The long-awaited Defenders who fight their way onto Netflix next Friday are not your older brother’s superheroes.
To many serious Marvel Comics fans, the real Defenders will always be the original core of Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk, plus a drop-in cast that at times included Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Nighthawk and, well, you get the idea.
But that was comic books. “The Defenders” that starts streaming on Netflix at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 18 is television. Get used to it.
Netflix executives have explained that their show isn’t just for long-time Marvel fans — though those fans are welcome and probably expected. It’s for anyone who wants to watch a high-stakes showdown between shadowy characters who want to destroy the world and flawed sort-of heroes who want to preserve it.
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For TV, the good-guys group has morphed into Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Iron Fist (Finn Jones), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox).
The new Defenders do share several characteristics with the old group, including an inclination to bicker with each other almost as much as they fight with the bad guys.
Jessica, for one, doesn’t much like anybody, though she thaws out a little around Luke, whom she once dated.
What brings the quartet together is finding someone, and something, more intolerable than forming an alliance with each other.
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That someone would be Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) and that something is The Hand, the organization she runs.
For those not familiar with The Hand, it’s an ancient group comprised of people who perpetuate their own immortality by killing millions of other people.
At the moment, that policy could involve an extinction-level event for New York City, and while Alexandra is a little distracted by personal concerns, she’s arranged for The Hand to have an alpha weapon: Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung).
Elektra, code name Black Sky, is someone you don’t want to meet when she’s in a bad mood, which is all the time.
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Viewers should be warned it takes several episodes for the scope of Alexandra’s plan and Elektra’s role to become clear. It also takes a while for the lineups on both sides to be filled out.
As that would suggest, the exact nature of the threat here gets complicated, mirroring the path by which Marvel has taken us to the Defenders series.
As Marvel fans know, the publisher has parceled out its gold mine of character properties rather judiciously.
Spider-Man went to the movies, as have several of his colleagues like Iron Man. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. went to ABC.
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Netflix got Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil, whose individual series have rolled out in sequence over the last several years on the streaming service.
The Netflix plan all along was that these four characters would eventually get together as The Defenders, toward which end several characters and storylines here have been introduced in those previous series.
Elektra first appeared in “Daredevil,” released by Netflix in 2015. So did the vigilante Punisher (Jon Bernthal) and Stick (Scott Glenn), who’s been fighting The Hand and Alexandra for a very long time.
Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, a former nurse, has provided medical aid to all four characters.
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Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), a former member of The Hand, made her first appearance as Iron Fist’s girlfriend in his Netflix series. The list goes on.
That makes Weaver the wild card, and she plays Alexandra with such cool that it’s close to Zen. Viewers accustomed to loud, garish, supersized villains may readjust a bit — a process that, for dramatic purposes, will not be unpleasant.
Nor should it be any problem adjusting to the new Defenders.
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