TV Review: “Daredevil”
The Netflix Series, Daredevil, is exactly what Marvel needs to counter successful DC television shows like Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham. I’m not about taking sides in the war between DC vs. Marvel, rollerblades over skateboards, Nintendo against Sega, but I do like an alternative once in a great while to the things that I enjoy. I’ve gotten by on Arrow for some time on Netflix, but I like to see that Marvel is working on putting out less “all-ages” material. The Avengers movies are arguably for all ages, as is the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, the latter being more directed towards a family audience. While I generally lean towards Marvel in the realm of comics and films, DC has traditionally made better television series, animated and live action. Most of Marvel’s TV productions don’t last more than a season or two. Daredevil has the potential to break this mold.
Like I said, I don’t take sides in the war over whose taste is better. Those arguments are ones of opinion and can not really be won in any sense. Mostly, you just end up hurting someone’s feelings because you don’t like something they like (I’m talking to you Chuck Livid; Bagley Spider-man vs. Macfarlane Spider-man). One’s preference doesn’t make it better. It just makes it better to them. From a factual standpoint though, Marvel-based TV hasn’t been gaining critical acclaim and shows based on Marvel comics usually don’t go the distance. In terms of success on television, Marvel has been greatly overshadowed by DC-based programs like Smallville. Hell, even Lios and Clark, with Dean-freaking-Cain as Superman ran a total of four seasons. Marvel, at least int the area of live-action, can only claim shows such as the now archaic, but still awesome, The Incredible Hulk, which ended in 1982. They made an attempt at new ideas with Agent Carter, the TV pseudo-sequel to the movie Captain America: The First Avenger. Essentially, someone decided that the viewing public had a vested interest in what happens to Steve Rogers’ British girlfriend after he went into icy hibernation for 70 years. I admit to being curious about that, though I was not curious enough to warrant an entire television program. A one-shot comic would have done the trick for me. Perhaps the short-lived show just told that story and awkwardly said, “You asked. She moved on. The End.” There is a semi-fresh rumor saying this program might actually be revived in 2016.
When in comes to the arena of films, DC has some honorable mentions; Batman Begins for example. There’s a point, however, that the Nolan Batman films are largely a cannon of their own. They aren’t meant to link anything or expand at all. So, while they are an excellent homage to the comics, they begin and end with a nice little bow; they aren’t meant to have continuity outside of themselves. This somehow detracts from their overall value as a contribution to the universe in which Batman exists. Since the story is over, there’s no point in revisiting it, to expanding on it, except within that trilogy. So, unless Christopher Nolan wishes to make more films within that Bat-verse, it remains what it is. A stand-alone mini-series. A DC “What If?” title. This is why it’s only an honorable mention in my opinion. It does not contribute to the overall canon.
DC could boast the Watchmen movie. I do find that the comic told the story better, however, the film was fun, cool, funny, and just overall enjoyable as a stand-alone movie. However, much like the aforementioned Batman, it doesn’t contribute to the overall DC cinematic universe. The upcoming Dawn of Justice movie is meant to do precisely that; form a coherent universe in which the films involve one another. It is still a relatively new idea and only recently has the funding and the demand grown for these types of interrelated serial films. So, in that, perhaps I am being a bit hard on DC. My main complaint is that I’m tired of origin stories. I’m hoping that Man of Steel was the last reboot of Superman we’ll have to endure for some time to come.
DC’s animated films are A-plus on a regular basis, though (See: The Dark Knight Returns, or Justice League: Doom). This is not really a big surprise because their cartoons are outstanding as well. But we’re speaking on live action and in this ring, Marvel is the champ. Marvel has Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of the Avengers, as well as the Spider-Man and X-Men films, not to mention the Blade films, which although not incredible movies, seem to still get a huge amount of airplay. DC can only boast Green Lantern and Superman. Even the Fantastic Four movies were better than the Green Lantern movie.
Netflix, however, is a new battle-space in which these two giants may duke it out in. Since Netflix producing its own shows is relatively new, neither side has really jumped on it yet. DC has given the rights to stream certain shows, such as Arrow, but you cannot view the most recent episodes. Only the first two seasons are available. Netflix set a precedent with House of Cards, a political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. You would get the entire season, all at once, once per year, to binge watch, at your leisure. No commercials, no interruptions, no program-rescheduled-t0-make-room-for-whatever. Just you, dinner, and Netflix. Daredevil has taken the leap in this new format and it seems to be a very good fit.
The story begins as Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson search for clients as well as a space to begin their legal practice in Hell’s Kitchen, one of many neighborhoods in New York. Gradually you are introduced to the other players in the show, so it isn’t forced or overwhelming.
Daredevil/Matt Murdock is played by Charlie Cox, the young actor that played Tristan in Stardust alongside Claire Daines, exceptionally fitted to this complex character. Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page, suspect-turned-employee to Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson’s newly formed legal firm. Foggy Nelson is well-played by Elden Henson. That role had the potential to be really good or really bad, and I’m glad Henson’s portrayal is much more than merely comic relief, or someone to be saved all the time. The character handles himself well in tense situations, and he does a good job of making it feel realistic.
Vincent D’Onofrio’s (Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Cell) take on Wilson Fisk is freaking outstanding. You can see for the first severeal episodes, a controlled anger, a rage, and just as I was wondering if we would see what it looked like, D’Onofrio gives it a violent, terrifying face. I hope I can be forgiven the very obvious comparison to “Private Pyle” from Full Metal Jacket. I could see that character having grown up in a similarly abusive environment as Wilson Fisk, but instead of growing strong, he cracked and became totally unstable.
Basically everyone in this program gives a stellar performance. I’m barely halfway through the series, and I’m already trying to guess where it will go and what will happen in the finale. The fighting is well choreographed, everyone seems to have their own style of combat. Daredevil is gradually shown to be a more and more impressive fighter, albeit a bit green to fighting crime on this level. You learn that he has been trained to be a kind of soldier in a major conflict that is mentioned several times. Scott Glenn portrays Stick, martial arts instructor to Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Stick sought out Murdock after his father’s death and began to train him in this role of the soldier in a secretive battle between good and evil; At least that’s how it’s made to sound. This early on it has not yet been explained what this war will be about, only that Murdock is to fight it. I suppose I have this one small complaint about the overall Daredevil mythos being created in this show and within the comic book. Why would Hell’s Kitchen, a 20 block area of, Manhattan, and area of New York City, be the epicenter of anything? In terms of global history, it’s relatively new. Suspending that disbelief, this show succeeds in every way that matters.
Marvel’s Daredevil has been renewed for another season to air on Netflix in early 2016. Netflix will also be putting out several more series, A.K.A Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, all to be combined into The Defenders down the road. It’s a good time to be a Netflix subscriber, even moreso if you’re a comic book geek. Go check out Daredevil. It’s highly enjoyable.
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