Luke Cage is the latest series created by Marvel/Netflix, following the success of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. These three series will be part of a larger plan to introduce The Defenders, a team combining all three characters with the addition of Iron Fist, due to be released on Netflix in March.
Starring Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson, Ron Cephas Jones, Erik LaRay Harvey, Karen Pitman, Mahershala Ali and Frankie Faison.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a review for a TV series, let alone a Netflix series, but having finished Luke Cage last night I’ve felt so compelled by the show and feeling has imprinted on me to write something about it.
The MCU, Marvel cinematic universe, is expanding at an exponential rate. New films and series are released each year alongside the ABC series, Agents of Shield. While there is no doubt that Marvel has an enormous and loyal fan base, myself among them, comments can often be heard regarding the over saturation of the market for Superhero films. Although each person is of course entitled to their own opinion, I disagree, Superhero films have become their own genre much in the way you would find horror films, action films or romantic comedies. Another argument has been made that there is a real danger of these filming becoming formulaic regarding the narrative structure of Marvel films, with some villains gaining a reputation for being somewhat poorly developed.
I believe that Netflix has countered these predicaments with the aforementioned shows. By streaming the entire season at once online, narratives and characters are allowed far more freedom creatively so that they can create a many-layered, unpredictable and compelling series. Far easier to accomplish when they have over ten hours per season providing far more creative movement. This is not to say that I think Marvel films are poor, the vast majority aren’t but there is something extremely different regarding these Netflix series that allows them to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the films and TV series.
The idea began with Daredevil, a blind crime fighting Lawyer from the fictional city, suitably named, Hell’s Kitchen. The first series was an outstanding success and was directed in part towards those, such as myself, who are aware of the comics, and for those who have no knowledge but find the concept intriguing. The second series, although perhaps not as compelling for the lead characters as much of the narrative was devoted to setting up the third series.The focus was more on the sinister characters of Kingpin and The Punisher who thrived from the attention to the extent that The Punisher now has his own series. Daredevil’s purpose was to gain the attention of both fans aware of the source material and those who weren’t, so an intelligent beginning for this huge idea of The Defenders.
Jessica Jones is, if anything, a more powerful and compelling series, one directed intelligently for feminism. It showcased possibly my favourite villain, The Purple Man, and was strengthened by a supporting cast mostly comprised of women, utterly refreshing. Therefore the direction and purpose of the series is very different from Daredevil and honestly more powerful with a step away from comic-book based material and focused more the physiological thriller theme mixed with feminism.
Now Luke Cage has arrived and It’s quite possibly my favourite series so far and serves a very different but equally powerful purpose. So, how do you turn a gigantic muscle bound man with indestructible skin, and superhuman strength, into something compelling that can last the length of a Netflix series? You achieve this by focusing on the corruption of politics, the ongoing tension of the relationship between the Police and the public, and you highlight the feeling of black pride and black history that stems from the streets of Harlem.
America is facing a great number of problems, regardless of the political drama currently unfolding. For over a century in America’s history, gun violence, racial crimes and difficult relations between the police and the public have been consistent problems, particularly for the black community. So what better an idea is there than to introduce a huge Black Man in a hoodie whom normal bullets do not effect, who first appeared in comics in 1972 . Luke Cage is a peaceful man just trying to get by, he does not seek confrontation, he does not seek the money of others, he seeks to help others and ‘to move forward, always’. Social media has given a platform to gun violence in a way never before seen, literally, and the show very carefully and intelligently addresses a number of these issues through Cage.
The women in this show should be being celebrated more, each is a fascinating, powerful and many layered characters. Although it does not quite pass the Bechdel Test as far as I can remember, it does have a large number of women in the cast of varying ages. This is something that has been a continual issue in films and TV lately as more actresses have come forward to disclose the ageism present in the mainstream film industry. Body size is another prominent issue for women as TV and films are constantly depicting the same body size attuned to a mainstream Hollywood cinema. Luke Cage presents women of all sizes, all ages and all powerfully performed by some fantastic actresses.
This is a many-layered intelligent series, and one element that in particular stood out to me was the pacing of the narrative. While Jessica Jones and Daredevil spent much of their time slowing progressing through the narrative, Luke Cage charges through it. That is not to say it is rushed or poorly executed, quite the opposite, time is just not wasted discussing every tiny detail of people’s actions or the overall plan. Time is dedicated to the important discussions and moments and valued by the creators of the show, as quite a lot happens within one season.
The music in Luke Cage is captivating, beautiful and full of soul. Heard in two ways, firstly the club called Harlem Paradise, is used as an entertainment venue showcasing a number of talented musicians; and secondly, through the soundtrack used throughout the season. The music is a collection of soul music, rap and hip-hop, the type of music Harlem is famous for. The creators of the show really expertly use the music, and my only complaint is that a soundtrack is not yet available on iTunes.
This series should be seen as a positive message; however, there are always those who choose to complain. A number of people have tweeted, stating their disapproval of a cast of predominantly black actors. To that, all I will say is this, it’s about time we had a predominantly black cast given how many years we have had predominantly white tv shows.
On a more positive final note, I finished the series last night and already I want more.
OVERALL **** Marvel delves into some of its most iconic black characters in a compelling, powerful and intelligently orchestrated series. I only have one minor issue with the series, but that really is personal preference and a spoiler.
OVERALL- Even if you do not care for superhero films, this has more than enough substance to be a political drama. Highly recommend.