Review: Netflix’s ‘Defenders’ Is Less Than the Sum of Its Superheroes

Review: Netflix’s ‘Defenders’ Is Less Than the Sum of Its Superheroes

Netflix and Marvel have collaborated on four comics-based television series over the last few years, and while they share a setting (New York) and a few overlapping characters, they’re pretty distinct. You wouldn’t confuse “Jessica Jones” with “Iron Fist” or “Daredevil” with “Luke Cage.”

Now there’s a fifth show, “Marvel’s The Defenders,” available Friday on Netflix, that brings the four heroes together to form a superpowered crime-fighting team. Marvel has done this before, combining characters to assemble the blockbuster Avengers movies.

But the challenge for the showrunners Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez (who were in charge of Season 2 of “Daredevil”) is a little different. Coming hot on the heels of the individual shows, each of which has already devoted 13 to 26 hours to its story, they’re not just juggling personalities and plot points. They’re also trying to mesh four different tones, styles, rhythms, color palettes, music philosophies and acting styles.

Through four of the eight episodes, they do an impressive job on that score. Without feeling like a paint-by-numbers kit, “Defenders” maintains the essence of the misanthropic private eye, Jones; the haunted blind vigilante, Daredevil; the bulletproof Harlem mensch, Cage; and the hippy-dippy martial artist, Iron Fist. It’s even deftly faithful to the original shows’ looks, going blue and steely when the action centers on Jones, white and misty for Iron Fist.

But the professionalism — and have no doubt, “Defenders” is very well put together — comes with some costs. One is the standard problem for this kind of assemblage: the need to give everyone equal screen time, and the exposition required to make sense of their getting together, means less of the things we come to comic-book stories for. There’s a lot of getting-to-know-you and here’s-what-we’re-doing talk in the early episodes, and not a lot of action or emotion.