With Luke Cage, Marvel Television, ABC Studios and Netflix had the daunting task of taking a storyline that many of us have seen before: An innocent man is sent to prison and that man struggles to create any semblance of a productive life. If that wasn’t an exorbitant task in itself, show runner, Cheo Hodari Coker (Southland, Ray Donovan), also had to include elements of a little known superhero property and thrust it into an already established world.
Marvels Luke Cage takes familiar elements and presents them in a way that is totally new and exciting by incorporating fantastic music and dynamic characters. Cottonmouth played by the little known, Mahershala Ali (The 4400, House of Cards) steals the spotlight from Mike Colter (The Following, Jessica Jones) who plays series protagonist, Luke Cage. If one could take away anything from the Marvel and Netflix partnership is that the their ability to present multi layered villains, something the Marvel film team has missed on more than a few occasions, is outstanding. You never once question the villains motivation for doing what he or she does and their actions span across the universe into other shows like Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Iron Fist.
Now my praise is not devoid of its criticisms, Diamondback, who is presented as the main antagonist for the series, falls flat, mainly because of the portrayal of Erik LaRay Harvey (Boardwalk Empire, Twister). Diamondback comes off as crazy and reckless something that differs from other villains in the universe who appear calculated. Daredevil season 1 villain, Wilson Fisk played by Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In Black, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Full Metal Jacket) for instance portrayed the character as a level headed and calculated mob boss. You never question his motives and you definitely never question his resolve.
Marvel Television has been delivering fantastic adaptations one after the other, starting with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Agents of Shield and Luke Cage. However, it concerns me that we may see the beginning of the end for the studio with the recent vitriol aimed at Marvel’s The Inhumans, set to make its debut on ABC this September. Iron Fist although flawed was still decent but definitely did not measure up to the quality in its older counterparts. This could be a double-edged sword, on one hand the dissolution of Marvel Television would give complete control of these characters to Kevin Feige and the Marvel Studio team thus being able to see Daredevil fight alongside Spider-Man and Doctor Strange on the other you lose the ability to check in on these characters on a weekly basis. I think I am in the former camp, although I have one caveat. If the studio was dissolved, I would want to see these same actors from the television properties incorporated into the films but most importantly the involvement of Daisy, Fitz, Simmons, Mack, Coulsen and Robbie Reyes aka Ghost Rider from Agents of Shield.
The Avengers Vs. The Defenders could be the epitome of the superhero team up movie. Can you imagine a film where the humility of Steve Rogers and Luke Cage combating the arrogance of Tony Stark and Jessica Jones? Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and to a lesser extent Danny Rand can offer an element to the films that we have not seen before, the introduction of multifaceted villains from the deepest underbelly of New York, Hell’s Kitchen.
In the end, Luke Cage is an enjoyable addition to this Defenders universe. Let’s hope that Marvel Television can continue to deliver faithful adaptations of beloved Marvel franchises.
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions
Marvels The Defenders releases all episodes on Netflix August 18th 2017.