We’ve been teased to death so far, but finally we have an actual, proper trailer for Netflix’s Marvel’s The Defenders, the show that unites Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cageand Iron Fist at last. Not quite as exciting as seeing all of The Avengers together, but this is actually pretty exciting and funny stuff. And not just because Sigourney Weaver is the Big Bad of the piece. How’s about that hallway fight scene?
Marvel took the movie world by storm with The Avengers, a little film one or two of you may have seen. One of the most important aspects of The Avengers was the fact it wasn’t the first movie to features its protagonists, all of whom had appeared in the preceding movies Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk,Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, either as the leads or as co-stars.
A staple of the comic book world, the crossover was something that had never really been tried in the movie world before and audiences loved it.
With a few reservations. The most notable of these was that there wasn’t a huge amount of diversity in that superheroic line up: lots of straight white men as leads and usually as the villains, too, but women, people of colour et al were either in the supporting cast or completely absent. And while the movies have slowly added black characters such as Falcon and Black Panther and bumped up the role of supporting superheroine Black Widow to the point where Captain America: Winter Soldier was as much about her as about Captain America, solo movies with black or female superheroic leads are still a little way off.
So, when Netflix and Marvel announced they would produce a series of comic book TV shows together, three things were almost compulsory. The first was lower budgets. That meant having none of the movie universe characters in any of the shows, which meant having to pick completely new characters. The second was that there would be crossovers, which in turn would lead to one great big TV series featuring all the new heroes. The third was diversity would be key.
And thus we have a new group of superheroes: ‘The Defenders’. Not to be confused with ‘The Avengers’, obviously. The Defenders is also the name of the ultimate TV show at the end of the list.
The sequence started with Daredevil, a really superb opening featuring probably the one character many people would have heard of, thanks in part to the Ben Affleck adaptation over a decade ago. Daredevil’s also blind and a lawyer who does pro bono work defending the poor and helpless from big business.
That was quickly followed up with the suprisingly excellent feminist deconstruction of the entire genre, Jessica Jones, and then Luke Cage, an affair almost plotless because rather than being a superhero show, it largely was more interested in discussing black culture, history and what is the true and correct course of action for the modern black man of honour. A quick second season of Daredevil proved less satisfying, as it ditched gritty reality to pit our hero against a bunch of immortal ninja called ‘The Hand’.
All the same, for all their pros and cons, diversity – globs of it everywhere.
Which makes Marvel’s Iron Fist something of an odd choice. Because although it fits well with Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of diversity, it’s almost a slap in the face to the other shows’ efforts.
Young Danny Rand, the white male son of white corporate mogul billionaries, is on their private jet to China when it crash lands in the mountains of Tibet. Coincidentally, that’s just as the mystical city of K’un-L’un appeared from heaven on its 15-year regular cycle, journeying between planes of existence. Taken in by the warrior monks who guard K’un-L’un, the orphaned boy is trained in their ways and eventually succeeds all trials to become ‘the Iron Fist’, K’un-L’un’s ‘living weapon’ who uses the power of the heart of the Shou-Lao the Undying dragon, to defend the city from the Hand, whenever it appears on Earth.
However, when K’un-L’un returns to the Earthly plane again 15 years later, Danny abandons his post and heads to New York where he discovers the Hand are already in residence at his parents’ company, Rand Enterprises. Soon, he must prove who he really is, take back his company from the bad people who now run it, and stop The Hand.
Yep, that’s right: Iron Fist wants you to care about boardroom politics and a spoilt, immature billionaire who wants to clear his family name.
Bad decision by Marvel and Netflix? Well, actually, despite some very odd decisions, a very shaky start, and a very long list of flaws, Marvel’s Iron Fist turned out to be really, really enjoyable stuff – due in part surprisingly because it features Sacha Dhawan (Outsourced, 24, The Tractate Middoth, Line of Duty, An Adventure in Time and Space) as a sarcastic warrior monk named after a Swiss ski resort.
It was a relatively quiet week last week for our Diana… if you discount the massively big spoilers for Wonder Woman that a French magazine has revealed (I’ll spoiler cloak them for you if you don’t want to read them):
Why did Zeus create the Amazons? Because shaping man in his image made his son Ares, incidentally a god of war, mad with jealousy, he convinces the guys to confront each other. To restore harmony between them, Zeus created the Amazons that Ares reduced to slavery. The Amazons revolt with the help of Zeus, who will die of the hand of his son having had time to find Themyscira, their haven of peace where they will grow Diana. (…) Diana Prince becomes Wonder Woman by helping Steve Trevor and a squad of proud arm-in-law in search of one who wants to wipe humanity off the map with deadly gas.
That’s not my translation, BTW (sacre bleu!).
Anyway, if true, that’s an interesting amalgam of all the Wonder Woman origin stories, including Greg Rucka’s current one and even Joss Whedon’s failed movie script, that’s probably going to annoy every fan with a minimum of one detail – you pick which one annoys you most – not least because it’s now about a couple of gods rather than at least one goddess. Let’s see how it all pans out on-screen, though.
In comics, there’s not a been much new. The first issue of Justice League/Power Rangers turnedup but beyond the alternative cover, no Diana.
She calls on gods, he calls on the power of a T-rex. Meet Jason, the Red Ranger, in JUSTICE LEAGUE/POWER RANGERS! http://bit.ly/2jc8SEt
That means that after the jump, we’ll be looking at Wonder Woman (Rebirth) #14, Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 #4 and Justice League vs Suicide Squad #4, but not necessarily in that order. See you in a click.
It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching.
Although Amazon’s finally got round to releasing the first season of Sneaky Pete, there’s not been a whole lot that’s new new in the past week, which means I’ve only had Pure (Canada: CBC) and Emerald City (US: NBC; UK: 5*) to review since the last WHYBW. Sorry about that. I’ll try to watch some boxsets when I have the chance.
All the same, for sures, later this week, I’ll be passing a third-episode verdict on Emerald City, which means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at LethalWeapon, Man Seeking Woman, Sherlock and Shooter, as well as the return of The Great Indoors.
But there has been one another new show that I watched this week:
Workin’ Moms (Canada: CBC) Three Canadian mums who have just had babies are ready to start working again. And that’s about it really for plot, although given one’s a high-flying career woman and first-time mother (the show’s creator, writer and director Catherine “daughter of Ivan” Reitman), one’s a no-nonsense psychiatrist mother-of-two (Dani Kind), and the third is a slightly unstable lesbian realtor who carried her partner’s child (Juno Rinaldi)*, you can see there’s a certain variety of experiences being catered for the show.
And indeed that’s really what the show is: a comedy-drama very specifically about the experience of returning to work after having had babies. And when you think about it, while there are shows that have had single mums as heroines and there have been shows that have had mums as characters in the backgrounds, they’ve mostly either got families already or it’s all about the babies and what it’s like to have a baby. It’s almost never been focused on what work is like once you have a baby.
And to be honest, it’s that interestingly specific viewpoint that’s the show’s main and in fact only selling point. The show thinks it’s quite exciting and innovative, such as when it has topless, normal-looking older women in the first five minutes of the episode, which is punningly titled Bare (which works on lots of levels – eg there’s a bear later, there’s a grizzly mum and, of course, they’re laid bare by the experience of being a mum). But it’s not quite the treasure trove of anecdotes and insight that it thinks it is, and frequently it just bubbles along, not doing much. All the same, it was insightful and offered some nuggets that I’d not seen elsewhere on TV. The characters were well drawn and avoided stereotyping, even the men. Plus it had a bear.
Not bad. Not great. Not to be confused with CBC’s Newborn Moms, either.
* There’s a fourth mum (Jessalyn Wanlim) but she wasn’t in the first episode, as far as I noticed.