This morning brought us the blockbuster announcement that Marvel Studios and Netflix have teamed to create a miniaturized version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Beginning with a number of solo projects, miniseries based on Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones will build to a miniseries teaming the four characters together to protect Hell's Kitchen as The Defenders.
That's a lot to process.
And with not a lot of information, and no casting yet available, it's difficult to know just what to expect from these shows...but there's certainly a lot of things people would like to see. We'll be talking to some fans and some other writers and bringing you a look at what we hope to see from the Defenders-verse soon, but in and of itself, there are some questions that the announcement has raised. Like...
Fan-casting is always a fun way to while away the hours when it comes to comic book movies and TV series, but these are particularly interesting. Nearly every major black actor in Hollywood has expressed an interest in doing Luke Cage at one point or another, for instance, and since there have been a couple of attempts at Daredevil in the recent past, whoever gets cast in that film may be haunted by comparisons to Affleck, or by people's unfulfilled idea of what that Joe Carnahan/Josh Hartnett movie could have been.
Terry Crews, a longtime fan favorite for Luke Cage, is a good choice, but he's become a top-lining Hollywood star with the Expendables movies. This might be part of the appeal of doing the series in a fairly limited (13-episode plus tie-ins) capacity and at Netflix, where they've shown a willingness to spend the money to make these things happen (Kevin Spacey is the lead in their House of Cards remake, which is reportedly already in place for not only a second but a third season now).
And that's really where the question comes in: will they try and get actors who are big enough names to fit seamlessly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, should they decide down the line that the Avengers and Defenders are going to work together in a crossover movie? Or will they go with more TV-friendly names, who are more accustomed to working in a serialized format and may be cheaper?
We've already mentioned the Joe Carnahan Daredevil project, which was described as gritty and street-level with a focus on Hell's Kitchen as a setting. That all sounds very much like what Marvel plans to do here with the Defenders-verse, so will we see any of Carnahan's other concepts worked into the show?
That's probably unlikely since Fox owns anything Carnahan doesn't have on his person, but here's a bigger question: What about A.K.A. Jessica Jones? Will the Alias-by-another-name TV series be brought over fairly intact to Netflix, subtracting little and adding only that which is needed to tie it into the other Defenders shows? Or is this a whole other animal and Jones is just a character Marvel has decided they're committed to developing?
What does this mean for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
With these series now in active development and with a commitment from Netflix to get them made, suddenly Marvel TV is very much in the business of making Defenders shows.
So what does that mean for the very Avengers-centric Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Well, it's got at least a second season, but with ratings drifting downward with each new episode, it's hard to ignore the possibility that it may not make it past a second season. If that starts to look like a real possibility, does the fact that they've got other, potentially more profitable things to do mean that Marvel will focus less on "fixing" or "saving" their flagship series and more on finding a way to integrate those characters into the Cinematic Universe or the Defenders shows?
Marvel is Marvel. It's distinctly possible that any major, new character will be introduced for the first time in his or her own series.
There's also the possibility we get them introduced in a movie, on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or in whatever the first miniseries (probably Daredevil, if we're honest) turns out to be. But this is a plan that's years-long. Will it be 2016 or 2017 before we even see Jessica Jones for the first time?
Will fans be satisfied with these announcements?
And by "fans" here, we mean particularly fans who have been eager to see a non-white, non-male superhero headlining their own show. Both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are characters who have been rumored to be in development for a while now, and certainly it'll be cool to see them...but will a 13-episode miniseries on Netflix be seen as "enough" for the first female or first person of color that Marvel has offered to the general public?
I can see a complaint that the characters will have been ghettoized on a pay-cable service and isolated from the mega-hit Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether those complaints will come--or, if they do, whether anyone will take them seriously--is anyone's guess, but if it were me, I might consider announcing more big-screen plans in the near term so that such complaints are dulled before The Defenders starts to really get off the ground.