Color in the MCU Netflix Series: The Defenders

A while back, I wrote a series of articles with the clunky title of “Color in the MCU Netflix Series”, in which I tackled the interesting use of the color red in Daredevil, the color purple in Jessica Jones and the color yellow in the then-unreleased Luke Cage. It’s a lot more fascinating than it sounds; click one of those links and find out. I didn’t do a post regarding Iron Fist as it wasn’t out yet, and upon release, disappointingly lacked a thematic color scheme of green as I had originally predicted.

These past few weeks, with the release of The Defenders, these articles have started receiving some more attention than usual. I think it’s only fair that I follow up with a piece covering the Holy Grail of color in Netflix Marvel shows: The Defenders. If you thought the use of color was excellent in the previous Defenders series, you will be amazed by what they do in The Defenders itself.

To avoid major spoilers for those who didn’t binge-watch the show immediately like myself, I will only use spoiler-free screenshots from the first four episodes. Still, you have been warned that you are viewing these at your own discretion.


As all good team-up shows start, the team has not been formed yet. In fact, each character continues the story-line from their respective show as a sort of “Season X.5″ before all their separate leads steer them towards the same path. This part of the show individually captures the tone and color of each of the previous shows.

Iron Fist’s story injects green in the way that his show Iron Fist didn’t. In addition to resembling his classic suit, green is a color that symbolizes growth and harmony, which are elements that definitely play into Danny’s story. It’s also the color of money, and let’s face it; Danny Rand is rich.

DefendersIF
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. The Defenders. Finn Jones as Danny Rand, Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing.

Carrying over from Daredevil, Matt keeps the color of red. As addressed in the Daredevil post, it is the color of passion and determination. When we first see Matt Murdock in The Defenders, he is trying to give up vigilantism but just can’t do it. It’s also the color of the devil himself.

DefendersDD
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. The Defenders. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Peter McRobbie as Father Lantom.

Luke Cage retains his yellow color scheme, the color of his original outfit. It is also a color of power and caution, as Luke is the traditionally the Defender that likes to stay close to the ground.

DefendersLC
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. The Defenders. Mike Colter as Luke Cage, Rob Morgan as Turk Barrett.

The show Jessica Jones operated under the working title Violet, and stayed true to the purple hue. It also injects more blue, perhaps signifying Jessica slowly breaking free of Kilgrave’s grasp. Purple is a color of frustration and sadness, which the blue creeping in represents depth and stability.

DefendersJJ
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. The Defenders. Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Michelle Federer as Michelle Raymond.

The villains of the piece, The Hand, operate largely in whites and greys. Grey is a color often associated with loose morality, while white is the combination of all colors in the spectrum of light.

TheHand
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. Babs Olusanmokun as Sowande, Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios, Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid, Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao.

When it really gets cool is when the team starts to meet, the colors start to combine together in interesting ways. See the colors bleed in the screenshots below of Daredevil meeting Jessica Jones and Iron Fist meeting Luke Cage for the first time, with a sharp streaks of red and yellow cutting through the purple and green respectively.

MeetupsDF
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. The Defenders. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Finn Jones as Danny Rand.

I think the pièce de résistance of the show is a dinner scene that the Defenders share after their first fight together. The cinematographers manage to tint each character their hue while all sitting together, based on the walls behind them.

Together
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. The Defenders. Mike Colter as Luke Cage, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Finn Jones as Danny Rand.

What’s even more impressive is when they manage to combine all four into one shot.

Defenders
Source: Netflix/Marvel Television/ABC Studios. The Defenders. Mike Colter as Luke Cage, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Finn Jones as Danny Rand.

I think the use of color is one of the things that makes The Defenders stand out. It really helps give each story a unique feel true to their solo series when they are on their own, and when they are together they still manage to help the characters stay “true to their roots”. Best of all, it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t take you out of the story, while you are never confused about which character you are currently following when it jumps back and forth.

What do you think? Is the use of color in the show fantastic and unique? Is it too gimmicky and too on-the-nose? Let us know!

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Author: Jesse "The Clairvoyant" Rolufs

Film star. Chemical engineer. Dancer. Comedian. I am none of these things. What I am, however, is a huge geek hailing from the frigid wastes of western Canada. I couldn’t even tell you when it started - I’m told the first words out of my mouth were “I swing my +2 DEX war axe and attack the dragon.” My name is Jesse (also known as “The Clairvoyant”) and I am a big nerd when it comes to video games, board games, movies, anime, TV, RPGs - and I am possibly the one of the world leading experts on comic books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Joss Whedon. You can find me on twitter as @JesseRolufs. Don’t be afraid to check out my informative Joss Whedon-themed podcast @whedoncast, and my hilarious bargain-bin-movie-bashing podcast @BlindBuy!

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