This whole “let’s do The Avengers on Netflix” thing? It’s not working as well as it should, but the culprit isn’t what I expected.

Showrunner Marco Ramirez and his screenwriters have successfully melded together these characters’ little worlds. Our heroes have a definite spark when they’re together. The stunt-casted villain did enough to hold our attention before going away. The narrative has dipped into some of the same team-up tropes as The Avengers, but not in a carbon copy kind of way where it all feels overly familiar. The pace has been suitably engaging, even if the last episode started to show signs of a lull. And they’ve done enough to establish that this experience is helping each of our heroes move on from the lingering drama from their most recent solo adventures.

But, damn, this show is being let down by its directors. Part of the problem coming into The Defenders is that Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage each have their own unique visual identities as shows (not so much Iron Fist, the most malleable of the bunch). S.J. Clarkson chose to use character-specific color filters and matchcutting to compensate for that in the first two episodes, and settled in on quick shots of subway trains and skyscrapers for scene transitions to give us the feel of traveling quickly from one part of New York to another. It wasn’t always successful, but that’s the visual identity she chose for The Defenders.

The episodes since then, though, haven’t emphasized that nearly as much, instead leaning toward more traditional styles of shooting (some of kept up her scene transition device, some haven’t). Then Felix Enriquez Alcala (a longtime TV director with 12 episodes of ER and 18 episodes of Criminal Minds on his resume) brought it all back (and then some) in “Fish in the Jailhouse,” and just couldn’t help himself with a free roaming camera that repeatedly botched basic conversation scenes and some epic fight sequences which looked more like he was straining to hide the obvious stunt people doubling for our heroes and villains.

defenders-1280-3-1503076321657_400w.jpg

It adds up to make The Defenders feel a tad inconsistent and lacking in visual direction, obstructing what should be some fairly epic confrontations. Madame Gao just threw down, ala Yoda in the Attack of the Clones, and it was so choppy you couldn’t follow any of it. Elektra and Iron Fist had a potential fight for the ages that instead indulged in endless slow-mo shots of her cape. Although, I have to admit, it is outright hilarious to see Danny mouthing off about discipline and loyalty only to then be suckered into a fight designed to piss him off, unleash his chi and open the portal to K’un-Lun for The Hand.

He’s…well, I’ve said it before in these reviews, but he’s just the worst.

With one episode to go, I fear The Defenders has lost the plot at this point, setting Elektra up as the true supervillain for, um, reasons, continually making vague references to some threat to the city and bending over backwards to throw in lines about family and “foundation” to Fast & Furious their way into making these people a team. Luke and Jessica still don’t feel like they completely belong in this story (neither does Misty Knight). Now Colleen’s gonna blow the fucker down, and sure, why not.

But I can work with all of that as long as these characters are fun together, and they absolutely are. It’s the directors who are dropping the ball.

On the bright side, because of “Jailhouse” I got to see Jessica Jones toss a giant cinder block at a little old lady who tore it in half using just her mind (essentially). That’s pretty damn cool.

THE NOTES I WROTE WHILE WATCHING THE EPISODE

Defenders Fish2.png

  1. Misty once had an entire episode where she interrogated someone the audience knew to be completely innocent, and by the end she attacked that person (who was still in police custody) and got into serious trouble. It’s about time for people to start letting her in on some of these secrets because she’s been looking far too foolish for too long.
  2. Looks like the odd camera angles are back this episode.
  3. New Elektra has lost her patience for The Hand’s bullshit. She’s not alone.
  4. “Super Joan Jett” – Yeah, Foggy, that is the perfect description of Jessica.
  5. This Matt/Jessica/Luke “legal advice” pow-wow is an orgy of choppy editing and awkward camera movements.
  6. Jessica’s the type of girl who will steal a beer from a homeless man, God love her.
  7. And the cops aren’t immediately questioning Luke, Jessica and Matt’s friends, why?
  8. “There it is again” – Some of this banter really isn’t landing.
  9. This Danny-Elektra fight scene is oddly obsessed with her coat.
  10. I’m still not getting Elektra’s motivation other than self-preservation and Lazarus Pit/Pet Cemetary-style “the substance brings them back wrong”
  11. Madame Gao fighting- greater than, lesser than or equal to Yoda fighting in Attack of the Clones?
  12. Don’t know how to feel about The Defenders treating Foggy and Karen like Matt’s AA sponsors who mean well but are kind of just plot obstacles (until Foggy gave him that suit).

FAVORITE LINE

Colleen: “And he will tell that to anyone who will listen” – Yeah, she’s not wrong. Danny’s long overdue for some discretion in the “I am the immortal Iron Fist” area.

On to the final episode. I’ll be adding reviews for each episode all weekend. You can follow along here.

Advertisements

Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

14 Comments

  1. […] to episode 7. I’ll be adding reviews for each episode all weekend. You can follow along […]

    Reply

  2. I really agree with you about the crappy camera work during the fight scenes. DD both seasons handled it so much better. I also agree that much of the dialog is falling flat.

    And I’m really, really hating Misty. All she ever does is treat people like they’re the worst kind of criminal and then turn around and say, “Come on, help me out here!”.

    And I also don’t understand how no one seems to be able say or understand: “The people we’re fighting are super hero level bad guys. This is NOT something the police can handle. Let us handle it. Listen, Misty, I’m really just trying to make sure you don’t die. Or lose an arm. If anyone can stop these guys it’s us. Now let us go!”

    Reply

    1. The cops were used as plot obstacles on Luke Cage, but they kind of stopped mattering in Daredevil season 2 or Iron Fist and were largely ineffectual on Jessica Jones. As such, I wasn’t quite expecting them to pop up so much in The Defenders, and their bullshit talk of being the NYPD and capable of handling the problem just seems so hollow when you already know about everything that has happened in the entire MCU and even just in this little corner of their universe. However, I guess they wanted to really stress that The Defenders are committing acts of domestic terrorism. They’re crossing a line they need to think about.

      Of course, that would have matterd more if the season finale hadn’t totally walked all of that back and let them off the hook, but I don’t actually want to see them in prison or going through legal defenes. Just move on and put this crap behind them.

      Reply

  3. Maybe the defenders should have been 1 episode or a 2 parter like the flash. Sounds to me. Like a running series is messing up each loyal fanbase. Avengers movies only work in small does too. One went very well but 2 showed lightening cant be caught in a botrle twoce. Im not sold that avengers 3 will be any better despite thw hype. So 10 episodes of defenders is a mighty challenge. Think i will conrinue with game of thrones and amerkcan gods rather than invest in the marvel wagon.

    Reply

    1. The Defenders isn’t perfect, but it still has its moments. It’s a generally fun show, more so if you grade it on a curve and understand that it’s less like a TV show and more like an 8-episode version of one of those hyped up Arrow-Flash-Legends-Supergirl crossover events. But it’s also damn frustrating, and I really wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to skip it and stick with GoT and American Gods.

      Reply

  4. I agree with you about the Directors, but I also blame the screen writers. There are too many scenes regarding the hand which don’t really establish anything new about it or repeat what we already know. There are too many scenes in which the Defenders (safe for Jessica) are holding the idiot ball for no reason whatsoever. For example you could have easily solved the problem with getting Danny to open the door if you had ensured that he doesn’t know that he is in front of said door when fighting. It is a wall after all. If Elektra had pretended that he is there to give her information about the writing, him using his Chi wouldn’t be as idiotic. (Matt isn’t any better, I can’t believe that he left Danny tied up with Stick of all people or how often he abandons the others in order to chase after Elektra…also, Luke has no reason whatsoever to not tell Misty what is going on. She is already hunting the hand, keeping her in the dark is just endangering her further).

    There is a lot of stuff in the show I feel would have worked better with a quick rewrite, some small tweaks and even some reshuffling of scenes to another place.

    Also….I HATE how they use the music in some of the fight scenes. The was it just randomly starts and then stops makes it more distracting than elevating.

    Yeah, despite my grievances with the scripts, the directors are ironically the biggest problem in this….

    Still like the show overall, btw. It is for me like Spider-man and Wonder Woman. It is good, but it frustrates me because it could be so much better.

    Reply

    1. I agree with all of your complaints except Matt leaving the others to fight (and turn?) Electra.

      I DO fault him, however, with not explaining it this way, “Look, Electra is the deadliest of the bunch. It was much better for me to get her away from the rest of you so you could handle the thugs while I battled her. And, yes, I was also trying to convince her that we’re not her enemies. But mainly I kept her from killing you all. You’re welcome!”

      Or something like that.

      Reply

      1. He should have told them what he knew about the Black Sky from the get go.

      2. If I remember correctly, there was a lot Matt didn’t tell Karen and Foggy in season 2. So, maybe he just hasn’t shaken that, hasn’t moved on from a default mode of always preferring to go it alone and hold all of his cards close to the chest. Obviously, he should have told the team about Elektra, Black Sky and Midland, but the bigger question is whether or not it’s believable that he wouldn’t. I go back and forth on that. It does seem to fly in the face of him having apparently learned his lesson and finally bringing Karen in on his secrets at the end of season 2.

    2. “Also….I HATE how they use the music in some of the fight scenes. The was it just randomly starts and then stops makes it more distracting than elevating.”

      The music, in general, was fairly blah and uninspired throughout the whole series, although I liked the jaunty score underscoring Jessica and Daredevil’s Spy vs. Spy segment. But the music during the fight scenes was especially disappointing. I still haven’t figured out the rhyme or reason behind why Luke Cage hip-hop music occasionally pops in there out of nowhere, like in the final fight.

      Reply

      1. You know, that was something which angered me about Iron Fist already….this kind of rap sometimes Hip-hop music is pretty slow. This is pretty much the WORST kind of music you can put on a fight scene. Test it out, put fast music on a movement and it looks faster than it actually is. But if you put slow music on it, it looks forward. That is why the Mortal Combat music is so incredible fast (with the scream punctuating it at the end), it is practically made for a fast fight sequence which ends on an impressive pose.

      2. So, clearly someone needs to take The Defenders fight scenes and re-cut them using the Mortal Kombat music. I would watch that but that’s also just because I really love that Mortal Kombat dance song, even though others find it supremely annoying.

      3. Excellent idea. Wait the first one or annialation? Coz if 2nd one forget it.

      4. First one, of course.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s