Fanboys, Marvel executives, and Robert Downey Jr. may disagree with this statement, but here it is: Netflix’s Marvel shows are far superior to the MCU films.
That’s right, I said it. If you’re one of the people who read that statement and thought “Hm, this chick needs to be committed to a mental hospital,” stay with me here and I promise to explain. In 2015, Netflix launched their own spin on Marvel with Daredevil. With this, Netflix pulled off the impossible feat of rebooting Daredevil, a property that was long-believed to be dead after the Ben Affleck disaster. Following Daredevil, Netflix released Jessica Jones, which was met with positive reviews for the way it explored assault, domestic abuse, and PTSD. Yes, it explored those issues all within a superhero show. With Luke Cage, Netflix was three for three. Of course, Iron Fist then happened… and that’s, uh, a thing. But hey, you can’t win them all. I mean, the MCU has also had a few flops.
Whether you prefer the MCU films or Netflix’s shows, the thing that remains true is that these are Hollywood’s biggest moneymakers. Did Stan Lee somehow see into the future? I mean, who would have thought his world of fictional characters would produce the biggest Hollywood franchises? But I digress. This is about Netflix’s shows being better (SO MUCH BETTER!) than the MCU films. Below are 15 major reasons Netflix’s Marvel shows are bigger and better than the MCU films. Sorry, Robert Downey Jr.
15. Netflix Beat Marvel In The Solo Female Superhero Department
I’m sorry, but the MCU has a ton of movies and they’ve yet to have a woman-fronted film happen? Shame on Marvel, y’all!
It’s not like the MCU doesn’t have a ton of interesting, strong female superheroes who could potentially star in their own film. Iron Man 2 introduced Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. With Black Widow’s popularity and the fact that Johansson is a proven box office draw (Lucy, anyone?), how has there not been a solo Black Widow film yet? And yes, there’s been talk of a solo Black Widow film for a long time, but it’s yet to result in an actual movie.
The MCU has also introduced us to Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), both layered characters who are played by strong actresses that deserve their own film. I mean, I’m not necessarily saying that we need a solo Gamora film or a solo Scarlet Witch film, but it’s glaringly obvious that the MCU is without a female-fronted film.
On this topic, even DC beat Marvel to this particular milestone with Wonder Woman, which, by the way, dominated at the box office this summer. Likewise, Netflix beat Marvel in the female-fronted race with 2015’s Jessica Jones.
14. Netflix Also Beat Marvel In The Solo Black Superhero Department
It sure seems like Netflix is winning on the diversity front.
Premiering in 2016, Netflix’s Luke Cage featured a black superhero, which is yet another thing the MCU has failed to feature since they launched nearly ten years ago. Yes, guys, it’s been ten years of MCU films (!!!) and we’ve yet to get a film starring a woman or a person of color, so there’s that.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the MCU is a horrible pile of garbage. But it is noteworthy that in a much shorter amount of time, Netflix has been able to incorporate much more diversity into their properties. Plus, isn’t it always great for little girls or young black children to see a hero that they actually look like?
13. Oh, And Netflix Beat Marvel To A Disabled Superhero
Since we’re rolling this way, let’s keep it going. Netflix’s cornerstone is Daredevil, which features a blind superhero. That’s right, Netflix beat the MCU to a female superhero, a superhero of color, AND a disabled superhero. And yeah, doing a Daredevil show automatically means you’re adding a disabled hero to the mix because that’s kind of Daredevil’s thing. However, it’s still noteworthy that Netflix has chosen these particular superheroes. Meanwhile, the MCU has chosen more typical superheroes off which to build their brand.
Seeing a disabled superhero is very empowering. And no, it’s not just because people with disabilities can connect with Daredevil, but that’s definitely a lovely bonus. The amazing thing about Daredevil’s blindness is that it shows the power of the human spirit in the face of difficulties. Even people with 20/20 vision can connect to Matt Murdock’s inner strength in that regard.
Overall, it seems Netflix has made a conscious decision to create a group of diverse heroes, all of whom the audience could connect to. The MCU, um, hasn’t really done that. I mean, who out there feels a deep emotional connection to the literal god Thor? Nope, didn’t think so. Simply put, Netflix’s superheroes are, quite literally, more human.
12. Netflix’s Non-Super Love Interests Aren’t Throw-Away Characters
Obviously, Marvel Studios can afford to pay for some big names. In fact, they’ve even gotten huge names for some low-key parts. Gwyneth Paltrow, Oscar-winner and CEO of GOOP, plays Pepper Potts. What’s Pepper Potts’ role exactly? Um, she pretty much shows up every once in a while to remind us Tony Stark is, in fact, taken and can’t hook up with Aunt May.
The same can be said about Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who was Thor’s love interest in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer suffered the same fate in Doctor Strange. I’m sorry, but what is the actual point of getting Paltrow, Portman and McAdams if they aren’t given a real opportunity to act? These actresses aren’t playing heroes, but they are playing intelligent, kicka*s characters, who could have been incorporated into their respective films better.
Netflix has done a much better job with their non-superhero love interests. Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple is a nurse whose skills have legitimately played into certain plot points. Claire Temple also seems to have a life, instead of just showing up to be a girlfriend character every once in a while. The same can be said of Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing.
11. Um, Jessica Jones Is A Pretty Perfect TV Show
Since I’m a sucker for Krysten Ritter, leather jackets, and strong female antiheroes, I may be biased but I’m still going to say it: Jessica Jones is a perfect television show. This is to say that Jessica Jones is a highly entertaining superhero show but, at its core, it’s completely character-driven. Jessica Jones is a perfect marriage of character and plot, which is something very, very few superhero properties have been able to portray. Many times, it feels like the superhero is battling the bad guy because that’s what superheroes do. That was not the case in Jessica Jones, though.
Jessica Jones works particularly well because of the villain Kilgrave. Jessica’s unwavering resolution to defeat Kilgrave doesn’t come from the plot forcing this on her, but rather from the fact she had previously been in an abusive relationship with him. On top of that, this show takes place within the MCU world. Kilgrave was a perfect villain to be Jessica’s big bad while also not being big enough for the Avengers to get involved.
Jessica Jones could also be praised for positively expanding the Netflix universe by introducing Luke Cage. There was also Trish Walker, who was thankfully not just the “best friend” character. Trish has her own plot going on outside of Jessica’s plot. Overall, Jessica Jones nailed its protagonist, antagonist, supporting cast of characters, plot, cinematography, and action sequences. Like I said, it’s perfect!
10. Netflix’s Willingness To Talk About Difficult Subjects
I’ll stop ranting and raving about Jessica Jones in a moment, but first I have to point out that this show did not shy away from talking about PTSD, assault, and abusive relationships. Covering difficult issues like these was ambitious, to say the very least, for a superhero show.
Likewise, Luke Cage dealt with complex issues, like living in a poor area, race, drug use, drug dealers, and relations with police officers. In fact, Luke Cage’s willingness to completely embrace black culture actually resulted in people calling it “racist” for its lack of white characters. Throughout Daredevil, Matt Murdock struggles with being an attorney, being a superhero, and being religious. While serving justice, Matt often toes the line of morality. This causes him to question himself, his role in the world, and his religion. Iron Fist even dealt with things like loss and legacy.
9. Netflix Doesn’t Have To Worry About An R-Rating
While the MCU films have to deal with the film rating system, Netflix doesn’t have to deal with the pesky rating system. In fact, Netflix doesn’t have to answer to anyone. As a streaming service, Netflix can pretty much do whatever they want.
Netflix’s freedom has resulted in some envelope-pushing shows. For example, 13 Reasons Why was not your average teen drama on The CW. Despite being for a younger audience, 13 Reasons Why featured graphic seasons of assault, violence, and suicide. It’s not very likely any other network would have green-lit this teen drama. But Netflix did. That said, Netflix also does whatever they want with their Marvel shows, which has resulted in steamy scenes, graphic violence, and harsh language. This is Marvel for adults, y’all!
8. Netflix’s Romances Are More Complex
Netflix’s willingness to explore difficult, dark issues has resulted in more layered characters and, thus, more complex relationships between said characters.
In terms of complex relationships, there’s Matt Murdock’s relationships with both Karen Page and Elektra. These two very different female characters seem to represent two very different sides of Matt’s personality. While Karen’s pursuit of justice mirrors Matt’s own, Elektra’s reckless, wild side mirrors the part of Matt he tried to tame. Oh, and not to mention that The Defenders ended with Elektra and Daredevil making out while inevitable death came for them. That may have been one of the hottest, darkest things ever.
There’s also the Jessica Jones-Luke Cage-Claire Temple love triangle that is, thankfully, not following your typical TV love triangle rules. This love triangle isn’t like the love triangles shown on Grey’s Anatomy or The Good Wife, in which the s*x appeal is amped up. Netflix doesn’t fetishize these relationships for ratings, instead letting relationships evolve in a seemingly organic way.
7. Let Us Not Forget Times Marvel Awkwardly Recast Characters
Netflix’s Marvel shows aren’t completely perfect. I’m not here to convince you of that. All I’m saying is that the MCU films are even further from perfect.
One of the ways in which the MCU will always fail to be perfect is their odd recasting of major characters. That’s right, let us all not forget the times Marvel awkwardly recast characters all within the same universe. Um… yeah, it’s weird.
Though Marvel Studios would love for us to forget about it, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk is 100% in the MCU. This means Bruce Banner was played by Edward Norton AND Mark Ruffalo. Yes, all within the same universe. Likewise, Terrence Howard played Rhodey in Iron Man, only to be replaced by Don Cheadle in the later films.
Of course, recasting characters is something that can happen, especially if you’re creating a cinematic universe spanning over a decade of films. Still, it’s worth mentioning. I mean, Netflix hasn’t had any awkward recasts yet. Just sayin’…
6. Um, You Don’t Have To Pay For A Movie Ticket
One of the more practical, economical reasons Netflix is superior to the MCU is because you don’t have to pay for a movie ticket. Guys, you don’t have to pay for a movie ticket! That’s, like, huge savings! And I’m not even kidding, because movie ticket prices are insane these days. In 2016, it was reported that movie ticket prices are an average of $8.65. If you’ve paid to see every MCU film in a theater, that comes out to $138.40.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Netflix subscriptions cost money too. That’s true, but you’re paying for something completely different. The price of a movie ticket gives you a one-time experience. Meanwhile, the price of Netflix gives you a monthly service which delivers films and television shows to your television or computer. The monthly Netflix subscription gives you unlimited access to their Netflix shows, while your movie ticket only allows you to see it once.
5. There’s Much More To Watch (Binge Away, My Friends!)
Not only does Netflix’s streaming service mean you can have unlimited viewings of your favorite Netflix-Marvel shows, but it also means you can watch these shows on your couch… in your pyjamas… eating pizza… and drinking wine. Oh, did I just describe the best day ever? Um, YES.
With Netflix, there’s also the added bonus of there being so much more content to watch. The MCU films are generally a little bit over two hours. If the film in question is an Avengers-style film, it’ll probably even be closer to three hours. Still, though, Netflix has more content. With each episode clocking in around the one-hour mark and 13 episode seasons, Netflix’s shows give audiences a lot to watch.
The fact that there’s more to watch is great in terms of keeping us entertained for hours on end, but it also gives the shows more time to develop the characters. While the films have to pack in character development for all the superheroes into already very stuffed films, the Netflix shows are able to take their time with backstories and flashbacks. It makes for much deeper and more interesting characters.
4. More Developed Characters = Plots Are More Character Driven
Like I said, Netflix has the benefit of being able to develop their characters. This has allowed audiences to know the upbringings, difficulties, flaws, and weaknesses of each and every character. The characters feel human.
Because Netflix delivers more developed, layered characters, the plots of the shows do actually feel driven by the characters. You understand why Daredevil wants to take down Fisk and why he’s attracted to Elektra. Likewise, you understand why Jessica Jones has to face Kilgrave and not simply run away from him. You understand that Luke Cage is against everything Cottonmouth and Black Mariah stand for.
The MCU films tend to feel like the hero is fighting the villain because the plot calls for it and that’s what heroes do. The Netflix shows, instead, feel like the heroes are fighting specific villains for real, personal reasons.
3. The Most Realistic Superheroes Ever
Because of both the aesthetic and the narrative, the Netflix heroes feel like maybe the most realistic superheroes ever.
One very obvious difference is that the Netflix heroes don’t wear costumes. The MCU heroes pretty much all wear costumes very similar to their comic book counterparts. In fact, almost every single superhero film adaptation – be it a Fox or DC property – features the superhero wearing a costume. The Netflix heroes, however, forego the costumes. Well, Daredevil does wear a costume, but the rest of the Defenders make fun of him for doing so. There are a few shoutouts to the comic book costumes, though. Luke Cage often wears a yellow article of clothing, which is a nod towards his comic book counterpart. Jessica Jones never dons something similar to the comic book costume, but it is referenced in season one.
On the narrative front, we see more of Netflix’s heroes’ lives. We see their jobs, their neighbors, their friends, and their routines. Because we see their everyday lives, Netflix’s heroes feel more human. When it comes to the MCU heroes, we only really see them in crisis mode or save-the-day mode. Seriously, has anyone ever seen Scarlet Witch brush her teeth? Nope, didn’t think so.
2. You Actually Care About Netflix’s Villains
Netflix pulls off the very rare feat of making the audience kind of like the villains. In comparison, it’s rare you even remember an MCU villain.
Sure, Marvel has been trying. In their most recent film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Michael Keaton’s Vulture was given some development. Due to his screen time and Keaton’s performance, Vulture was a more fleshed out villain than the MCU usually delivers. Likewise, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 tried to deliver a better villain by making it more personal to Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). However, it only slightly succeeded.
Because Netflix can spend more time with the villains, they are both more realistic and more terrifying. As an audience member, you can start to connect to the villain, which only makes the villain even scarier. There were times one felt bad for Jessica Jones’s Kilgrave, even if he manipulated everyone in his life. There was also Daredevil’s Punisher, who teetered somewhere between hero and villain.
1. Overall, Netflix Delivers Superior Storytelling
No one can deny the fact that the MCU has delivered ten years of entertaining superhero films. In fact, the MCU has forever changed the landscape of superhero cinema, and really, cinema in general. Marvel Studios also has some very deep pockets, resulting in some of the most technically advanced action sequences in film. I’ll give the MCU all the praise for these things. However, where Netflix’s shows surpass the MCU films is storytelling. This could be chalked up to Netflix having more time to develop characters, plots, and themes, This is true, but Netflix is also more willing to deal with real issues within their superhero properties. This has resulted in Netflix producing deeper, darker, and more complex shows, which are all culturally relevant.
At the end of the day, the MCU is pure escapism. Netflix’s shows, on the other hand, don’t necessarily allow us to escape our world. Instead, we see the darkest parts of our world and superheroes who are strong enough to deal with it. It is for this reason that Netflix’s properties are far superior to the MCU.
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