Posted by: markfender | April 15, 2015


Marvel continues to expand its media empire with the first of their Netflix shows.

NetflixDaredevilPosterI have never been a big fan of Daredevil. He has always struck me as Marvel’s Batman-analogue. His powers don’t seem all that interesting (Like, he’s got some echolocation and that’s neat, but generally, his powers just let him do all the things a normal, sighted person could already do. And speaking of Batman, shouldn’t Batman have the echolocation powers? After all, he’s named after the animal that possesses that ability). He mostly deals with low-level street criminals. And he lives in a corrupt city so very similar to Gotham. And I’ve never understood his “Man Without Fear” moniker (Like, shouldn’t that be most superheroes?)

So, to say that I was going into this series somewhat hesitant would be an understatement. Early looks at his Judge Dredd like costume didn’t fill me with any excitement either. But I like Charlie Cox and I think the Netflix series managed to find an interesting angle on the character.

The angle Drew Goddard and crew took with the character was to beat him the hell up. Charlie Cox, as Matt Murdock, spends entire episodes laid up on the couch. Daredevil falls from great heights a lot. He gets the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis. Half of his support network are nurses and priests. They really pushed the low-level, street-view of the character and I think it worked pretty well. They also ladled on a heaping helping of Catholic guilt, with dialogue like:

Claire: “I find a guy in a dumpster who turns out to be some kind of blind vigilante who can do all this really weird shit, like smell cologne through walls and sense whether someone’s unconscious or faking it. Slap on top of that, he can take an unbelievable amount of punishment without one damn complaint.”

Matt: “The last part’s the Catholicism.”

So, yeah, this series is bloody, violent, and brutal. It breaks limbs, stabs people in the face, and never lets the heroes forget that there are repercussions. While it’s a little indulgent in places (the advantage of being on Netflix and not having to so aggressively cut for television length), it does a good job of dealing with this seemingly normal guy’s decision to take cleaning up the city personally. It keeps the superheroics fairly light, with occasional steps into super-sonar, a magical armor-like material, and some pretty superheroic endurance (Despite the fact that they do show Matt laid up in bed, barely able to move, by the next episode, he’s back to punching people in dark alleys).

But, man, is it dark…literally. Taking a cue from Wait Until Dark, the world of Daredevil exists in pools of light. One lamp on a table will illuminate an entire scene (which might be fine if it was just Matt in his apartment, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense when it’s in the middle of the day in an office building). Tracking sodium lamps wash across people’s faces. Daredevil’s world is shadow, which throws an interesting comparison with the Kingpin, who is almost always shown bathed in natural light.

Vincent D’Onoforio plays Kingpin and does an admirable job. I never quite understood what D’Onoforio was going for with his acting choices, but I appreciated them nonetheless. And it was odd to me that most of the Kingpin’s plot was a romance – something you just don’t think about with that character. Still, D’Onoforio does being mad really well, and he gets plenty of opportunity to do so. And it’s nice to see a Marvel villain get some some actual character development (Seriously, the only other villain in the MCU with some actual personality is Loki).

Overall, the cast was pretty good. Charlie Cox and D’Onoforio get the majority of the screentime and are both excellent, but Elden Henson as Foggy, Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple (A character based on Night Nurse, an actual comic that Marvel printed, showing that comics can Cop Rock just as well as television can), and Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich are also pretty good (and Scott Glenn shows up for some mentoring action as Stick, because apparently he’s in that stage of his career). Some of the Kingpin’s minions felt like one-notes, but at least he had a proper multi-ethnic gang.

I enjoyed the show. I think they did a good job of making the character of Daredevil into his own person, distinct from the Batman comparisons. They kept him street-level while charting a different course than some of those similar stories we’ve seen from Batman. Despite the easy comparisons with something like Year One, it forges a different path. In fact, I’d say that, despite the fact the two shows are tracking different parts of their heroes’ developments, Daredevil is what I wanted out of Gotham. At least watch the first two episodes, if only to see the Oldboy-inspired, five-minute, one take fight scene. If that doesn’t sell you on the show, then probably nothing will.

However, I have to dock it for not having an Evanescence song. But it gets that point back for not having to see Jennifer Garner’s face made of rain.


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