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The Netflix team-up that everyone wanted. What was not to like? How could it not work overall?
Let's get the good out of the way: In spite of the lack of variety in their abilities (if you ignore the obvious ones, like Iron Fists' namesake ability, Cage's bullet-proof skin, and Matt's heightened senses), the characters have a group presence that works. In some ways, it was more convincing here than in 2012's "The Avengers", primarily because here the showrunners were able to develop their group dynamics over several hours rather than 45 minutes like in the aforementioned film. It's their priorities, principles, and character tics that makes the team aspect work.
Let's face it, though, The Hand really got the shaft in the writing department. A few new characters are introduced to round out the leadership, but they're all wasted by rather uninspired writing. Sigourney Weaver does all that she can for her role, but she's quickly eclipsed by action rather than words. And then there's the big plan that they're working on, which was shrouded in mystery in the lead-in shows (Daredevil, Season 2). We find out that while there's a mystical element to what The Hand is after, the plotline ends up diminishing their menace. And the whole, "they keep coming back" aspect that was prominent again in the lead-in shows seems to be thrown out the window here. Only one character, Elektra, seems to benefit at all from it in this show wherein The Hand is collectively the central antagonist.
Other points of criticism for me: Iron Fist comes across as rather whiny and preachy at first, but his appeal as a team-player develops well towards the end of the season. And I'm one of the many people who don't find his actor to work for the role. The fight scenes outside of the team's clash with each other were disappointing, especially since Iron Fist and Luke Cage in particular should be able to do far more than they are presented as doing here, and the choreography and effects work aren't really up to snuff. The Chaste was written out for good with little fanfare. Stick, whom I couldn't get enough of watching, gets killed because he gets reckless and single-minded. The show was also rather tame compared to the darker, bloodier content found in the solo outings. Are superhero team movies/shows cursed to follow this trend?
Heroes are only as good as their villains, or so they say, and it shows here. Given how disappointing the villains (The Hand) end up being, how are we supposed to root for our heroes when their enemies present little challenge in any way? Only supporting characters seem to be threatened by them. Elektra, however, was the only effective villain here and as of the ending, it's up in the air as to whether she'll menace our team in the future.
On the bright side, now we don't have to deal much with The Hand anymore (if ever again), and based on the ending scene, I am definitely looking forward to more Daredevil. So it wasn't all for naught.
After five seasons of varying quality, Marvel have finally brought all four of their heroes together; a blind ninja, a super strong alcoholic, a bulletproof ex-con, and a billionaire Shaolin monk, to fight a mysterious organisation known as "The Hand". It seems like a show that will be stronger than the sum of its parts, and with Sigourney Weaver on-board as the leader of The Hand, it all looks super exciting.
One thing this show gets right is the running length. The number one criticism of all the Marvel tv shows is that they run for far too long and have to pad everything out. Here they've trimmed off all the fat, and we have eight lean episodes of varying length with a very clear focus. That makes it far more watchable.
Unfortunately the show is a let down in a lot of ways. On the most basic conceptual level, the issue with combining these four superheroes is that whilst they seem diverse, their powers all basically revolve around being very good at punching people. This means that every action scene quickly devolves into either a one on one fight, or a group brawl. On top of this, these superheroes are clearly better at fighting than anyone else they go up against, so there never is a credible threat of them losing. Worse though are the actual fights themselves. If you are making a martial arts show along the lines of Martial Law, don't have terrible choreography and camera work. I presume most of the cast aren't professional martial artists, as the editing is doing its best to obscure the fights with constant, disorientating cuts. There is none of the inventive and stylish fighting of Dare Devil.
As much as I hate to say it, Sigourney Weaver is also kind of a let down. She spends most of the season doing very little except standing around, making veiled threats at people - the show establishes that she is dying, becoming increasingly vulnerable, but it doesn`t go anywhere with it and she gets completely wasted as a concept. Speaking of the villains, the Hand`s plot is overly convoluted, when really it consists of them trying to open a big door underground to get to an (ultimately underwhelming) treasure inside. For all their clichés about power and danger, at no point do you ever get a sense that these guys are any real match for the heroes.
The heroes themselves are kind of fun when they bounce off one another. Jessica Jones spends the whole time snarking at the other's costumes and rolling her eyes every time Danny Rand proclaims he is the Iron Fist. That everyone hates Rand, including his own comrades, is probably the best thing about the show. Unfortunately it never quite comes together. The weak action, uninspired villains, and the lack of urgency or imagination make this a slightly dull and lifeless show. At least it is a short one.
Netflix spent five seasons to set up for this inevitable crossover and it was worth the wait. The show's strength is in bringing very different people together and watching them bounce off one another. We see their strengths and weaknesses and how they either compliment or act as a foil to one another. The show even has time to pull back and let the supporting characters from the shows interact, showing a merging of worlds that the Avengers could never quite pull off. The 8 episodes ensure that the show doesn't have the typical Netflix drag while also having enough time to have the characters catch their breath and interact with one another. I'm looking forward to future crossovers.
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