Would The Defenders still be Netflix-branded Marvel show without a hallway fight? Fortunately, we won’t have to answer this riddle. In the first full trailer, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Danny Rand finally united for their ultimate goal: punching dudes in a long, white walkway.
This impressive bit of choreography escalates from a moody march to a flurry of limbs and drywall. But each individual component is interesting on its own: the wide shot showing full bodies in fisticuffs, the dance of each character moving within the small space, Elektra sauntering in the background like the girl from The Ring.
There’s a physical comedy to the clip as well, from Daredevil (decked out in Jessica’s scarf) sucker punching a dude in the back while Danny Rand (a showoff who finally got some shoes) is bouncing off walls like a parkour wannabe. While we’d never seen all four heroes assembled for combat, there’s something undeniably familiar about the whole thing.
Marvel and Netflix have been building up to this moment — the Defenders, together — since the first season of Daredevil. It was in this show that they also introduced one of the series’ most lauded sequences: a five-minute, one-shot hallway fight scene. It’s a cool sequence! Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, brawls his way on and offscreen through waves of bad guys. By the end, he’s exhausted. Every punch takes him closer to the verge of collapse.
Season 2 of Daredevil brought another hallway fight to the table, with the addition of the Punisher. Fight coordinator Phil Silvera talked about the sequence to Entertainment Weekly: “Last year, that hallway fight, [Daredevil] was tired, already beaten, broken, hurt, but he comes through to save this child,” he said. “Here, this is more — as the showrunners describe it — more of a descent into hell.” Ok, fair enough.
Luke Cage and Iron Fist adapted and continued this tradition in their own ways. Luke marches into a building with a car door shield, knocking out enemies left and right. Unlike Daredevil in this kind of scene, Luke doesn’t seem worn out or stressed. He’s in control, and the narrow space only helps magnify his power. By Iron Fist, however, the corridor fight was starting to lose its sparkle. The scene is full of cuts, and the stakes seem low. Call it hallway fatigue, but the magic just isn’t there. It’s a rough gig, being a superhero forced to fight in New York real estate.
In response to today’s trailer, Marvel Comics writer Dan Slott told one of my colleagues on Twitter, “every floor tells a different story.” Films like Oldboy (to which Daredevil would appear to owe a lot) or Snowpiercer have used this sort of cramped setting to amp up feelings of dread, claustrophobia, and hopelessness. Marvel adapted this idea to better define its characters: how they handle danger, and how they adapt to it. Luke is bulletproof, for example, and that car door is for show. It’s a demonstration of his strength; that he can toss around a car door like it’s no big deal.
The trick is to use these sequences sparingly. When fights in your series are starting to be recognized as a meta-goof, maybe it’s time to mix it up a little.