If the Avengers are all about saving the world from alien annihilation, then the Defenders have far less loftier goals – they protect the dirty neighborhood streets of New York City from thugs and gangsters (and the occasional ninja). Four seasons in (two of Daredevil and one each of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage) and I am totally on board with Marvel’s street level superheroes.
With these Netflix series, Marvel is proving yet again that their aim is to take over every possible entertainment venue we have as puny humans. They’ve ruled the comics market for decades and every few months they break box office records by putting out a new film. With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., they proved they can succeed on broadcast TV and now they have broken into the subscription based streaming services. When Luke Cage debuted on Netflix a few weeks ago, the Netflix servers went down for several hours because demand to watch it was so high.
What I’ve particularly enjoyed about these Netflix shows is that Marvel seems to be giving them more creative control than they have elsewhere. Up until the debut of Daredevil, all of Marvel’s films and TV shows had a very similar style, look, and feel. They were all made in the same mold. A very successful and entertaining mold for sure, but one that didn’t really allow for individual artistic flourishes. These three Netflix series have broken out of that to an extent and forged their own style.
Daredevil quickly established itself as a much grittier, darker story than we’ve seen from Marvel in recent years. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) as the blind lawyer, whose other senses are so acute it’s better than having sight, goes out at night pounding bad guys to bloody pulps with his fists. Sure he’s bringing down criminals and making the streets of Hell’s Kitchen safer, but he also seems to enjoy it. There is something dark in Daredevil’s soul that gets a real thrill from breaking noses and bloodying bodies. It’s a new place for Marvel to go and I’ve really dug it.
It’s surprising that it’s taken this long for them to release season one on home video as it’s been over a year and a half since it first came out on Netflix and they have subsequently aired season two plus Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. That this appears to be a very bare bones release is really disappointing.
In fact, now that I think about it I don’t know that I can in good conscience make Daredevil this week’s pick. It’s a great show, one definitely worth owning on Blu-ray, but with zero extras there really isn’t a reason to purchase it unless, for some reason, you aren’t subscribed to Netflix.
So for the first time ever I’m calling an audible.
Featuring another character trying to clean up the streets of New York, Martin Scorsese’s landmark film Taxi Driver turns 40 years old this year. To celebrate they are releasing a new Blu-ray with a new 4K restoration, lots of old extras plus a nice Q&A with Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Robert De Niro, and Jodie Foster from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. I just bought a nice steel book of the movie so I won’t be double dipping with this, but if you don’t own this incredible film on Blu-ray, this looks like a perfectly good set.
It wasn’t my first choice this week, but with Marvel/Netflix putting out such a weak version of Daredevil I’m happy to switch my pick to Taxi Driver.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Indignation: Based upon the novel by Phillip Roth and directed by James Schamus (who is best known as the writer of most of Ang Lee’s movies), this drama is about a working class Jewish student in 1951 who has to deal with anti-Semitism and sexual repression in the small Ohio college he attends.
Black Sails: Season Three: Based upon characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island this series takes place 20 years past the events of the books. It sounds fun but there are so many other things I want to see before this that I’ll probably get to it sometime just before my retirement.
Sausage Party: Raunchy animated comedy from Seth Rogen. I have absolutely no desire to see this, but no doubt some of you do.