I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it: The Marvel/Netflix team is really nailing the TV superhero genre. Daredevil was great, Jessica Jones was fantastic, but Luke Cage is something else entirely. The winning formula hasn’t really changed: less power, more humour, more humanity; it trumps being able to sling a mountain into the sun any day of the week.
Cage is much darker than Jessica Jones and hits about the same level as Daredevil, while managing to be a lot more vicious. It tackles gun crime, racism (the N-word is thrown about like confetti), inner-city decay, drugs … You’d think that cramming every urban problem into thirteen episodes would make the whole thing burst at the seams, but it works; my God it works.
Mike Colter delivers a pretty good performance as the brooding bulletproof hero, and the supporting cast of familiar faces are spectacular, and often in danger of outshining the lead. Mahershala Ali, in particular, was brilliant as the viciously complex Cottonmouth: meting out punishment with a pistol, throwing people off buildings and playing a pretty mean keyboard in his downtime. Alfre Woodward, Simone Cook and Rosario Dawson also turned in notably emotional performances that kept the whole piece moving at breakneck speed.
There were plenty of opportunities to see Cage in action: pulling doors off cars, punching his way out of buildings that had fallen on him … but nothing felt too corny or overdone. They kept it subtle and that kept everything interesting.
In one form or another, the Luke Cage character has been running since the early seventies, and over the years Marvel has managed to evolve him to keep him relevant, if not always visible.
The Blaxploitation look disappeared in the early eighties (if memory serves) but as a treat for the Cage old-timers, the directors managed to drop the old look back in, just for a few seconds. I actually laughed out loud, which is not something I do that often. It was pretty grim stuff, but the occasional moment of humour was dropped in to remind us that this all supposed to be fun, in spite of the graphic violence and intensely dark subject matter.
For me, Cage was an outright winner; can’t wait for the next series. Ten out of ten.