, since he generally fights mobsters and gangsters (and their costumed henchmen). The only superpower that needs to be demonstrated with F/X on a regular basis is DD’s radar sense. Anyway, we’re finally getting it. Yay! I have my usual doubts and reservations about getting a suitably faithful adaptation. But, the news I’m hearing makes me optimistic.

Since that show is coming out in a few weeks (April 10th), I wanted to get my own fan-casting (for either a small- or big-screen Daredevil) on the record. Today, I’ll look at Daredevil himself, as well as his mysterious teacher, Stick.

Daredevil

daredevil-out-101777Matt Murdock is Daredevil, “The Man Without Fear”. When he was 12, a selfless act resulted in his coming in direct contact with a radioactive isotope that took his sight but heightened his other senses to a superhuman degree and granted him a unique “radar sense”. Years later, when he was about to graduate law school, Matt’s boxer father, “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock, was murdered for refusing to take a dive in a fixed fight. Matt used his martial arts and acrobatic training to track down those responsible and administer some vigilante justice. It wasn’t until years later, after he had established a law career, that Matt became harshly aware of the imperfections of the criminal justice system. When not working within the system with his best friend and law partner, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, Matt works outside the system as the costumed crimefighter known as “Daredevil”.

Over the years, different writers have had different ideas of how to portray Matt/DD for the stories they wanted to tell. (Same can be said for most characters, I suppose.) Some have made him a very dark and troubled soul, consumed by personal tragedy and the harshness of the crime & corruption all around him, while others kept the character “serious” but injected him and the stories with some lighthearted humor. I prefer the latter. There have also been a number of costumes worn by DD at different times in his career, but I much prefer the “classic” all-red version (as depicted above). Physically, Matt/DD is a white guy, approximately 6′ tall, with red or reddish-blonde hair and the muscular build of a world-class gymnast/martial artist. Obviously, the hair color can be altered, but the overall build must be there. Age-wise, given that Matt had already been in practice for a while prior to becoming Daredevil, any adaptation that begins with that origin (or shortly thereafter) should star someone who is (or can pass for) late-20s to early-30s.

A couple actors I considered for Matt/DD but who are too old are Michael Vartan (6′,b.1968) of “Alias” and Matthew Fox (6’2″,b.1966) of “Lost”. I even considered Matt Bomer (5’11.5″,b.1977) of “White Collar”, but he’s also a few years too old. (How did I get two Matt(hew)s in there?) I considered Niall Matter (6′,b.1980) of “Eureka” but decided he wasn’t quite right. Possibly my favorite choice is Stephen Amell (6’1″,b.1981). He clearly has the physique and can play a somewhat brooding hero. If he wasn’t already starring in the very popular “Arrow” series, he’d be at the top of my list. That brings me to the remaining three finalists:

Dylan Bruce

Dylan Bruce

Currently seen on cult-hit show “Orphan Black”, Dylan Bruce (6′,b.1980) has also appeared in “Arrow”, “NCIS”, Unstoppable, and starred in the made-for-cellphones spin-off of the TV series “24”, “24: Conspiracy”. He definitely has the look and physicality needed for a believable portrayal of Matt Murdock / Daredevil. (I should add this guy to my list for Batman, too.)

Patrick Heusinger

Patrick Heusinger

I’m pretty sure I remember Patrick Heusinger (6′,b.1981) from the late, lamented “Revolution” TV series. He has appeared in many other shows, including “Castle”, “Bones”, and a couple “Law & Order” series. He will also play the titular character in the upcoming “Tin Man” TV movie. Again, he has the right build and could do a great job as Matt/DD.

Luke Mitchell

Luke Mitchell

You may know Luke Mitchell (6’1″,b.1985) from the recently-canceled U.S. version of “The Tomorrow People”, and he was just cast for a new role in the 2nd half of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”‘s second season. The youngest of our three candidates, Mitchell is an Aussie who also co-starred in Cryptopticon and was a recurring character in “H2O: Just Add Water”. He has proven himself up for very physical roles and would be a great choice for our fearless hero.

I opted not to go with all shirtless pics of these guys. But, do a quick Google search of your own, and you’ll see they are in great shape!

Stick

Stick, version 1

Stick, version 1

Stick, version 2

Stick, version 2

Then, of course, to stay faithful to the source material of Matt/DD’s history, we need to have “Stick” — enigmatic, blind “bum”/janitor who teaches our hero martial arts and how to use his enhanced senses better. Stick is blind, too, but trained himself to use his other senses to compensate, even developing a slightly superhuman acuteness. Stick is also a master martial artist, who Matt/DD (and readers) eventually discovers is leader of an elite order of warriors known as the Chaste. It has been a while since I read any stories with Stick, but I seem to remember that he could be rather tough on Matt, and his sense of humor was a bit acerbic. Sometimes he seems to be drawn a bit younger, but I’m pretty sure he is supposed to be in his 80s. (Though very fit and spry, of course.) He is characteristically slim, though that is not where his nickname comes from. (It is from the omnipresent staff he uses to fight with.) Marvel’s wiki page lists him as 5’9”, 135 lbs., so it’s easy to underestimate him until one sees him in action.

I definitely think any candidate for this role should at least be in his 60s, but 70s would be better. Actual martial arts moves would be done by a stunt double, but the actor should be able to “sell it” that they are a nimble, ninja master. He should be relatively slim, but I don’t think the height matters too much. Anywhere from 5’6″ to 6′ or so would be fine. Personally, I think the casting of Scott Glenn (6′,b.1941) in the upcoming Netflix series is a great one. He fits the bill. (Terence Stamp wasn’t bad in Elektra, either, but he didn’t have the characteristic gruffness.) But, I wanted to throw out a couple candidates of my own, so…

Believe it or not, the first person I came up with was Bruce Weitz (5’8″,b.1943), perhaps best known for portraying slightly-psycho Sgt. Mick Belker on ’80s cop show “Hill Street Blues”. Of course, he also has some genre experience on such shows as “The Twilight Zone”, “Highlander”, “Lois & Clark”, “The X-Files”, and voices for “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Superman”. I suppose it was his height and gruffness as Belker that made me think of him. The near-legendary Rutger Hauer (6’1″,b.1944) is known to genre fans as the synthetic “Roy Blatty” in Blade Runner. He has had many other genre roles in things like Nighthawks, Ladyhawke, The Hitcher, Blind Fury (in which he pretty much played a younger version of “Stick”), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The 10th Kingdom”, and he can currently be seen in “True Blood”. As I was finishing this up, I came across someone else’s suggestion of Lance Henriksen (5’10.25″,b.1940) and decided I liked it enough to include it here, too. Henriksen has appeared in countless genre productions, ranging from great to terrible, including The Terminator, Aliens, Hard Target, “Millennium”, as well as several animated series, movies, and video games. I think any of these guys would make Stick a memorable character in a live-action production.

Bruce Weitz

Bruce Weitz

Rutger Hauer

Rutger Hauer

Lance Henriksen

Lance Henriksen

Last minute addition: How about Clint Eastwood (6’4″,b.1930)?

Next week, I’ll tackle supporting characters “Foggy” Nelson and Karen Page. (I’ll save Ben Urich for when I fan-cast for Spider-Man and family and friends.)

Marvel’s Flawed Heroes of Hell’s Kitchen

In case you missed it, a new, live-action series of Marvel superheroes is brewing over at Netflix and will begin filming in New York this summer (2014). As per Nerd Jedi, the new project will be produced as “four serialized programs totaling 52 one-hour episodes culminating in a four to eight episode mini-series programming event.” Each 13-episode arc will feature one of Marvel’s “darker” heroes based in and around Manhattan’s “Hell’s Kitchen” district, known for its seedy, dangerous atmosphere. Which heroes? Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones. Ol’ hornhead (DD), the Man Without Fear, will be first at bat, because, well… he’s fearless. Jones, Fist, and Cage will follow.

Defenders quad - Marvel NetflixThe first report I read made it sound as if this is a single series with separate character-oriented story-arcs, but a single title was not given. Interestingly, IMDB has separate entries for each of the three male characters, as if they will be separate series. (What about Jones?) I guess it remains to be seen how they will be marketed — either separately or under the “Defenders” banner.

The miniseries will have the four heroes team up. This makes sense, given their common area of operation. Plus, Cage and Iron Fist often teamed in the comics as “Heroes for Hire”, and Cage eventually dated and had a child with Jones. I’m guessing that this is when they will first be called “The Defenders”.

If you are unfamiliar with the characters, here’s the summary from the AP release:

“In the Marvel world, Daredevil is the superhero identity of Matt Murdock, who is blind but whose other senses are extra-human. Jessica Jones is a former superhero now working as a private detective. Luke Cage was wrongly imprisoned and gained his powers unexpectedly in an experiment. Iron Fist is the superhero identity of Daniel Rand, who has amazing martial arts abilities.”

As it happens, I am familiar with the characters and, while they may not be my favorites, I do like them and am excited to hear that they will finally get their shot(s) at the screen. I’m just a little ambivalent about whether I like the idea of them going (first) to the small screen. Daredevil, of course, already had his shot at the big screen (2003) — to mixed reviews. I liked it OK, but it wasn’t exactly satisfying. Maybe a TV version is the way to go, this time. I would like to see a Luke Cage or Luke Cage / Iron Fist (aka “Heroes for Hire”) movie, but maybe these series could lead up to it. As for Jones, she isn’t a “big” (i.e., well-known and/or important) enough character to warrant a feature film of her own, but I can see her being included as a supporting character. Having a 13-episode run to introduce our ex-superhero/private detective to a larger audience is probably a good move. Plus, the advantage for all of them is that there is more time to develop the characters — their personalities, histories, abilities, relationships, etc. (I guess I am warming up to the idea of this series. (Or, series of series?))

Personally, what I would rather see is a “Marvel Knights” series (either TV or movies) starring Daredevil, Luke Cage, Punisher, Moon Knight, and Ghost Rider (done right, this time), maybe with rotating membership and guest stars like Elektra, Cloak & Dagger, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Black Widow, and Wolverine. Sigh! A boy can dream, right?

We likely won’t see any of the new Marvel/Netflix stuff until at least 2015, probably 2016. (There are conflicting reports.) Then, “the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming.” But, I for one look forward to whatever they put out — as long as it is a quality product, with good casting and scripts, and is faithful to the source material — and I hope it’s a sign of more to come!