As I was watching the first few episodes of Luke Cage with my wife, she turned to me and asked when the show was set. It certainly felt like it was meant to be in the 1970s, between the tone, the costumes, and even the music. But as Luke was a contemporary of Jessica Jones and Daredevil, so it had to be in the present day.
Which begs the question: why?
Setting these stories back in the 70s actually makes a lot of sense once you start thinking about it. I’ve come up with several probable reasons that explain why Marvel decided to set their Defenders shows in the present – and explain why they’re all bullshit:
4. The Carnahan Sizzle Reel
Way back when Fox still had the rights to Daredevil, Joe Carnahan was working on a film pitch that would have put the Man Without Fear in a gritty noir set in – you guessed it – the 1970s. Carnahan even made a sizzle reel mixing clips from various 70s films, the 2003 Daredevil film, and comic panels to give you an idea of what he was going for.
Sadly, that project is probably the main reason why the Netflix shows aren’t set in the 70s, because once Marvel got the rights back to Daredevil, they wiped the slate clean so they could make their own version of the character. They didn’t want the taint of a Fox project on their new baby (and if you’ve ever watched a Fantastic 4 movie, you understand why).
3. Crossover Potential
Marvel has had great success in its interconnected cinematic universe, having characters crossover into their different films and TV shows.
And when they started working on Daredevil and the rest of the Defenders shows back in 2014, they wanted to leave the door open for these TV shows to crossover with the films.
Except that, to date, the TV shows – including ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter – have never crossed over with the films. Or rather, no characters from the TV shows have appeared in the films. Including the Defenders.
And Marvel has made it clear that it has no plans to change that in the future. The Defenders will not meet the Avengers.
So why bother setting these stories in the same time period?
It brings up too many questions. The Avengers are based in New York City (or they were up until the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron). So are Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, while the Hulk paid a rather memorable visit to Harlem. How is it that none of them have run into the Defenders when they live in the same city?
But if it was the same city 40 years apart, Marvel would have an easy way to explain to the fans exactly why Daredevil will never meet Spider-Man. You could still have references to the different characters, or even bring in 70s versions of Howard Stark and Peggy Carter.
Leaving the door open for crossovers, but never going through it just leads to disappointment. Personally, I’d love to see the MCU Spider-Man and Daredevil team up, but alas, it is not to be.
If you’ve watched any of the Marvel Netflix shows, it’s pretty hard to deny that they already have a bit of a 70s vibe to them (aside from maybe Iron Fist). Hell, if you took out the cell phones from Luke Cage, I would believe it WAS set in the 70s.
So if Marvel is already giving these shows a 70s feel, why not go the whole hog and just set them in the 70s?
It wouldn’t actually change the shows much, mainly just downgrading some of the technology, of which there is already very little. In truth, the moments when the characters do use technology always take me out of the show (like when Danny Rand uses a homeless man’s iPhone).
1. The Source Material
According to the comics, Matthew Murdoch, Peter Parker, Danny Rand, and Tony Stark are all contemporaries. Hell, every character in the Marvel comics exists alongside every other.
But that makes things a bit crowded, don’t you think?
Just because the comics say its true, doesn’t mean it has to be the same on TV.
The shows are also drawing from a lot of the comics from the 70s and 80s, back when these characters were in their prime. Most of Daredevil has been based on Frank Miller’s run in the early 80s. Which means these characters clearly don’t need to be in the present day to have good stories (whereas I’d say Iron Man definitely does).
Okay, so Jessica Jones wasn’t created until 2001, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t fit right in in the 1970s. A hard boiled, drunk, swearing detective? Hell, that could describe most iconic 70s characters.
Setting the Defenders shows back in the 70s would solve a lot of problems. The shows could fully embrace a unique aesthetic, there would be no fan demand for crossovers, and in the end, setting the stories in the present adds nothing to the stories. But what do you think? Is it better to have the Defenders in the present day or do you agree that the 1970s would make a better home? Sound off in the comments section or send us a Tweet!