In 2008 Marvel struck gold with the release of Iron Man. Now a household name, the superhero, billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark was once a very niche member of the Marvel roster, but it was the hit they needed to found the somewhat revolutionary ‘Cinematic Universe’. Seven years on, with countless sequels and threequels reaching the big screen, Netflix broke onto the Marvel scene in quite a similar fashion.
Before last year, mention the name ‘Daredevil’ around comic fans and movie buffs alike and you’d be greeted by sighs and ughs of disgust, all due to the infamous 2003 film. Despite the stigma, this character became the cornerstone for Netflix and Marvel’s defenders series, working to revitalise superhero television and Marvel’s appeal in general.Netflix as a distribution channel is going from strength to strength of late. Originals like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and Master of None have secured its place in the market as a producer of high quality content, with no signs of slowing up. The streaming service has announced it’ll host over six hundred hours of original programming in 2016, with a whopping budget of $6 Billion for these shows. Netflix has become a real leader in pioneering new ideas in television.
The decision to get into bed with Netflix is a smart one for Marvel. Their efforts in television, Agents of Shield and Peggy Carter, haven’t done anything huge for the company. While they’re both good shows in their own right, neither has been allowed to stray much from the cinematic universe’s tone – light, with a little darkness to it, all balanced out by comedy relief and tonnes of action. With Netflix on board, the defenders is Marvel’s opportunity to do something different.
I still remember being a bit surprised the first time blood effects popped up early in Daredevil. It wasn’t that they were anything overly gruesome or felt out of place, it was just the first time I’d seen them in a Marvel property. It’s easy to get used to knowing what a Marvel movie is, and Daredevil really managed to turn that on its head. Jessica Jones took it to a new level, delivering some of the most intense scenes I’ve witnessed in any show, proving we’re not dealing with the cinematic Marvel here.
I’ll admit I’ve begun to tire a little of the Marvel blockbuster cycle, made all the more clear by 2015’s Ant-man and Age of Ultron. As much as I enjoy a lot of the characters and the formation of the Cinematic Universe, these recent films have ended up feeling like filler content for the next big spectacle. The partnership with Netflix, however, allows Marvel to look at some of their more obscure characters with darker themes that may not have the huge appeal that Captain America commands, fitting the perfect mould for exploration in a different way.
Take Jessica Jones for example, Netflix’ most recent series. The character of Jessica is a complex one. By the end of the first few episodes we were still figuring out who she was, alongside important characters like Luke Cage (who’s planned to get his own series very soon). The themes of manipulation, abuse, fear, and pessimism are a far cry from anything you’ll see in The Avengers, and takes a lot more time to explore. I can’t see a movie doing her character as much justice as the show did – she’s a character that takes work to like, and work to develop.The ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Netflix have built themselves is their own private corner of the Marvel universe. In it, crime runs rampant and quasi-heroes rise up to fight the darkness within and without. Through this lens Netflix can go beyond the movies to the source material itself, Marvel’s vast comic library, to bring new heroes and villains to life in a believable way. Marvel’s media doesn’t just have to be marketable as a family friendly action romp you can enjoy for an hour and a half.
With Daredevil season two on the horizon, Jessica Jones being renewed for a second season and the rumours of a standalone Punisher series in the works, it seems like the move to Netflix is paying off for Marvel. That being said, there’s a reason we’re at this point, and why we need this variety.What Netflix needs to remember as they move forward with the defenders is that closure is powerful. There’s an overarching premise to this wing of the Marvel universe we’re yet to see, waiting on the Luke Cage and Iron Fist series to land. There’s a lot ahead of them, but I pray that they’ll know when to bring these stories to a close.
Daredevil’s first season was masterfully put together. It boasts Marvel’s most developed villain, gorgeous shots, and a very clever sense of pace. You can tell a lot of care was put into the development of the show, and it’s resonated with Marvel fans because of that attention to detail. I’m very hopeful for season two and, assuming it delivers, excited to see more beyond that.
I hope we don’t see the day where we need a rest from Marvel on Netflix, there’s a huge potential for varied tone and content to draw in a wide array of audiences. With a huge roster of characters, and a wealth of comics to draw from, the potential is huge. They’ve done well so far and I have high hopes for the future; I’d hate to see what they’ve created here go to waste.