Still defying the laws of market saturation, film studios are pumping out superhero movies at a seemingly unsustainable pace, and audiences worldwide continue to eat it up. And like all trends in cinema, television networks — as well as streaming services, their ostensible future replacements — have followed suit and are now clambering to carve out their own niche cinematic universes. Since 2015, Netflix has produced four original superhero series: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Following the tested and proven comic book formula (see Avengers and Justice League), it was only a matter of time until the four superheroes would somewhat reluctantly team up to fight for the greater good. Enter obligatory crossover series: The Defenders.
The trailer for The Defenders begins with an eerie high pitch ring of a scraped cymbal. Moments later, this sound is replaced by a four-beat snippet of an immediately recognizable guitar riff, a tease that is gone as quickly as it started, hardly leaving the audience enough time to identify it. As the reverb of the guitar fades, it is replaced by a whirlwind of unintelligible bass swells and tinnitus rings in crescendo and then abruptly cuts away. This use of sound design has become commonplace in trailers as an aural marker to demonstrate intensity and anticipation. This tension is for the highly anticipated moment that the Netflix original series crosses over, as Matthew Murdock (lawyer by day, Daredevil by night) enters an interrogation room uninvited to the aid of Jessica Jones, who is under investigation (for crimes that, based on her character’s history, she has likely committed).
At the 0:27 mark, the Netflix title card appears and a dampened piano plays a faint melody, subtly recognizable as the song teased at the beginning of the trailer, though the intermittent distorted bass swells, atmospheric synth, and extraneous sound design dominate the aural space. At 0:59 the mysterious guitar riff makes its return, and this time a raspy male voice sings “Come” and all of the pieces suddenly fit together. A synthesizer-laden remix of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” emerges as the four-member roster of The Defenders are introduced one by one. Cobain’s haunting vocals are not set to the iconic guitar riff, but a guttural pedaling bass synth. Between narration, Cobain interjects, “Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be.” This cut of the remix, however, skips over “As a friend, as a friend” and at 1:29 jumps straight to “As a known enemy…” cutting to the face of an unknown woman. All accompanying sounds cut away at this point to ensure the audience connects the lyrics with the visuals. The trailer uses the music to reveal the season’s presumed villain, a woman named Alexandra played by Sigourney Weaver.
At 1:36, the music cuts back in full swing, providing an epic musical backdrop to a series of intense action sequences. The instrumental section features an electric guitar solo processed through a wah-wah pedal that replicates the original note for note, with a few added embellishments. The trailer ends with a series of added percussion, punctuating the on-screen fight.
Individually flawed as they may be, this unlikely group of heroes will come together as they are on August 18 with no apologies.
– Andrew Sproule