When the Marvel Netflix shows first hit the streaming platform, they brought the live-action adventures of Marvel's street-level heroes to the small screen like never before. But after a year with five different Marvel miniseries debuting on Disney+, it is easy to take that occurrence for granted. Both services now have a stable of original Marvel programming that can be compared, and in doing so, fans can quickly discover just how different each service's treatment of the comic adaptations is. And with characters from Marvel Netflix reappearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the time for comparison between the two eras has never been riper. So, which streaming service, Netflix or Disney+, had the better original Marvel programming?
Daredevil debuted on Netflix in 2015, spurring on an extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that continued to grow for the next four years. As Daredevil went on to get two more seasons, projects like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist spun off into their own series, each with 2-3 seasons of their own. And eventually, the quartet came together in Defenders before two seasons of a further spinoff, Punisher, marked the final addition to the experiment. The conclusion of Marvel's deal with Netflix left many of the characters' MCU status in limbo until recently, but that does not mean that the MCU has been absent from the small screen.
In 2021 alone, Disney+ played catch-up by releasing five different programs set in the MCU. WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If...? and Hawkeye created a markedly different tradition of extending the MCU beyond the cinema. Taking a step back to appreciate the different service's approach to adapting the MCU, it is possible to see just how stark the contrast was from its predecessor. While the Netflix productions focused on smaller and more intimate stories, with characters from each show often crossing over into the others as all shared the common setting of New York City, the Disney+ shows instead played to a broader appeal of conveying a wide scope of diverse stories spanning across space, time and reality itself.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the Netflix shows was to offer Marvel productions markedly different from their big screen counterparts. Darker, grittier and more grounded in their focus, the violence and sexuality of the shows added a much-needed dimension of depth to the MCU sorely missing since the characters were left in limbo. Daredevil and Luke Cage's adventures protecting their own neighborhoods proved far more intimate than the galaxy-spanning battles of the silver screen, and the result was inspired performances and characters that resonated with audiences in a unique and interesting way.
And yet, it is hard to get more unique or interesting than Disney+'s installments like WandaVision or What If...? Featuring wildly experimental concepts that bend genres and directly tie into the MCU more closely than its Netflix predecessors ever could, the productions of Disney+ thus far prove to be just as refreshing and creative in their own right. Even the relatively grounded Hawkeye, set in New York every bit as much as the Netflix shows, fully embraced its whackier comic book roots by featuring quivers full of fantastical trick arrows even as the emotional core of its characters remained. And what perhaps best preserves the integrity of the productions in comparison to those of Netflix is that they are not overplayed or overexposed.
Every Disney+ miniseries is between six and nine episodes, whereas nearly every single season of the Netflix productions clocked in at exactly 13 episodes. Especially given that the Netflix productions were crossing over with one another far more often, and pumped out within a four-year timeframe, the end result was a large swathe of content that was forgettable, uneventful, inconsequential and ultimately harmful to the brand. While most of the Netflix shows had promising first seasons, they quickly wore out their concepts and strained the credibility of their stories.
Disney+ only ever leaves fans wanting more, and with the service's slate for 2022 promising even more variety, that is not likely to stop anytime soon. Scrapping the best parts from Netflix's Marvel productions to reintegrate them into the MCU may be the best possible move because the coordinated efforts between the small screen and the big screen prove more adept now than it ever was before. The Netflix Marvel shows were not without their merit, but after a year of five quality shows, it's simply hard to deny it: The MCU is far more at home on Disney+.
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