Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have declared Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled follow-up movie as the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to the point when those movies come out. This has gotten people to think that many of the Marvel TV characters will make appearances as well. In interviews, both the Russos and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige have been asked whether these characters will make appearances in those movies.
Earlier this week, the Toronto Sun interviewed the Russo Brothers for of the release of Captain America: Civil War on Blu-Ray and DVD. They were asked, again, if there was a possibility of the Netflix characters from The Defenders showing up in their upcoming Avengers movies. Anthony Russo responded:
“We do consider everyone. We don’t want to get too specific about what’s going to happen with these movies. We want these movies to be a surprise for audiences.”
Now, many websites and online film publications have taken this to mean an actual confirmation by the Russos that they were considering inserting the characters we’ve seen on the Marvel Netflix universe into the big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not convinced.
First, it does not make sense from a marketing standpoint. To get into a bit of film logistics for a minute, Disney has to market Marvel Studios movies a certain way. They are to be marketed towards everyone. Not just comic book fans, or fans of this universe, but to everyone. That includes families with small children. For example, an 8-year old can see Daredevil or Luke Cage or even Iron Fist fight Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and think they’re really cool. He’ll want to see these respective heroes in their standalone adventures. Most parents are not keen on introducing their children towards materials of that darker nature. The Netflix series cannot be marketed to that demographic. Because series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones are targeted towards a bit more adult, mature audience. So it’s counterintuitive to do it that way.
I also think it does not make sense from an audience standpoint. If The Defenders show up, it’ll be maybe for a few minutes. To understand who those characters are, they will have to go back and watch hours and hours of television shows. Some would argue that the MCU, at present, limits the audience in a way by interconnecting all their movies. The movies have handled this issue very well, but it gets even more difficult with characters that have seen by probably the smallest audience.
It also doesn’t make a lot of sense from a storytelling standpoint. The Avengers movies coming out in May 2018 and May 2019, respectively, and have a lot to do. The Avengers are currently splintered into different factions after Captain America: Civil War. Reuniting them while incorporating yet to be introduced characters, like Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) will take time. Then there’s the probable meeting between The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy and, you know, that big battle with Thanos (Josh Brolin). Given that these movies already have so much to do, it’s hard to imagine the Russos and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely squeeing in four more heroes with no previous connection to any of the the characters already involved.
There’s another difference in terms of the threat levels each hero team deals with. The Avengers deal with global threats while the Netflix heroes are, by design, street-level. That’s not to say they’re only capable of holding down the neighborhood, as Luke Cage (Mike Colter), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) are all very powerful heroes. Daredevil (Charlie Cox) could make the kind of contributions that less powerful Avengers like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) make. It’s just that global threats have not been the focus of these characters and it’s easy to see how The Defenders might have their own conflicts to resolve while The Avengers fight Thanos. At the most, The Defenders might get a cameo to show how people on Earth are impacted by the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
Then there are logistics to consider. It’s not very exciting to think about, but it is a reality that must be taken into account. Movies simply do not move as fast as television shows. In the time it took Marvel Studios to develop, write, shoot, edit and release Captain America: Civil War, Marvel Television had developed, written, shot, and edited two seasons of Daredevil and one season of Jessica Jones. As Civil War hits Blu-ray, Luke Cage is right around the corner (September 30). Movies are developed farther out than television and it’s hard for Marvel Studios to incorporate television characters when the studio can’t really know what’s going to be done with those characters when scripting a film.
Finally, Avengers: Infinity War is still an Avengers movie, so the focus needs to be on the title team. Sure, we can have other heroes like Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and the Guardians of the Galaxy enter the fray, but the storytelling focus can’t be taken away from The Avengers. It’s their movies and their story, through three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that will culminate in Avengers: Infinity War and its follow-up.
It’s not that I wouldn’t want The Defenders to show up to help The Avengers against Thanos. I would love to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe rally together to face this HUGE threat as a unit. I just think the movie storytelling that Marvel Studios has prided themselves on in recent years would implode on itself if they undertook such a move. But it’s not like the Avengers movies need such a move. We are going to have a lot of characters in these movies, with The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and possibly Captain Marvel. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed this was possible. The Defenders simply aren’t needed to make that experience and those movies feel complete.