Best Marvel Defenders Season So Far

MarvelsDefenders

Unlike their Avengers brethren on the big screen, the Marvels Defenders on Netflix don’t get all that much attention. This is probably partially because these Netflix Original series are more “adult,” which limits the audience to a more “mature” viewers. They also don’t have the advertising budget of the blockbuster films.

However, if your parents say it’s okay for you to partake in the Defenders’ heavier use of blood, sex, and substance abuse, you should give the Marvel-Netflix Originals a chance. Here’s a mostly spoiler-free break down of how I’d rank each season of that’s out so far (as of May of 2018):

Last Place (Unfortunately)

FinnJonesIronFistGreenhand

Iron Fist, Season One

Sorry, to kick a show when it’s down, but—

Although I like Danny Rand’s positive attitude, the first season of Iron Fist is easily the weakest of the Defenders series. The most glaring problems are the fight scenes. The Iron Fist is supposed to be a kung fu master. He should be fast, fluid, and visceral. While I applaud Finn Jones’ effort and fitness, the show fails to deliver a punch in its fight choreography.

With the public’s years of exposure to Jackie Chan’s stunt work and Jet Li’s more-authentic skill, it’s hard to watch Iron Fist‘s snail-slow choreography and buy Finn Jones as an elite kung fu master. They should’ve used more camera tricks and worked the Foley stage to mask Jones’ inexperience in martial arts.

I read somewhere that Jones was rushed through training and filming, so he and the stunt team couldn’t get the fight scenes done right. I hope that’s true, so after however many months, Jones can have a fair chance to make a better showing in the second season.

Overall, I’d still watch this season if you’re enough of a Marvel Cinematic Universe nerd (or simply love the Knight of Flowers).

Fourth Place: 

DaredevilSeasonTwo

Daredevil, Season Two

While watching this season, I found the two “parallel” story lines to be drastically different in tone and quality. In short, the bits with the Punisher was good while the parts focusing on Elektra was not so good.

With a quick Google search, I found the likely reason: The season had two showrunners who, I can only assume, worked with too much independence. They weren’t careful enough with pacing and cohesiveness of the season overall.  The story with Elektra, however, leads into the Defenders crossover, though. So perhaps the showrunners were being pulled in too many directions.

If you ask me, the flashbacks concerning Elektra’s past were shown too late. They should have built up sympathy for her much earlier so the viewers would not be so annoyed with her. As it is, Elektra’s tossed into the story in a very slapdash way, and we’re force fed some kind of supposed chemistry between her and the Daredevil. It didn’t quite work.

Third Place:

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Jessica Jones, Season One

To put it bluntly, I think Jessica Jones kind of got screwed over in terms of budget for the first season. Although I can’t find any clear evidence, I found some circumstantial evidence: The first seasons for all four superheroes plus the crossover were supposed to split a $200 million budget, and Daredevil ate up $56 by himself. The variety and quality of the sets on Jones makes it seem like an indie film in contrast to Daredevil, which came out first, and Luke Cage which came out a little later. A huge number of the scenes and property damage in Jones was limited to her one-bedroom apartment (which, by the way, is much crappier than Daredevil’s big ass loft/studio).

So despite having a solid story about Jones getting over some serious trauma paired with strong performances by the actors, I think the budget (although maybe the production was also rushed like Iron Fist) made Jones’ first season lack the luster it deserved.

Although, David Tennant does a great job playing a character whose face I want to punch whenever he shows up. Pft. Kilgrave.

Second Place:

I’m going to cheat and go with a three-way tie: Jessica Jones, Season Two; Luke Cage, Season One; and The Punisher, Season One

The pacing and apparent production value for the second season of Jessica Jones totally outshines the first. The story has more hooks and barrels forward with more momentum than the first (despite or because of the general lack of David Tennant’s character; I guess Kilgrave, and what he does, makes me uncomfortable).

LukeCage

Luke Cage is awesome, due in no small part to his much-more-impressive superpowers. However, the soundtrack, plot, and tone all work together to make the series very engrossing.

ThePunisher

The Punisher, although he’s not technically a Defender, has a great first season. It, like the other second-place seasons, hooks you from start to end. They provide some great action while building a lot of sympathy for the hard-ass protagonist.

All three of these shows touch upon subjects that, outside of fiction, may be difficult to discuss. Jessica Jones is a survivor rape and tons of other sources of trauma;  Luke Cage is wrongfully incarcerated and, as many have noted, is in a show about a bulletproof black man released in the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement; and The Punisher deals issues veterans face (e.g., PTSD, being and feeling discarded after their service). However, the shows don’t harp too much on these social and political issues. It’s all subtle enough that you can simply enjoy entertaining stories about over-the-top heroes (and anti-heroes).

First Place:

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Daredevil, Season One

The first season is leagues better than the second. I think it’s because it doesn’t have to worry so much about leading into the Defenders crossover as its second season (AKA one of many problems Iron Fist had to deal with). The action in this season is arguably the best in all of the Defenders, with a prime example being the should-be-famous one-shot fight scene from the very first episode.

This first season also benefits from having characters who are smart. They generally make decisions which are well thought out and they speak in a manner that exudes some measure of intellect (this contrasts with the first season of Jessica Jones where people make decisions without thinking and communication is almost non-existent). The season also leans heavily on the charismatic Kingpin, played by Vincent D’Onofrio (I lay most of this out in my so-called review of the season from way back when).

Apparently, I like violence followed by pretentious dialogue.

Full disclosure: I may have a bias for Daredevil because I’m also a handsome attorney who spends too much time in a side hustle. He fights crime with his superhuman senses, and I sit around writing crap no one reads. It’s the same.

Bonus Note: Each Defender show uses the character’s designated color throughout their scenes: red for Daredevil, purple for Jessica Jones, yellow for Luke Cage, and green for Iron Fist. Although the colors are noticeable in Daredevil and Jones, I feel it’s not overdone. Yellow lights are pretty common in real life, so it’s all but unnoticeable in Luke CageIron Fist, however, totally flushes too much out with green. C’mon, Fist team.

 

 

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Avengers: Infinity War – Movie Review

Avengers Infinity War.jpg

Seems as good a time as any to feel like a drop in the ocean, so I’m going to throw my opinions about the latest Marvel film at the internet.

Although the first Infinity War is less of a standalone, and packs less of an emotional punch than other Marvel films, it’s still entertaining. I’ll explain:

*SPOILER WARNING* – If you are caught up on the films or simply don’t care about spoilers, please read on.

Standalone or stepping stone

Obviously, every Marvel film is part of a greater, ongoing universe so they should naturally feed into one another to keep the momentum for the “series.” They aren’t supposed to be single-shots. However, I believe all of the earlier movies have strong “standalone” qualities; the films individually carry their own story arcs, resolving them before the credits roll.

Even the prior Avengers crossovers provide full story arcs. The characters have internal and external problems at the start, we’re given time to see the problems and potential solutions come to a boil, and then there’s a climax and resolution where most problems are solved and the characters are shown to have grown.

With Avengers: Infinity War, the character development is lacking, relying more on the viewers’ knowledge of past films than ever, and the movie ends in the middle of the rising action. Obviously, this was intentional, since Disney and the Russo brothers plan to spread the story arc over two Infinity War films (with an Ant-Man sequel and Captain Marvel debut in-between). So, with Infinity War, they wrap up Part One by crushing our heroes with major setbacks.

Side Note: This is essentially what was famously done by The Empire Strikes Back, but unlike Empire, I doubt Infinity War will be ever be referred to as being the best of the series.

Ultimately, Infinity War is unique as being the only MCU film to lack a full story arc. It probably also has the largest proportion of movie-goers thinking “WTF?” at the end (I haven’t seen such a response since watching The Fellowship of the Ring in a theater where some folks didn’t know they were only watching the first in a trilogy).

Personally, I’m fine that the movie is more a part of a series than it is a standalone. I’ve been trained since the days Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to be okay with waiting a year or so for the next film. The folks at Disney are becoming experts at intermittently releasing films to build and maintain interest. So, although there are many unresolved threads, I’m still fine with waiting for the wrap-up, especially since we’ll have two other MCU films in the interim.

Death everywhere, but not a tear to drop

Okay, I don’t think I’ve actually shed a tear while watching a Marvel movie, but I’ll admit I’ve come close. With Black Panther, I’m driven to near-tears every time I see Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan; Seth Carr) going up to the apartment to find what happened to his father. Guardian of the Galaxy Vol 2. also got me pretty good when Peter Quill learns the details of his mother’s death. Going back to Phase One movies, I’m also moved when the scrawny Steve Rogers dives on the grenade in The First Avenger.

With Infinity War, we’re treated to a high death count. Try as I might to delve into some sympathy and empathy, I wasn’t quite as affected as I would’ve liked.

In the opening scene, we see slaughtered Asgardians and the fan-beloved Loki choked to death. I felt almost nothing. I was busy thinking, “Dude, we just saw these guys get saved at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. And where the hell is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and that rock guy (Taika Waititi)? Are they all just dead now after Bones/Eomer (Karl Urban) sacrificed himself for them?”

Well, I also thought “Nooooo!” when Heimdall (Idris Elba) was stabbed in the heart, but that was about it. I’d already seen Loki die before, so–yeah.

Perhaps the lack of emotion also has to do with the rushed pacing of the movie. There’s so much to get through, the scenes fly by, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) doesn’t get a fair chance to relay his pain to the audience.

I’m going to take a risk and say the lack of tears is, perhaps, partially because of the men at the helm. For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s work on Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War (it’s probably largely because of their success with Winter Soldier that Captain America didn’t shrink into more of a background character). They do great with the cloak-and-dagger stories, evoking certain emotions featuring the brotherhood between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and certain types of comedy. However, they don’t seem as proficient with the use of pathos in their work.

Then again, getting people to cry probably isn’t the main objective in these movies.

Awkward woman VS woman combat

The movie seems to go out of its way to force the only female villain, Proxima (Carrie Coon), to fight the female heroes. I’ll concede there are instances where they mix it up a bit, most notably in Scotland. However, the film quickly establishes an awkward C-story between Proxima and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson).

This seems to be the result of using a dated mechanic: forcing female characters to fight each other, insulated from the males in rather contrived manners. This issue is most noticeable when Proxima faces off against Black Widow, Okoye, and Scarlet Witch at the same time. The Winter Soldier and Cap aren’t that far away at the moment, so why don’t they go after Proxima? I’m pretty sure the answer is, “All-girl Fight,” preceded by a shrug.

Fan Theory Zone

I generally don’t like to go too much into fan theorizing, but I feel compelled to make a few comments:

  1. Cheating with a bit of meta knowledge, the fact that certain movies have already been announced and certain actors are contracted for more films, a lot of the characters who “die” in the movie aren’t really dead forever (e.g., there are supposed to be more Spider-man and Guardians movies, and I don’t think those would work very well without Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as Spider-man and Star-Lord).
  2. I assume, with Chris Evans’ apparent insistence not to contract for more movies, the only character who is more guaranteed to be “truly” killed off by the end of the Infinity War is Captain America. Many other folks will likely be brought back.
  3. Dr. Strange saw all the possible futures, including one in which the good guys won; he probably had a very specific reason to make sure Tony Stark, of all the folks present, is left alive. So, it’s probably a future where Stark somehow makes it so the characters wiped out at the end of this movie aren’t quite gone.
  4. Thanos’ goal is to get rid of half the population of all civilizations so that the civilizations can continue to exist and not overuse their resources. Maybe what he does by snapping his fingers isn’t to kill everyone, but to separate them into two alternate realities. That would halve the population, like he wants. Or maybe he sends half the population into a state of limbo. Why wouldn’t he just use his all-powerful gauntlet to create infinite resources and make everyone happy? He’s called the Mad Titan for a reason; he has to accomplish his goal (halving the population), but he doesn’t have to do it in the way people expect. At any rate, I think all the people who turned to ash at the end of Infinity War weren’t really killed in the normal sense.

Despite all the critiques I might have, I still found Avengers: Infinity War to be entertaining and I will continue to give all my money to Disney. The only problem is when I re-watch this movie, I’ll feel like I have to immediately go on to the next one because this movie offers no closure whatsoever.

Luke Cage! I’ll binge-watch you soon enough.

luke-cage-netflix-premiereDespite the somewhat disappointing Jessica Jones and second season of Daredevil, I’ve been looking forward to Luke Cage. The trailer they dropped a while ago did its job hyping me up to see Cage become a Hero for Hire (and beat a bunch of bad guys up in the process). So much bulletproof awesomeness.

Still, I somehow managed to forget about the launch of the series until NPR, of all things, reminded me it was available for streaming TODAY. When I heard the piece on the radio (discussing mostly race, the creation and evolution of Luke Cage, and how his bulletproof skin brings up certain thoughts in relation to current events), I was in the midst of running errands. I was too busy to rush home and watch.

I’m about to go out right now, too, so it doesn’t look like I’ll  get through a single episode tonight. I’ll probably burn through half of the episodes tomorrow, though. Then, perhaps, I can find some time to share my thoughts about the Defenders shows (Cage, Jones, Daredevil). Hm—I also have to finish blogging about my previous travels before I start traveling again.

Eh, one thing at a time. Luke Cage!

Note: I enjoyed Daredevil‘s second season and Jessica Jones but they weren’t as good as the first season of Daredevil (I really liked it).

Mini life update: I’ve been fairly busy working on re-writing last year’s NaNoWriMo project; I signed up for a writing class with UCLA Extension; and I’m setting things up to work abroad in 2017.

So, I Binge-watched Daredevil on Netflix

Daredevil Promo ImageMarvel has been knocking it out of the park with just about every addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Netflix has done similarly with their lineup of original series. Daredevil, which is part of the MCU as well as a Netflix original series, is no exception—the show is good.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel character, Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who uses his other heightened senses to moonlight as a masked vigilante. Matt has a sort of radar sense that gives him great awareness of his surroundings (e.g., placement and movement of objects, people’s heart rates and body temperatures).

It’s satisfying to watch the titular character flip around and kick countless amounts of asses. Beyond the physical action, there’s plenty of character development and non-combat tension. What I found impressive was the show’s success in developing the antagonists which sometimes left me rooting for the bad guys. As it should be, however, I ultimately wanted Matt Murdock to prevail.

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Two Seasons of Arrow, Seven Women for Oliver Queen

If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Arrow, this post will have some *SPOILERS* (come to think of it, the title is kind of a spoiler already—oh well).

After some Arrow bingeing on Netflix, I discussed the cast of characters with my friend who thought the show forcibly added attractive women into the cast and didn’t know what to do with them (story-wise). In that friend’s opinion, a lot of the female characters are underdeveloped.

This prompted me to list the main and recurring characters to see how many characters were of either sex. With just the characters off the top of my head, I found there were more male characters than female: seventeen men, and thirteen women. What I found most interesting was that of the thirteen female characters on my list, Oliver Queen—the show’s protagonist—sleeps with six of them and is romantically interested in a seventh.

1. Dinah Laurel Lance, Esq.: Oliver dated her prior to the start of the show and they have some relapses during Season 1 (poor Tommy).

2. Dinah Sara Lance/Canary: Oliver cheats on Laurel with her sister in flashbacks, and when Sara returns on the island, and as the Canary, there’s a bit of something going on there.

3. Felicity Smoak: It’s been demonstrated that they at least have crushes on one another—Felicity lets it slip that she imagined Oliver holding her, and that she likes watching him do that pull-up-cross-fit-y exercise (looked it up—it’s called the Salmon Ladder), and she’s also jealous when Oliver’s with other women; and Oliver is super jealous of Barry Allen when Felicity is all smitten with the Flash-to-be.

Caity Lotz as Sara Lance aka Black Canary - Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance - Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak

Canary, Laurel Lance, and Felicity Smoak

4. Helena Bertenelli/The Huntress: Arrow sleeps with his fellow masked vigilante.

5. Detective McKenna Hall: A female detective showed up, so he had to date her.

6. Shado: Oliver’s island-flashback relationship in Season 2. Why have Oliver be taught archery by a man when you can kill that man off and let Oliver roll in the sand with his daughter?

7. Isabel Rochev: Yay, Summar Glau’s here—oh, well, couldn’t stop Oliver from getting all up on her for too long.

The Huntress, Detective Hall, Shado, and Isabel Rochev

The Huntress, Detective Hall, Shado, and Isabel Rochev

To be fair, the character of Oliver Queen is a billionaire playboy in the comics, so Arrow giving the guy so many romantic interests stays true to the source material (and, I suppose in real life, lots of people date seven or more people within two years).

Notably, John Diggle also has two romantic interests on the show: his brother’s widow, and his own ex-wife, both of whom aren’t very developed as characters. When I tried to come up with a list of shallow male characters who exist primarily as love interests for a main female character, I couldn’t come up with anything (Roy Harper, Robert Queen, and Walter Steele are considerably significant characters).

Overall, though, you can’t say that Arrow capitalizes on women’s looks alone:

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper.

Superhero Movies! Marvel VS DC

Batman VS Superman Dawn of Justice - Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Henry CavillSuperhero films are big money and a whole lot of fun. All the relevant film studios have been cleaning house, more or less, over the past fifteen years. Here’s a little recap of the recent past and a look into the future where the Justice League and the Avengers face off (well, in terms of popularity, reviews, and box office revenue). Continue reading