With “The Defenders” set to premiere on Netflix in 2017, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is going to get its second Earth-based group of superheroes. Similar to how Marvel laid the groundwork for “The Avengers” in a series of solo-character films with “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron-Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America,” “The Defenders” will also be a culmination of solo-character entries with audiences having already been introduced to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in their own respective Netflix series first.
The similarities don’t end there though, and fans have already begun to compare the two teams, arguing which series has not only the best characters but also critiquing the quality of each one’s story-telling, themes, and even the impact on the MCU as a whole. Not ones to shy away from a fight, we here at CBR wade in with our 15 reasons why “The Defenders” will be better than “The Avengers.”
15. ESTABLISHED CHARACTERS
“The Avengers” may have been preceded by the “Iron-Man,” “Incredible Hulk,” “Thor” and “Captain America” feature films, but “The Defenders” has been blessed with a lot more than short two-hour origin stories for its characters. When the series finally launches on Netflix later in 2017, viewers will have already been given two full 13-episode seasons of “Daredevil” and one 13-episode season each of “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.”
That’s a lot more time for audiences to get to know not only the four main lead characters in “The Defenders” but also their supporting cast of characters, many of whom are already confirmed to appear in the “The Defenders” miniseries. The character of Elektra, for example, was given an entire ongoing subplot in the second season of “Daredevil.” This stands in stark contrast to Black Widow in “Iron-Man 2” who, while important, was given very little to do. Even now that Black Widow has appeared in several MCU films post-“The Avengers,” it’s arguable that fans still know more about Elektra than her. This extra connection to the Netflix characters is going to make the events that happen in “The Defenders” all the more powerful.
14. TEAM ROMANCE
While romance has always been an element of the big screen Marvel movies, the majority of the relationships have been isolated to the individual solo films and don’t really involve members of The Avengers taking their partnerships to the next level. The two exceptions would be Black Widow and the Hulk, but their romance was a bit of a non-starter and didn’t begin (and end) until the second “Avengers” film, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Admittedly, there have been some hints of a Scarlet Witch and Vision romance in “Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War,” but so far these have yet to be fleshed out further than flirting.
“The Defenders” by contrast feels like an episode of “The Bachelor.” Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have already hooked up in the first season of “Jessica Jones” and seem likely to continue their relationship in some form in “The Defenders.” Also, Luke, being the playboy that he is, has also instigated a romance with Claire Temple in his solo-series, which is bound to cause some fantastic drama going forward, given how much of an important character she is in all of The Defenders’ lives.
13. NO PUNY GODS
Something that makes The Avengers so captivating and exciting to watch is its larger-than-life cast of characters. Captain America is a world-famous war hero, Thor is literally a god (well, seen as one anyway), Hulk is unstoppable, and Iron-Man is, well, he’s Iron-Man. These characters are made for the big screen and their battles are suitably epic. Ironically though, the fact that all of these characters are so big and powerful works against them.
There’s never really been an MCU movie where audiences have been left wondering if the founding members of The Avengers are in mortal peril. The Defenders, however, are several power levels below The Avengers and as such take a genuine risk every time they try to fight the good fight. Audiences have already seen the physical toll being a superhero has taken on each member of The Defenders in their own individual series. There’s blood, scars and near-death experiences, and all of this creates a much more exciting experience where characters could possibly die or at least suffer substantial consequences.
12. GIRL POWER
One of the biggest criticisms of “The Avengers” has been its low number of female members. Sure, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch are awesome characters, but they’re still outnumbered by all of the boys. Supporting characters Maria Hill and Pepper Potts do a little to boost the female numbers, but they’re not used all that much and even when it comes to their villains, “The Avengers” remain very much a boys club.
“The Defenders” will feature a much better gender parity. Jessica Jones may be the only official female member right now, but she’ll likely bring along her friend Trish (who could become Hellcat in the future). “Daredevil’s” Elektra has also been confirmed to appear in “The Defenders,” and whether she plays the role of villain, hero or both in the miniseries, she’s still guaranteed to bring the girl power. Other confirmed female characters confirmed to play a role in “The Defenders” are “Daredevil’s” Karen Page, “Iron Fist’s” Colleen Wing and “Luke Cage’s” Misty Knight. Claire Temple, who many would credit with actually forming The Defenders will also play a role, as will Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, the series’ mysterious villain. Not bad!
11. EXPLORING NEW YORK
“The Avengers” movies can be pretty exciting with the team of superheroes flying all over the world and, likely in future movies, even to outer space. The downside, though, is that viewers never really get to explore any of the locations for too long. The MCU’s South Korea was little more than a backdrop for an action sequence in “Age of Ultron,” and as important as Sokovia was, viewers never really got a sense of its culture, language or people.
“The Defenders” couldn’t be any more different. All of the Netflix Marvel series take place almost exclusively in New York City with storylines featuring New Yorkers from low income demographics in Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem to rich individuals in the nicer parts of town. Viewers have seen how cops, gangsters, lawyers, radio hosts, drug addicts and reporters live their lives and New York City feels much more established and nuanced as a result. When New York City is under attack in “The Defenders,” there will be a true sense of urgency due to how much effort has been put into establishing it as a location.
Something that really sets “The Defenders” apart from “The Avengers” is its fascinating focus on Asian mysticism. Sure, “The Avengers” will have a little bit of this once “Doctor Strange” joins the team, but even then that will be more of a cosmic addition, especially with the Time Stone involved, and that will still just be one member. “The Defenders,” on the other hand, are heavily influenced by martial arts and the supernatural.
Many elements of “Daredevil” have been shaped by the mystical order called The Hand, including Elektra, while “Iron Fist” was trained in the mystical hidden city of K’un-Lun and will feature a heavy dose of supernatural influences in his solo series. At least initially, the numerous Netflix series appear to be laying the groundwork for a major showdown between some evil supernatural forces that are intent on invading New York. An alien invasion is cool and all, but a massive city-wide attack by mystical ninja? That’s amazing.
9. LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX
The big screen “Avengers” movies have featured several romantic subplots, but none have really explored the complex dynamics of an adult relationship the way the “Defenders” shows have. This isn’t to say that “The Avengers” flicks need to delve into full-blown arthouse nudity and adult themes, but by exploring adult themes such as sex and sexuality, an on-screen relationship can appear much more realistic and relatable than it would have otherwise.
The partnership between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage is a great example of how a romance can be written in a mature fashion. Beyond the physicality of the famous sex scene itself, both characters are written with relatable emotional baggage that affects how the two characters evolve together going forward. It’s leaps and bounds ahead of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts who, as great as the two characters are together, never really transcend the surface level description of an employee having fallen in love with a boss who isn’t ready to settle down yet. Using adult themes gives characters an edge and this is something all of the Defenders have benefitted from in their respective series so far.
It’s no secret that one of the weakest parts of the “Avengers” movies has been its villains. Yes, Loki continues to be one of the best characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but besides him there haven’t really been any villains that have made much of a lasting impact. “The Defenders,” however, have a host of fantastic villains who have been written very strongly, as well as having been played by some brilliant actors.
The first season of “Daredevil” had Wilson Fisk as its main bad guy. This character could have easily been a cliché mob boss but was expertly written as a nuanced villain with a backstory of his own. The show’s second season had two morally ambiguous anti-heroes in Elektra and the Punisher, while “Jessica Jones” introduced audiences to Kilgrave, who was played to chilling perfection by David Tennant. “Luke Cage” actually had Academy Award winner, Mahershala Ali, play one of its villains in Cottonmouth, and now fan-favorite Sigourney Weaver has been cast as the main villain, Alexandra, who will take on The Defenders as a group in the main “Defenders” miniseries.
7. BANG FOR THE BUCK
Definitely one of the biggest areas where “The Defenders” beats “The Avengers” is in affordability. To see an “Avengers” movie or another film featuring an “Avengers” character, one would have to either pay for a movie ticket at the box office or buy the film on Blu-ray, DVD or source it digitally. There are also rental options, of course, but odds are, it’s still more expensive than watching some “Defenders” content.
“The Defenders,” on the other hand, is ridiculously cheap to watch, let alone to make (comparatively speaking). All of the TV shows featuring “The Defenders” are available on Netflix and users only have to pay one affordable monthly fee. This same fee includes access to all of the other Netflix movies and TV shows as well, which provides great value. Also, given that so many people are already Netflix subscribers, choosing to watch a Netflix Marvel show won’t really cost anything extra at all.
6. ORGANIC CAMEOS
One of the benefits of having a TV series to tell a story instead of a two hour movie is the opportunity for better pacing and the chance to include scenes that might have otherwise been left out. There’s way less pressure to speed through exposition in a series, and writers are given several episodes or an entire season to tease out plot points and make character reveals.
The improved pacing in Netflix TV series is most evident when it comes to inserting cameos and tie-ins to other Marvel TV shows or movies. “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” famously suffered from trying to cram in too many set-ups for future Marvel movies, but imagine if it had been given a TV season to tell the same story? There could have been one whole episode for Thor’s little side quest, another in Wakanda, and maybe even one or two exploring the Infinity Stones. There are plenty of cameos and set-ups in the different “Defenders” series, but all of it is given space to breathe and never feels forced or claustrophobic.
5. PROPER SUPPORT
While there are some admittedly strong supporting characters in the individual “Avengers” movies, such as Peggy Carter and Bucky Barnes, there’s no denying that there are simply that many more in the various “Defenders” TV series. Most of the Netflix supporting characters go on to affect the plot in their respective series in major ways, and there’s not really any that are written in simply to fill a love interest role or comedic relief.
The strongest “Defenders” supporting character would have to be Claire Temple, who has not only appeared in every Marvel Netflix series to date, but has also become the main driving force behind the individual heroes joining together to form “The Defenders” in the first place. Other great supporting characters include Trish Walker in “Jessica Jones,”Misty Knight in “Luke Cage,” and Foggy Nelson in “Daredevil.” Like all good supporting characters, these guys not only help redefine the main hero in their respective shows, but also manage to stand on their own and develop in their own right when given the chance.
4. SIGOURNEY WEAVER
Sigourney Weaver is an incredibly well-known actress made famous for her iconic roles in films such as “Ghostbusters,” “Alien,” “Galaxy Quest,” and “Avatar.” She has won and been nominated for numerous awards for her undeniable talent and was recently revealed to be taking on the role of the main villain in the first season of “The Defenders.”
Very little is known about the character that she’ll be playing beyond the fact that it’s an entirely original character and that her name will be “Alexandra,” possibly named after Sigourney Weaver herself, whose real name is “Susan Alexandra Weaver.” It’s unclear if she’ll have superpowers or magical abilities or if she’ll be a more intellectual challenge along the lines of Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth in “Jessica Jones.” What is clear is that the actresses’ casting immediately elevates “The Defenders” to an entirely new level; one that’s not only on par with “The Avengers,” but arguably beyond it, despite the host of acting talents that have run through the films.
3. FIGHT SCENES
If there’s one thing each “Defenders” TV series is known for, it’s their creative and intense fight sequences that place an emphasis on enclosed spaces and hand-to-hand combat. While likely a practical response to being given a significantly lower budget than their “Avengers” siblings, these fight sequences have ironically earned each show Avengers-level praise from both fans and critics.
The tradition of the Netflix fight sequences started in the first season of “Daredevil” with the now famous hallway fight, which was filmed in a single shot. It was then followed by a super-strength bar fight in Season One of “Jessica Jones,” an equally epic stairwell fight in “Daredevil’s” second season, and then another action-packed hallway fight in Season One of “Luke Cage.” It’s very likely that “Iron Fist” and “The Defenders” will also have a similar action sequence once each one premieres, and it speaks volumes that one of the things Marvel has decided to include in each series is at least one action scene of a consistently high quality.
2. ETHNIC DIVERSITY
Much like with the small number of female characters, “The Avengers” movies have also been criticised for their lack of ethnic diversity when it comes to each film’s main characters. While this has improved recently with the addition of Falcon and Black Panther to the “Avengers” line-up, “The Defenders” are still beating them on the small screen in this regard with a range of diverse actors in both starring and supporting roles.
Besides the obvious mention of the character of “Luke Cage,” it’s also worth bringing attention to the almost totally non-white cast, which is very rare in a superhero show. “Iron Fist” also impresses by featuring several important characters who are of Asian descent, such as Colleen Wing, Zhou Cheng, and Gao (who first appeared in “Daredevil”). Speaking of “Daredevil,” that series also gave fans an Elektra played by Élodie Yung (who is of Cambodian descent) and a Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson (whose mother is Puerto Rican and Cuban). Not too shabby!
1. CLAIRE TEMPLE
One of the strongest aspects of the different “Defenders” TV series is the character of Claire Temple, as played by Rosario Dawson. The character was first introduced in the first season of “Daredevil,” where she helped Matt Murdock after he was injured in a fight, but then became a love interest for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and popped up in “Jessica Jones” to save the life of Luke Cage.
By the time Claire Temple returned in “Luke Cage,” it was clear that her role had been expanded beyond that of a mere cameo. She was now driven to track down powered individuals and to create some sort of superhero team, which will likely become The Defenders. This ambition is probably what will bring her into contact with Danny Rand in “Iron Fist.” In many ways, Claire Dawson is the female version of Agent Coulson or Nick Fury, both of whom appeared in early Marvel movies and played key roles in bringing “The Avengers” together. In reality, though, she’s much more than that and has become a key supporting player in almost every Netflix Marvel series so far.
Can you think of any other reasons why “The Defenders” is better than “The Avengers?” Let us know in the comments!
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