Here, finally, is the wrap-up of my three-part series on Marvel Studios' Netflix invasion. The first two parts are here and here. This time, I'll be discussing the big crossover at the end, and speculating even more wildly than I already have about what might come next.
The Defenders mini-series: Personally, I'm a little annoyed by the name. As a fan of accuracy to the source material, it's a pet peeve of mine when they act like it's throwing a bone to the fans to put a name of something on something else that bears no resemblance to the thing that name was originally attached to. On top of that, it seems like a pretty clear message that Marvel has no intention of bringing the "real" Defenders to the screen at all in the foreseeable future. I know, it's not very likely that we would've ever gotten a movie crossing over Dr. Strange with the Hulk and introducing characters like Nighthawk, Hellcat, or Valkyrie, but stranger things have happened, right? I'd say Guardians of the Galaxy is easily stranger than that, and look how well it's doing.
Then again, if I wanted to be optimistic, I could make the argument that nobody ever said the heroes from these shows are gonna be the only heroes in the Defenders. Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage all teamed up with the Defenders of the comics at one time or another, and it's very possible that the mini-series won't happen until after the Dr. Strange movie comes out. All it would take was Dr. Strange being the Nick Fury to this counterpart of the Avengers (and maybe one or two more characters from the Defenders' original roster) for this to feel more like it's not just the Defenders in name only.
Of course, that's just a bit of wishful thinking from a comicbook purist. All of the individual heroes selected for these shows are very much of the "street-level" variety, so it's hardly likely that a more fantasy-based arcane type like Dr. Strange would just randomly drop in for the big finale. Ruling that out, though, still leaves a whole host of questions about what the mini-series will be like. Will they be fighting the Kingpin? The Hand? Maybe even both? How much of the groundwork for the heroes uniting in common cause will have been laid in the individual series beforehand? Will they all be fairly well-acquainted at the start of the mini, or will they be meeting each other for the first time? Who will be the leader of the team? (Daredevil seems like the default choice, but he shouldn't automatically be the leader just because he's been around the longest.)
Yeah, I know there isn't really much point in making a post speculating on an upcoming series when I don't even really have anything to speculate about, but I think that's actually something really exciting about this mini-series; there are just so many possibilities. The mere fact that four unique and dynamic heroes will be crossing over is pretty great in itself, but it's made even more exciting by the fact that whatever storyline they're gonna fall into will be spread over the course of at least four hours. That will provide a very different and potentially more character-driven type of story than the usual hurry-to-the-fight-scenes action movie. It could end up being very epic, but in a personally-meaningful kind of way.
Then again, it could end up just feeling very crowded. One of the biggest complaints people have about the less popular entries of the superhero genre is that they're trying to shove too many characters into one story (Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2 being the most obvious examples). Even though the mini-series format and the fact all the heroes will be introduced in their own series will give them some breathing room, I don't think this will be immune to the possibility of being overcrowded; I think that's a legitimate concern for any crossover story. Being a fan of Joss Whedon from previous masterworks like Firefly, I wasn't worried about The Avengers, because Joss is a master of juggling an ensemble cast and giving them all something to do (note to pedants; I didn't say he gives them all an equal amount, but he does give them all something) without it feeling crowded or over-complicated. With Defenders, on the other hand, we have no idea who will be writing it or how adept they'll be at handling an ensemble. Still, Marvel Studios does have a good track record of hiring the right creative people for each unique story, so I'm pretty confident this will turn out all right.
The Future: If all the currently-announced shows are not big hits (or maybe even if they have the more modest success of Agents of SHIELD), then there may not be any future for Marvel on Netflix. But if Marvel Studios can tap into the same creative genius that brought Guardians of the Galaxy from near-total obscurity to an unequivocal smash hit, then Marvel and Netflix may have a long and beautiful friendship. That works just fine for me, because I love the idea of having more live-action superhero content available. Of course, if these are really successful, there's every possibility that one or more of the heroes will make the leap to the big screen, which would be quite a feat. But just in terms of more Netflix shows, there are almost endless, tantalizing possibilities.
Moon Knight is the first Marvel hero who immediately springs to mind, and he definitely fits right in with the street-level aesthetic of the first wave of shows, as does Black Panther (though I think most of us would still prefer to see him on the big screen). There's no reason they need be beholden to that dynamic forever, though. Where Marvel Studios is concerned, it's just as possible we could get more oddball offerings (She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, or maybe Squirrel Girl?) or even maybe something a little more cosmic (Nova, perhaps, or maybe the rights to Silver Surfer will revert), or any number of interesting corners of the MCU.
Since big-name movie actors don't seem to mind doing Netflix shows, it's not outside the realm of possibility that we could get a Hawkeye & Black Widow show, or Hawkeye & Mockingbird if her character takes off on Agents of SHIELD. And if we've already got those two together, why stop there? Why not just give us the entire West Coast Avengers? If these four-and-a-half shows do as well as most Marvel Studios offerings have done, I see absolutely no reason to rule out something so grand as that from being considered a legitimate possibility (sure, it might take ten years, but I think I can be patient). I don't want to get my hopes up too high, because there are a lot of reasons something like that probably wouldn't happen, but on the other hand, there are so, so many things Marvel Studios has already done that I would never have considered even remotely possible before they did them, and did them well. Let's hope these Netflix shows are just the first in another long line of unexpected but much-appreciated successes from the new House of Ideas.