Usually when I watch a trailer from a particular director or studio I love, I’m always excited. When I watched the first full trailer for Luke Cage though, for the first time I didn’t feel excited. Perhaps I was starting to get Marvel Cinematic Universe fatigue? Whatever it was, I was wrong because the latest Marvel-Netflix series is not one to be missed.
Set in the neighbourhood of Harlem (a place steeped in African American culture and history), our hero Luke Cage is trying to live a quiet life away from any trouble but, his special abilities suggest that he should be doing the exact opposite. He has impenetrable skin as well as super strength which, most importantly perhaps, makes him bulletproof. In a city, run by criminals, where crime stands on your doorstep, it’s only inevitable that Mr Cage enters the fray with thrilling results for the audience.
Music plays a huge role in the series with iconic artists guest starring in most episodes to create an authentic Harlem atmosphere, most of whom are seen playing in Harlem’s Paradise, the club at the centre of Cottonmouth’s empire (the villain of the piece). Other emblematic locations of Harlem are used throughout the 13 episodes, such as the Apollo Theatre in the latter episodes.
The show oozes with Harlem culture & there is a huge emphasis on African Americans, and rightly so. Chadwick Boseman, currently playing T’Challa/Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has truly been the only non-white starring role in recent memory in the superhero film genre so to see not only the star of this show be an African American, but more or less the entire cast, can only be positive. And boy, do they all put in great performances.
Mike Colter is charming yet powerful in his portrayal of Luke Cage. The first half of the series sees him grow into the hero Harlem wants him to be whilst the second and third acts show us the hero he becomes. Alongside him stars Rosario Dawson who perhaps steals the show playing the tough-as-nails nurse, Claire Temple who has a major role to play in the series compared to her parts in Daredevil & Jessica Jones. We also see Simone Missick put in a heartfelt performance as Detective Misty Knight who is a volatile character to say the least.
The villains are equally compelling as another set of TV villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe outshine those of the big film franchises. The dynamic between Cottonmouth and his cousin, Councillor Mariah Dillard, is captivating. Nowadays, the hottest trend in showbiz is having multiple villains on the roster of a programme so alongside the family are the wriggly opportunist Shades and the ominous figure of Diamondback, both of whom add a tough edge to the show.
A show which starts off slow but ramps up the pace half way through, Luke Cage is definitely worth binging with thrilling action, compelling storylines and plenty of heart and soul. Another win for the Marvel machine.
Review by Adam Chowdhury