Oct 10, 2016

Luke Cage

Sweet Christmas!
Marvel Studios are a pretentious bunch. Their goal of building a cinematic universe has paid them and so has the TV universe set up with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil & Jessica Jones. Comic Book fans know that Daredevil & Jessica Jones are members of The Defenders, a group that is completed with the addition of the recently premiered Luke Cage and soon to be released Iron Fist series.While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. & Agent Carter haven't been everybody's cup of tea, Netflix has delivered a couple of great superhero series (Daredevil & Jessica Jones) so, is Luke Cage another certified hit? or does it sink into oblivion as Agent Carter and the dudes from SHIELD?

Before we answered that question, let's remember how Luke Cage came to be the hero for hire everyone knows as Power Man. Luke Cage was created by Archie Goodwin & John Romita Sr. in 1972 during the heyday of the Blaxploitation film genre. The original series was called Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, while on issue #17 was renamed Luke Cage, Power Man. His adventures were far darker than most of the other superheroes living in N.Y. Since the blaxploitation genre lost popularity by 1978, Cage joined forces with Iron Fist and the comic book series, known as Luke Cage & Iron Fist lasted until 1986 where it was cancelled due to low sales. In 1992 there was a brief update on the character but then again, it didn't do that good in the sales department so he was forever turned into a character making special appearances in other comic book magazines such as New Avengers, Daredevil, Thunderbolts and Secret War (I recommend reading this one for many reasons, and no, it's not the same Secret Wars from the 80's)

The now legendary Luke Cage #1.
Bulletproof brother of Harlem.
Now, Netflix nailed it with Daredevil. Two spectacular seasons (we reviewed its first season here) And by adding Jessica Jones (Luke Cage's wife by the way) fans were thrilled to know The Defenders were just around the corner.

Marvel's Luke Cage, or simply Luke Cage, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Cheo Hodari Coker. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise and is the third in a series of shows that will lead up to a Defenders crossover miniseries. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios, with Coker serving as showrunner.

Bad dudes get haircuts too!
There's always a woman behind a man's back.
Mike Colter stars as Carl Lucas / Luke Cage, a former convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin who now fights crime. Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Erik LaRay Harvey, Rosario Dawson, and Alfre Woodard also star. Development of the series began in late 2013. In December 2014, Colter was cast as Cage, to appear first in Marvel's Jessica Jones, with Coker hired as the showrunner in March 2015. Filming began in New York City in September 2015 and concluded in March 2016.

The series premiered on September 28, 2016 in Harlem, with the full series of 13 episode releasing on Netflix on September 30. The series received generally positive reviews, with praise going to Colter, Missick, Ali and Woodard for their performances, the 1970s style, and music, with its structure and some of the writing viewed as some of the series' shortcomings.

Pops, a larger than life character.
Get the fuck out of my lawn!
I got to say I was very excited when the series was announced, because just like the Supergirl series, Luke Cage would introduce a character that doesn't follow the overly used "White male American superhero" cliche. Supergirl was the first take on an all female cast since the Wonder Woman series from the late 70's! and Luke Cage on the other hand, is the first take on a black superhero. You know, I really don't like saying "a black superhero" we're all human beings regardless the color of our skin BUT, for philosophical reasons, Luke Cage shows the world there can be a superhero that doesn't look like Captain America and is not afraid of wearing a hoodie in front of the abusive American police  that shoot black people just because. So yeah, I definitely support the miscalled "minorities" because of my own Latino roots, and no, I'm neither Mexican nor a dishwasher or narco, stop using stereotypes to refer to other human beings!

As I said before, I started Luke Cage with high expectations, as I am sure many people did, because I thought I already knew what to expect. After all, this is not the first time we have seen this character (he also appeared in Jessica Jones). In terms of the main character, Mike Colter brings the same good performance to the character this time around, but where this show falls flat is everyone else. I want to say that the supporting cast kill this show, but that isn't fair to the actors and actresses who play them, because the acting is solid all around in Luke Cage. The problem is the writing. The writing makes this by far the worst of all the Marvel TV shows. This was not immediately clear, and so for the first few episodes I really enjoyed Luke Cage. The music was fantastic, the villain, Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, was very charismatic and initially intimidating, and the banter between characters (usually involving "Pop") was enjoyable. Then it started to fall apart when it came time for Luke to step up to be a hero. 

Friendship between a man & a woman is possible.
The biggest misstep is one that Marvel consistently has problems with: the villain. "Cottonmouth" is quite possibly the dumbest, least powerful (or in any way successful) villain in the entire MCU. In order to raise the stakes, the villain has to pose a threat of some kind to the hero. The best villains match, or even exceed the power of the heroes they face off against. "Cottonmouth" is not very powerful and intimidating to begin with, and does nothing as the series goes on but lose more power and control. Wilson Fisk in Daredevil was a fantastic villain because he was not only physically intimidating (even to the point of being able to go toe to toe with Daredevil himself) but he was a master manipulator and strategist. It took everything Daredevil and company had to put him away, and Daredevil only barely pulled it off at that (and not till the last episode of the season). "Cottonmouth" on the other hand, is not physically intimidating, and is not only not an intelligent strategist, but he cannot even control his own crew to the point that they kill people that he does not want dead. He repeatedly tries to kill Luke, with absolutely no success, and yet refuses to try anything else. There is even a scene where his cousin (a corrupt city councilwoman who is also completely ineffectual) advises him to try to kill Luke in a different manner, such as drowning or burning. To this "Cottonmouth" simply responds nah, I'll just shoot him some more, because that seems to work really well. 

To make everything worse, midway through the season after building a rivalry between Luke and "Cottonmouth" the entire time, "Cottonmouth" is abruptly killed in a stupid spat between him and his cousin. This apparently was a way to frame Luke for the murder, I guess to bring Misty Knight (the female detective that is constantly on Luke's case for no good reason) back into the plot since she was no longer relevant. This makes no sense, because Luke has an alibi for the murder, having been with Claire (nurse from Daredevil) being shot in the park at the time of the killing. So instead of a showdown with "Cottonmouth", Luke now battles for his life against a villain who we haven't even seen on screen the ENTIRE season until he abruptly shows up and starts shooting Luke with super bullets for reasons? There is no tension at all for this fight because we don't know anything about this person (except he's the one called Diamondback, who has been name dropped a couple of times) or what his motivations are for wanting to kill Luke. 

The real villain, Willys Stryker AKA Diamondback.
They tell me you're bulletproof, dodge this!
Overall, out of the bunch of Marvel Comics TV live action series, Luke Cage is saved from being the worst only because that place is already taken by Agent Carter & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While it features fantastic photography and an astonishing carefully crafted original Soundtrack, the series main plot is too weak, and it falls short after episode six which is clearly a big issue, since it's a superhero series that doesn't feel anything super. The whole Harlem black gangster urban vibe ends up eating up the whole series and you forget you're watching a Marvel Comics live action series. In addition, there's too much talking and too little action.

Here's the series teaser trailer:

 a Mike Colter interview:


Flashback-man said...

La serie me gusto, no es la mejor, sigue siendo el hombre sin miedo. Hay que ver el contexto de esta serie, Los Afroamericanos estan muy presente en esta serie y es el engranaje argumental, pero ademas, mezclada con la comunidad hispana que esta en Harlem. El personaje es de los 70 y ahí radica lo difícil de adaptar el personaje a la era digital. Si te das cuenta, los personajesde marvel que van apareciendo en netflix, tienen una carga social muy fuerte y7 eso aparecerá en la serie los Defensores mas acentuado.

Lo que flaquea es en los villanos, no se vio todo el potencial de los comics, pero esperemos que se arregle en futuras temporadas.


SPAM Alternative said...

Si es que las tiene, porque me dejó con la impresión de "hay que hacerla para poder hacer después Defenders" AUNQUE, queda Iron Fist aún, y puede que esa tenga un enfoque distinto. Lo de la temática que involucra a latinos y negros, está bien, pero es algo muy visto y no lo presentan desde un enfoque novedoso. Incluso los villanos, dejan bastante que desear. Una lástima para mí porque Luke Cage es un gran personaje que pongo a la misma altura del ultra popular Deadpool.

Saludos nachaldo y se viene la reseña de Jessica Jones.