Review – The Defenders

The Defenders have finally arrived to Netflix and thanks to being sick I was able to stay home and binge watch the whole show in one day and as such I am ready to bring to you my review of the season and I will keep the spoilers to a minimum. The Defenders are basically the street level Avengers and its members are Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil. All of this characters have had their own series and most of them, except perhaps Iron Fist, to critical acclaim. This series was the unification of all the Netflix Marvel characters and the culmination of many plots and sub plots that have started in the other individual series.

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The Hand are the antagonists in this show and we have seen them prepare their plan since Daredevil Season One. They seek power, influence and to obliterate New York. However to complete their plan and to return to K’un-Lun they need one more thing, The Iron Fist. In the show we are introduced to the Five Fingers of The Hand, amongst which we see some familiar faces such as Madame Gao, and their leader, Alexandria (Sigourney Weaver), a woman who has lived lives upon lives. It is she who resurrects the dead Elektra Natchios with the power of the Black Sky, and the last of the substance that makes the Five Fingers cheat death. Falling in line with the other Netflix shows (save for maybe Iron Fist), we are given a villain worthy of her status. With Elektra as her “muscle” we watch the unlikely heroes struggle to match her, even when they have her outnumbered, making every fight scene that much more compelling.

The show without a doubt delivers and it does a great job in setting up the story. The four titular characters are very different to each other and it takes a long time for them to come together, especially considering Daredevil at the start of the show is attempting to leave that part of his life behind.  However when they finally come together the pace really picks up and the show is incredibly satisfying, especially the interactions between the characters (highlighted by the wonderful Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones and her snide but hilarious comments). The action scenes are wonderful, especially the one in the hallway (a classic now in the Marvel Netflix Universe) and the one in the last episode.

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The characters are wonderful and everything is anchored in my opinion around Daredevil and his relation with Elektra who is played by Élodie Yung perfectly and is able to steal many of the scenes she is in. Sigourney Weaver is also excellent and joins the excellent list of Marvel Netflix villains, as she portrays a ruthless, timeless, powerful villain. The main cast does a great job as well, the chemistry between the Defenders is great and the rapport between the heroes is entertaining. Iron Fist, played by Finn Jones, who was the weak link coming into this show is much improved in this series. Both the actor and the writers seem to have found a more appropriate tone for him and his interactions with Luke Cage are a great throwback to their comics. The main cast is well complimented by all of the side characters we have come to know in the other series but Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing and Rosario Dawson as Claire Templeton (and the character who has been in every show) stand out particularly.

I enjoyed the story that was presented although I will admit that at some parts it dragged a little, however this was a minor issue that was offset by the great interactions between the characters that form the heart of this series. Another excellent point is the use of different colours to present each character, which gives us that comic book tone that is just great to see. The colour schemes change from character to character. Jessica Jones’ scenes are blue and dark, with Luke we are shown yellow lighting and a hip hop theme, while Iron Fist’s scenes are green, and lastly the scenes with Daredevil are often red. When they are all together we get a different tone to show us that it is no longer about the individual but about the team.

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I have really enjoyed this show and its ending is spectacular, heart-breaking and ideal to set up the next of the series with the Defenders, Daredevil Season 3, in which we seem to be heading towards one of the most classic Daredevil comic book stories. The ending had me feeling a myriad of sensations but most of all it left me feeling satisfied with the show as a whole. This first season of The Defenders has in my opinion lived up to the hype. It is entertaining, fun, gritty, dark and captures perfectly the tone of the different shows. We are perfectly primed to see now the next seasons of the individual shows of this characters and I can’t wait for the Defenders to come back. Meanwhile we can get ready for the arrival of The Punisher.

The Defenders: 8.5/10

Review – Castlevania

So I have just finished watching Castlevania and I think it is appropriate that I review it since I have absolutely enjoyed this series by Netflix. Before we delve into the review let me preface this by saying that I have not played the games before. Whilst I am somewhat familiar with the mythos of Castlevania and have seen friends play it before I have never been actually able to play myself, as such I came into the show without too many prejudices and expecting nothing except having a good time. In this regards all I can say is that Castlevania is a great success. I will attempt my best to keep this review spoiler free but let me warn you that inadvertently I might drop a small spoiler.

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Before we talk about some aspects of the story let me start by commenting on the style of the animation. The style which is in some regards quite realistic yet at the same time slow was, at least for me, perfect for the story and the theme of the series. In many ways the way the characters, the world looked and how the protagonists moved reminded me a lot of the anime Attack on Titan. The other aspect that I wish to comment in regards to the animation and look of the show is the choice of the colour palette throughout the series. It is able to use dark tones and a lot of red, especially in the finale, which I think perfectly captured the tone of the show, the eeriness of the world and the despair faced by the characters in the face of such overwhelming evil.

Now that I have commented on the animation I can tell you that I absolutely loved the story and the characters in the TV show. The first 8 minutes, basically a prologue for the rest of the first season, are incredible and hooked me into the story. It was witty, fun, charming, heart breaking and devastating all within the space of 8 minutes. As I was watching, I could not believe it and was astonished that they were able to set up the story so brilliantly. The look of the antagonist, Dracula, is to put it simply perfect and from that moment you wish to see more of it. The beginning is able to set up the story and hook you into it.

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The characters are beautifully voiced especially Trevor Belmonte whose voice is provided wonderfully by Richard Armitage and does a magnificent job giving a unique voice to the character. I loved the characterization of Trevor Belmonte as this out of luck, downtrodden monster hunter who is full of wit and charm. I found it very easy to enjoy the character and his interactions with the rest of the Castlevania world. All of the characters in the show, secondary or protagonist, feel real and fleshed making a much more compelling world.

The decision to not feature Dracula as much in this four episodes was the correct one as by virtue of not appearing beyond the first episode but feeling his presence makes him a more intriguing and powerful antagonist and provides the viewer with much anticipation to see next season.

On a side note, the finale of the show was great. It delivered great, fast paced action and advanced the story line whilst at the same time leaving wanting more and creating expectation for an already confirmed second season. The first four episodes are clearly a prologue to the overarching story which will start next season and as such it did a great job in placing all the set pieces where they need to be.

As I close this review all I can say is that I have loved watching Castlevania. It does have its flaws as do all shows, for example some of the pacing of the episodes is wrong and some character relationships develop too fast without a correct explanation, but without a doubt its brilliant moments, great characterization and story far outshine the flaws. Castlevania has to be considered one of the best, if not best, adaptations of a video game and I will eagerly await the second season.

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Review – Iron Fist

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The last of the Defenders has arrived as Iron Fist came out on Netflix last Friday and so far it has drawn a lot of criticism from critics whilst fans have been more forgiving and accepting of the show. The show is without a doubt a flawed show but it is not as bad as people are claiming it to be. Before I get into the official review of the show please be aware that I will not be talking about any of the racist issues that have risen about this show. As someone who is not directly affected I do not think my voice is qualified to talk about it. Also be aware that there are going to be spoilers on the review.

First of all, let’s talk about the negatives of the show. The show has a flawed pacing, and although the pace of the TV show does pick up towards the middle of the show, some episodes drag a lot, especially the first five episodes. The first five episodes are slow with not much development beyond corporate fights which makes it hard to follow this first episodes. Furthermore the fights in most of the episodes are not well done (although recent declarations by Finn Jones in which he says he learned the choreography 15 minutes before they were shot shed light on this) and lack passion and are not very smooth. The major flaw of the show lies in many ways in the character of Danny Rand. Most of the times Danny Rand does not feel like the “ultimate weapon” he is supposed to be, he is beaten easily (too easily) by others and in many episodes feel a bit too dumb as he keeps trusting people who have lied and done awful things to him. The choice of the villain at the end, Harold Meachum is a poor choice as he should not poise the physical challenge that he does in the finale. Lastly the fact that no one mentions clearly other members of “The Defenders”, especially Claire (shoe-horned into the show) who when she learns about the Hand does not tell Danny Rand about Daredevil, is really starting to hurt the Netflix Marvel Universe as it is not realistic.

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That said the show also had some great moments. Finn Jones does grow into the characters as the series progresses and by the end of it his portrayal of the Iron Fist is quite enjoyable. Rosario Dawson as Claire is once again great and shows how comfortable she feels in this Netflix Marvel Universe and her character. The latter half of the show is pretty good and the episode in which they travel to China and Danny Rand faces Zhou Cheng, the master of the Drunken Style, has a great fighting sequence. The challenge by the Hand to Iron Fist in Episode 6 is pretty good and entertaining as is the character development of Ward Meachum. However the best part of this show is the portrayal of Colleen Wing by Jessica Henwick. Jessica Henwick is able to express the vulnerability and power of Colleen Wing and every time she appears on screen the show improves and she steals the spotlight from everybody. She is without a doubt the breakout star of this show. The show, whilst plagued with issues, does end up setting a somewhat compelling story and is a good set up for the Defenders that will drop later this year.

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The show is entertaining enough yet we now seem to live in a society where either something is great or the worst. Critics and people on social media tend to review everything by extremes and I believe that is a huge mistake. Some shows are neither great nor bad, they are just entertaining and good and that should be embraced and not criticized. Iron Fist is a show that fits this description, a show with many problems, a show that is probably too long and has too many episodes but not a horrible show. It has fun moments and is good enough that most episodes are entertaining to watch. I have enjoyed the show for what it is and I am expectant to see how the characters of Danny Rand and Colleen Wing develop in The Defenders which comes out on Netflix on November.

Iron Fist: 6.5/10