Archive for the ‘Marvel Netflix’ Category

Luke Cage is the 4th Marvel Netflix show, and the 3rd one from Marvel’s original deal (their first show, Daredevil, was so popular it was immediately green lit for a second season). The title character was introduced in Jessica Jones, and this series follows his exploits as he has left Hell’s Kitchen and moved to Harlem.

This show is in part a tour of Harlem and its history. Throughout the series the viewer is informed about various landmarks in Harlem, the history of artists and writers that lived there, etc. After the previous three Netflix Marvel shows taking place in Hell’s Kitchen, it was a nice change of scenery to have the show set in Harlem.

Similar to those previous shows the titular hero is not focused on saving the world, but on saving the neighborhood. The opening scene is a group of guys talking in a barber shop. Cage is laying low working at the shop, but eventually becomes more of a presence in the neighborhood as a local gangster looks to move in on Harlem. In the process Cage becomes a man of the people, doing the best he can to resolve local problems. The gangster owns a nightclub which brings us a lot of musical performances.

The sound track is one of the highlights of Cage, hip hop and R&B are fully integrated into the show. Each episode in fact is named after a Gangstar song.

While Jessica Jones took a head on approach to sexual violence, Luke Cage fully tackles the issue of race, police brutality, and the black lives matter movement. At one point in the series Cage is on the run from the police. In a show of solidarity people in the community start wearing hoodies with bullet holes in the back knowing this will bring police harassment. (Cage’s super-power is strength and unbreakable skin).

Along the way we get the usual references to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cage is compared to a local Captain America. Bootleg footage of “the incident” (The final battle in the Avengers movie) is available on the street. Matt Murdock is hinted at towards the end. There’s also a nice and unexpected reference to Iron Man two, which does serve as part of the plot.

For all its strengths, I found it to be my least favorite Marvel Netflix show. Some of it may be personal bias, as the two seasons of Daredevil had two of my favorite characters, Kingpin and the Punisher. There was no one in Cage that I found to be as fascinating. The first three episodes of Cage felt a little slow, it wasn’t until the fourth episode that started his origin that I really felt intrigued.

Writing Luke Cage is to face the same problem in writing Superman. How to you make it suspenseful when nothing can hurt the guy? Hence the fight scenes aren’t very elaborate, but instead are brute force. The final battle in the last episode tries to remedy this as the villain has a powered up suit. It looks like a poor man’s version of the end of Rocky V, with the hero slugging it out in the street while the neighbors chant his name. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but aping a poorly received movie usually isn’t a good idea. During this fight, the villain has this big battery pack on his back which powers his suit. I kept waiting for Cage to just crush the battery pack and end the fight, but that never happened. It’s not like he didn’t see it, in one scene he looks right at it. There’s some smart writing here about how Cage is able to win by not feeding his opponent hate, but at this point smart writing doesn’t make up for the common sense question of why he didn’t just crush the battery.

On a more positive note, the final fight was not the end of the show, it actually goes on for another 20 minutes. Interestingly enough, in the end it appears the villains have won. That was a nice touch, because, so far, no Marvel movie, TV or Netflix show ended with the villains winning.

While Luke Cage has many positive traits, if there is a season two I would hope they’d have more intriguing characters, while maintaining its sound track and social commentary.

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Jessica Jones is the second Netflix series based on a Marvel Comics property, and to date is the most daring, dark, away from the norm story that has been told in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Jessica Jones is essentially a story of a woman out to stop her rapist. The main villain, Kilgrave A.K.A. Purple Man (Though he’s never called that in the show) has the power to control people’s minds/force people to do whatever he says. He does not use this power to take over the world, he simply uses it to acquire wealth and to rape women.

Jessica Jones herself isn’t even really a superhero, in the sense that she doesn’t have a superhero identity (Later it is revealed she briefly considered it in her past). It’s not even revealed that she has powers right away,  but she has super strength, can jump really high, and is somewhat invulnerable.

The main story is that in the recent past Kilgrave had Jessica under control, but she broke away from him and escaped. Now Kilgrave is looking to get her back.

Jones is a private eye, and she seeks to find her tormentor and kill him, but events unfold that cause her to want to bring him through the Justice system. She is a hard drinking anti-social mess of a woman, driven solely by her quest to stop Kilgrave.

Kilgrave is the most truly evil Marvel villain we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a real life evil that is truly disturbing. The classic style of a Marvel super villain is that there’s a part of them that is sympathetic, villains like Magneto and Dr. Doom reach a point where you can understand and almost agree with them. Kilgrave is a departure from this traditional Marvel formula. Though it briefly appears to approach this toward the end, there is nothing sympathetic about Kilgrave, at his core he is a vile person.

The stakes are the most personal of any story so far in the MCU. Jessica is not trying to save the universe, the world, or even the city. The stakes are for Jessica to stop her rapist from hurting her and others, it is a statement of a woman whose rapist does not have power over her.

While Daredevil was beautifully violent, it was still essentially a basic super hero story. We saw the origin and development of the superhero Daredevil fighting against the Kingpin. Jessica Jones is an almost complete departure from the standard superhero story. While I’m biased because I love the Kingpin, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said Jones is the superior show.

At this point the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be divided up into 3 sections, the films, the ABC television shows, and the two Netflix shows (I’d love to see them do a video game division). So far Netflix is clearly the superior division of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

 

 

 

Marvel’s Daredevil is the first of four Netflix exclusive shows from Marvel comics set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Daredevil is set in Hell’s Kitchen, as the other three shows presumably will be. It opens with a 9 year old Matt Murdock, who was blinded in an accident after pushing an old man out of the way of a truck full of chemicals. While he was blinded, his other senses have been heightened to superhuman ability. Flashbacks of his childhood are interspersed throughout the course of several episodes. He is raised by his single father, a boxer who meets a tragic end after refusing to throw a fight. Later Matt is trained in the martial arts by a blind swordsman, who returns into Matt’s life as an adult.

The adult Matt Murdock has opened a law practice in Hell’s Kitchen with his best friend Foggy Nelson. In their first case they defend Karen Page, a woman who was falsely accused of murder and ends up working for Matt’s law office. What Matt’s partners don’t know is that Matt stalks the streets at night as a vigilante. (He’s not called Daredevil until the very last episode and is called that by the press.)

This show takes full advantage of the creative freedom offered by Netflix, and is a stark departure from the MCU films. It is a strictly R rated show with brutal violence. Daredevil deals with real world problems of human trafficking, drugs, child abuse etc. The spark that drove him from taking the law into his own hands was not inspiration from heroes like Captain America, but from accidently stumbling across a horrible crime that he could not ignore.

Like all great comic book films adaptations, the villain steals the show. Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin, is perhaps the most intriguing character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At first he’s in the background, slowly revealed like a movie monster. Your first shot of him you just see his arm inside a limo. For the first few episodes his name is not even in spoken. That is actually a rule for anyone that works for him, they are not allowed to say his name.

Kingpin in the MCU is just as he is in the comics, a dangerous beast who is always one step ahead. In his first act of on screen violence he comes at someone like bear. He is a shark who preys upon anyone he chooses. However, perhaps unlike the comics, Wilson Fisk is an extremely vulnerable man filled with pain, haunted by his childhood. Even his manner of speaking reflects the incredible hurt inside of him. Vanessa, from the comics, is an art dealer and Fisk’s love interest. She provides healing to his troubled soul, she is, as he says, his heart. The relationship between Wilson and Vanessa is in fact highlight of the series.

In classic comic book style Wilson Fisk is a mirror image of Matt Murdock, the two had fathers that are polar opposites. You could even argue that Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock have the same goals. Both were raised in Hell’s Kitchen and both have a vision of Hell’s Kitchen being a better place. The plot of the show involves Kingpin taking over Hell’s Kitchen via a real estate scheme. Hell’s Kitchen was devastated during “the incident” which is what people refer to when the Avengers had their battle in New York. Fisk takes this opportunity to rebuild the city in his image.

There aren’t many Easter Eggs to the wider MCU, I think, like the first Iron Man, they wanted to keep things focused on Daredevil. There are old newspapers shown that mention the battle of New York as well as the Hulk fighting in Harlem from his movie.

The supporting cast is great with intriguing characters on both sides of the law. Real actual characters die too, giving the story a sense of real consequences the films sometimes lack.

As beautifully violent as this show is there are times when it gets a little ridiculous, same goes for Matt’s superhuman senses. The end of the second episode has a great fight scene, but we are to believe Matt did all that with two broken ribs. There’s also a scene where someone tazers Daredevil, who then collapses. It was a lot for me to believe he didn’t get shot. During one great fight sequence with a ninja (whose costume looked a little goofy) Daredevil is truly outmatched, but ends up winning almost by pure dumb luck.

Still this is a fantastic show from the get go. The first half of the serious is brutally violent filled with yell out loud moments. The later half turns up the drama, although it’s not lacking in the beginning either. The episode about Fisk’s childhood is probably the standout episode of the series.

Marvel’s Daredevil is arguably the best single unit of story telling produced so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is at least better than most, if not all, of the MCU films. Looking forward to the rest of the Marvel Netflix shows.