Marvel brings its characters to TV.
With so many great shows offered on television with stories that give feature-length movies a run for their money, it's safe to say that we are now living in the 'Golden Age' of television.
Not to be left behind in the dust with predictable plots, hackneyed TV tropes and clichéd dialogues, Marvel Studios has been secretly and wisely shifting its formula to set its new live-action shows apart from the other superhero series we've seen thus far - to go back to being faithful to the true nature of their comics - which over the years had been toned down for a much wider TV and movie market.
It's palpable that the comic giant now seeks to reach the adult market with more raw and gritty content that doesn't stray too far away from realism (well at least as 'real' as the superhero stories permit them to be). Proof? Enter their latest online streaming series for the Playstation Network, "Powers", and the more recent "Daredevil", developed for the on-demand streaming media service, Netflix.
Let's face it; taking the darker route could only make sense for TV adaptations and not movies. Mature content would mean a cinematic rating more restricted than PG13 which would limit the studio's audience market and hence their box office figures. Look what happened to DC Comic's R-rated "Watchmen" which barely scrapped through with its USD185 million worldwide gross over its USD120 million budget.
Marvel has come a long way since families gathered in front of the TV set for the Bill Bixby-Lou Ferrigno starring "The Incredible Hulk" (1978). Still keeping things family friendly but hoping to keep the comic fan base sated with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter" developed for the Walt Disney owned family-based ABC Television Network, Marvel's initially promising premise of stories sort of faltered eventually. There is a struggle to sustain viewership week-after-week and to keep within the borders of the network imposed restrictions.
Past Live-action series from Marvel over the years. (Photo Source: Marvel Wikia)
By pursuing other broadcasting outlets like Playstation and Netflix, this means fewer limitations for the storytellers to display depth where violence, nudity and drug references are concerned and consequently freedom to adapt the series as how it was intended to be. Viewers will also benefit as the alternative means to watch the series will save them the agonising weekly new episode wait. They can now watch the full season of a series in marathon-style viewing (if they prefer) at their own pace. This allows for clearer story continuity since viewers will still have the previous episode fresh in their minds thus delivering an extended movie-like experience with the momentum.
"With great power, comes great responsibility" (Thanks, Spider-Man!), and Marvel is holding their reigns of their properties pretty close for quality control as they speed up ahead to bring more adaptations to our small screens. Currently there are four adapted Marvel series on air and four more brand new shows which have been confirmed to be in the works!
With over 40, 000 characters in Marvel's database, not all can make it to the big screen, but thanks to TV, there's now actually a shot to see your favourite being brought to life in the not too distant future!
Current Marvel TV shows
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (September, 2013 - present)
Set as an accompanying series to the films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agent Phil Coulson of the peacekeeping spy agency, S.H.I.E.L.D., leads his own show on the ABC network after first appearing in "Iron Man" (2008) and then in "Thor" (2011) and lastly, "The Avengers" (2012). The show sees Agent Coulson at present day leading his team on perilous missions around the world that often references the events of the past movies and even "Guardians of the Galaxy" (plenty of Easter Eggs here!). The series features a tie-in storyline to "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and is expected to lead up to the upcoming Marvel movie, "Inhumans".
Agent Carter (January, 2015 - present)
The events of "Agent Carter" takes place right after "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011) and follows Steve Roger's flame, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as she mourns him being gone while also overcoming sexism as a 'lone female agent in a man's world' in 1940s America. Giving off a "Mad Men" vibe with its period setting, the show sees Carter going undercover to help Tony Stark's father, Howard Stark to clear his name, while taking on villains from the likes of the KGB and Hydra. We also meet Howard Stark's butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy), who would eventually inspire Tony Stark's J.A.R.V.I.S. program. If the ladies need more convincing to watch this series, "One Tree Hill's" Chad Michael Murray plays one of the leads too.
Powers (March, 2015 - present)
South African actor Sharlto Copley of "District 9" and "Chappie" plays Christian Walker, a homicide detective and former superhero who has had his powers to fly taken from him. Set in a world where superheroes roam out in the open, Walker and his partner Deena Pilgrim work in a homicide division called Powers to investigate crimes involving superheroes and supervillains. This online streaming series is available on the Playstation Network, and like most video games, this show has plenty of blood, violence and a stream of curse words thanks to the foul-mouthed Walker.
Daredevil (April, 2015 - present)
Approached as a crime-drama first, superhero show second, this Netflix show even made "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn cry, not once, but twice, due to the touching execution of the character's backstories. Probably the most darkest Marvel series to date, "Daredevil" is led by a strong ensemble cast; Charlie Cox, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elden Henson, Deborah Ann Woll and Rosario Dawson who are more on the streets than in the clouds. With the series being 13 hour-long episodes, it feels more like an extended movie than an actual TV series. Long continuous takes of action sequences and strong character led performances, is what make this a well-executed emotionally charged violent series which the 2003 movie failed to deliver. "Daredevil" is the first out of three more upcoming Marvel series which would all then lead to a "Defenders" miniseries.
Upcoming Marvel TV shows
A.K.A. Jessica Jones (2015)
"Breaking Bad's" Krysten Ritter will be playing Jessica Jones, a former superhero with post-traumatic stress disorder who has her own detective agency. Also set in Hell's Kitchen, New York like "Daredevil", Jones will be seen dealing with cases involving people with superpowers in the city and will be 13 hour-long episodes for Netflix slated for this year. The casting for this is pretty tight with David Tennant ("Doctor Who"), Carrie-Anne Moss ("The Matrix") and more to star. Mike Colter will be playing an important part in this series as Luke Cage, before getting his own series.
Having been introduced in "A.K.A. Jessica Jones", Luke Cage's backstory will be explored more in his own series on Netflix as he faces off against his own adversaries. Imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, Cage's superpowers have given him unbreakable skin and superhuman strength. His skin can resist high-caliber bullets, puncture wounds, corrosives, and extreme temperatures and pressures without sustaining damage, which makes him sound a little like Wolverine, doesn't it? He's also described to be a much darker, grittier and more tangible character than "Iron Man" or "Thor".
Often appearing as Luke Cage's ally in the comics, Iron Fist aka Daniel Rand is a practitioner of martial arts and is able to concentrate his body's natural energies into his hand, hence making it an 'iron fist' with a supernatural glow that becomes impervious to pain and injury. The leading actor for this has not been cast yet, but there's a slight possibility that this character may even appear in "Captain America's" Civil War movie like in the comics.
As how the "Avengers" is Marvel's superhero ensemble film for the big screen, "Defenders" aims to the TV's own Marvel superhero ensemble film. Envisioned as a miniseries for Netflix, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist will come together in Hell's Kitchen, New York to bring down a yet to be revealed adversary.
Cinema Online, 21 April 2015