Eleven days into the month and most of us have probably finished binging on Marvel’s latest installment in the Netflix universe, Luke Cage. The titular character, portrayed soulfully by Mike Colter rings true to his source material and insulating the plot within Harlem and its mostly black community is great timing given what’s going on in America right now.
Cage is the true black superhero of the Marvel universe. There are guys like Black Panther and Falcon from the MCU but neither of them truly capture the spirit of a black American like Cage does. That and more. Unlike many black figures, fictional or real, Cage is different in that he is modest and intelligent.
The plot follows Cage as he tries to adapt to his new home of Harlem following his exile from Hell’s Kitchen from the Jessica Jones series. He has to contend with the crime mob run by Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and his crooked politician cousin Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) with help from NYPD Detective and local Harlem girl Mercedes “Misty” Knight (Simone Missick).
*SPOILER ALERT* in sections below.
Compelling Acting Carries Show: the characters really carry the story here. The plot is nothing to write home about and is pretty simplistic but the performances from the lead particularly from the four leads really bring you into the film. Colter captures Cage and in all of his layers while Ali and Woodard play the compelling villains in all their complexity. Missick may have just stolen hearts as she nailed Knight’s strong yet vulnerable character perfectly. And her natural sex appeal is icing on the cake.
Pays Tribute to Blaxploitation and Black-American Culture: plenty of fans complain the series is “too black” but they miss the part that Cage is originally a Blaxploitation character. The series captures that feel well complete with the character archetypes, 1970s theme and music that featured guest artists like Faith Evans and d-Nice. There’s plenty to love here but the latter half which nods at the current racial tension brewing in America particularly the police violence and Black Lives Matter movement—as well as taking a playful jab at President Barack Obama—bring the story to more relatable modern times and was something that needed to be present in the series to capture the unpleasant realities most black people face in America.
- An Ode To Power Man: without giving away too much, there is a scene in the series that takes fans back to memory lane where Luke Cage otherwise known as “Power Man” dons the old costume complete with the silver tiara!
That Final Act Though! The last few episodes is what pushed the series from being “alright” to “awesome!” While the first act was slow and uneventful for the most part, the final act went “zero to a hundred real quick”. The ending ties everything together seamlessly especially with the character arcs of Luke Cage and the villain I won’t name (but it will make perfect sense). It sets up next season brilliantly.
Weak Dragging Script: Daredevil season 2 had many flaws and Jessica Jones had its weak moments but Luke Cage had the weakest script overall. The first act was an overly long exposition that dragged on and if it were not for the leads’ powerful performances it would have been a total borefest. Then when it gets interesting after a HUGE plot twist, they take a little side trip so Claire and an old scientist “friend” can play doctor killing the momentum. Ugh.
Tough Sell on Diamondback: he harkens back to the Blaxploitation-type of villain but in the end, Cottonmouth and Mariah were just better and had more character. Diamondback barely had story, was one-dimensional and pretty much just there to wear that ugly suit in the end. For someone who was supposedly Cage’s nemesis he was the most forgettable major character.
- Give Us Some Action, Come On! Cage suffers from Superman syndrome (constantly nerfing himself as to not hurt anyone) but can he actually fight? In comparison to Daredevil with the best action scenes, Luke Cage pales. It kept its grounded but this is still Marvel superheroes. This is still Power Man!
While Luke Cage doesn’t have the same tension or intricate plotting as Daredevil or Jessica Jones, it makes up for it with its own theme focusing intently on Cage and the cultural black identity. The actors are passionate in their portrayals and carry the film through its many weak moments, the musical performances are on point and the finale is dynamite. Luke Cage is not only another solid addition to the Marvel Netflix-verse but a unique one to remember. ★★★★