Marvel’s Luke Cage Review

Marvel’s Luke Cage is a 2016 superhero action drama web television series created by Cheo Hodari Coker, starring Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Erik LaRay Harvey, Rosario Dawson, and Alfre Woodard. Given super strength and durability by a sabotaged experiment, a former convict by the name Luke Cage becomes a superhero-for-hire and fight crime.


Positives:

  • Great soundtrack
  • Great characters
  • Great performances by the cast
  • Great use of practical
  • Talented cast
  • Engaging storyline

Negatives:

  • Slow paced

Plot:  Given super strength and durability by a sabotaged experiment, a former convict by the name Luke Cage becomes a superhero-for-hire and fights crime as he attempts to try to rebuild Harlem. However, he comes into conflict with nightclub owner Cottonmouth, politician Mariah Dillard, criminal Shades, and the mysterious arms dealer Diamondback.  The show is pretty slow paced but the story is entertaining, filled with great undertones.  It does take it’s time with the world building and the gradual backstory of Luke Cage as well as revealing the forces that are against him. Now, as far as the story is concerned, it’s not really original. Sure, a black superhero in the hood is great but him trying to cleanup the neighborhood against the local drug lords (3 out of 5)

Characters: The characters are just great, the main protagonist is Luke Cage (Colter), a former convict given superhuman strength and unbreakable skin who fights crime. Detective Misty Knight (Missick) is a Harlem NYPD Detective who is a strong female character and her determination to discover the truth makes her standout. There is this interesting dynamic between these two characters. Claire Temple is a likable character but she has too prominent a role. Especially when it comes to the interesting character Misty who could’ve had more chemistry with Cage and done more.  Didn’t really like the romance but the two do have a lot of chemistry.

The show has four main antagonist: Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), Hernan “Shades” Alvarez (Rossi), Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), and Willis Stryker/Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey).  Stokes is the owner of the Harlem’s Paradise nightclub and local dealer.  He is an interesting character and what I like about him is that he is structured.  He isn’t overly violent and the show does give exposition on why he is in his position.  Even with his relationship with his cousin Mariah Dillard, a local councilwoman, that does give depth to his character. Both do show a grounded love for Harlem. Although an antagonist, I like how she is more of a nuisance than an actual villain. Next to Stokes, there is Stryker, a powerful arms dealer and Cage’s half-brother.  He definitely changes the pace of the story after Stryker and has this personal relationship with Cage that does show a more vulnerable side even though this guy is a total douchebag. Shades is a cool character but not an interesting one.  In fact, he probably is the most bland and useless character of the show.  (5 out of 5)

Cast: Great performances by the main and supporting cast. Mike Colter is perfectly cast as Luke Cage.  The guy brings such depth to the character, not to mention he just has that look.  Mahershala Ali is brilliant and his portrayal of Stokes is great, he gives the character so much depth.  Simone Missick is awesome, and although she plays the strong female role doesn’t take away from her femininity.  The cast also includes Theo Rossi, Erik LaRay Harvey, Rosario Dawson, and Alfre Woodard. (5 out of 5)

Visuals:  Great use of practical effects when it comes to Cage’s abilities of strength and durability.  The action sequences are done really well, and although Cage isn’t the most skilled or flashy fighter, does manage to make the own count entertaining.  The cinematography is actually shot really well and makes for some great shots.  One of my biggest problems is how Luke Cage plays vigilante but takes little to no effort in hiding his identity.  Sure, the look of the hoodie is cool but as far as incognito is concerned, he should’ve worn a mask or something. Loved how they made a reference to his original character design after he escapes prison. (3 out of 5)

Score:  The soundtrack for the series is definitely one of the highlights and probably the best of all the Marvel tv shows.  Great hip hop theme for the intro.  Method Man shows up in the series and his “Bulletproof” is just flawless.  The lyrics are on point and have a message, but also the beat and flow are seamless. (4 out of 5)

Writing:  The writing for the show is really good considering the various themes that it touches upon.  True, the show does touch on the idea of the black community and its “suppression”, however it also touches on the point that the community itself can liberate itself as well as the youth.  The are times where this message does seem a little too prevalent but for the sake of the show and the setting this can be forgiven.  The action sequences are pretty good, filled with intensity and well paced.  But, for as good as the show is, the characters are the highlight.  Each character is written really well, having personality, backstory, and their special moments that contribute to the overall cast.  Shades is probably the only exception because he doesn’t have his own thing, although he clearly has his own motives. Another thing I wished they would’ve held back on was the relationship between Cage and Claire because I really liked his chemistry with Jessica. Having said that, people who enjoy Daredevil or Jessica Jones will also appreciate the deep writing of the show and what it represents. (4 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Marvel’s Luke Cage is an awesome series and a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The show does suffer from slow pacing, too much of Claire, and a forgettable Shades.  However, it excels with the characters, acting, visuals, story, writing, and an awesome soundtrack.  Marvel’s Luke Cage gets 4 out of 5.

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