‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones’ live-action take on comic book

In "Marvel's Jessica Jones," Krysten Ritter's Jessica, left, is best friends with Rachael Taylor's Trish Walker. Myles Aronowitz / Netflix / TNS

“Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” a Netflix original series based on the Marvel universe comic book character of the same name, released its full first season last week and made quite an impression. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is the best private investigator in New York City, despite her unorthodox methods. At first glance, she seems like just a callous drunk, but she gets the job done. The show takes off when two parents (Ian Blackman and Deborah Hedwall) from Omaha, Neb. come to Jones for help in finding their missing daughter, Hope (Erin Moriarty). This is the main storyline for the first episode, but what is most interesting about the premiere are the subtle details and unexplained background information on Jones.

While walking around the city late at night, Jones, following a lead on a case, jumps a solid 15 feet in the air to reach the fire escape on the side of a building. Viewers may miss this quick superhuman feat if not paying close attention. At another point in the episode, Jones is awoken by her upstairs neighbors arguing loudly. In response, she throws a shoe at the ceiling and makes a large dent. So, is she just really strong? It is not until halfway through the episode, when she lifts up the back of a guy’s car, that viewers are explicitly told she has superhuman capabilities. The writers do a great job of laying out a trail of bread crumbs for the viewers, letting them figure out certain plot points by analyzing the details.

This method permeates the show. Throughout the episode, Jones experiences disorienting and frightening mental episodes, where she sometimes imagines the voice or image of a man. These episodes clearly affect her emotionally. After each one she repeats the same three street names until she is calmed down. Viewers have no idea what is going on at first, but many questions are answered at the conclusion of the first episode.

“Jessica Jones” is really a fantastic show; its strengths lie in the talent of its lead actress, the cinematography and the sharp dialogue. Ritter, as Jones, is able to capture the cold, sarcastic nature of her character as well as the emotional instability that comes with her hallucinations. She has a quick wit, uses biting dialogue and emanates the kind of charm that can only be achieved by an unconventional character such as Jones. The impressive dialogue never deviates in quality — Ritter is as sharp in her business-related interactions with Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) as she is in flirtations with a local bartender, Luke Cage (Mike Colter). Ritter’s versatility is challenged, and she definitely meets the high standard.

Interestingly enough, though this show is based on a comic book and focused on superheroes, action sequences are used sparingly and intentionally. Many action movies and TV shows include action sequences half-heartedly when at a loss for what to do next, but “Jessica Jones” is much more focused — at least in its premiere — on developing its characters and setting up the rest of the season. The cinematography is surprisingly creative. During the scenes when Jones is completely disoriented, eerie music, quick camera movements and blurry backgrounds successfully make the viewer feel just as  confused as Jones. Additionally, the camera crew really takes advantage of perspective to play with shape and silhouette. At one point, the camera is placed behind the bed frame of Jones’ bed so that the vertical posts take up just the left half of the screen. Jones walks in through the door, is seen through the gap in one of these posts and proceeds to fall onto her bed. These kinds of small, artistic details are scattered throughout the premiere, showing that the camera angles are fueled by intentionality rather than convenience.

If its season premiere is any indication of the rest of the season, “Jessica Jones” promises to be an exciting, show. There appear to be many connecting plot lines — not all of which are immediately explained — which just adds to the show’s appeal. The first full season is available on Netflix streaming.


Summary

"Jessica Jones," anchored by a versatile lead, sharp dialogue and inventive cinematography, is an intriguing and well-done addition to the Marvel franchise.

4 stars
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