Marvel's Daredevil Review
A grittier more realistic side to the Marvel universe
It would seem that Marvel, along with just about everyone else, wasn't completely happy with the 2003 film adaptation of Daredevil.In fact aside from acting as an audition for Ben Affleck's current gig as Batman, the film version demonstrated all that was wrong with studio adaptations. Thankfully that film failed and the rights have reverted back to Marvel, so we finally get the chance to see Daredevil done properly. Although Marvel are now owned by Disney, they have decided to work with Netflix producing a group of connected series based on their lesser known characters. These new series will still exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but will take a grittier and more realistic tone. There will be four series that will build towards a new superhero team-up called The Defenders - basically a small screen version of The Avengers.Daredevil is the first of this string of new series, with Jessica Jones coming later this year, followed by Luke Gage and Iron Fist next year and The Defenders some time in 2017. As the first series in this ambitious plan there's a lot riding on Daredevil but Marvel certainly didn't take any chances with the production team. The series was created by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, The Cabin in the Woods) and one of the other show-runners is Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus). Daredevil takes place in New York's Hell's Kitchen, which is being redeveloped after the destruction caused by the Chitauri invasion in The Avengers, where Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who defends his clients by day and seeks justice by other means at night.
Since this is a Netflix series, the show producers have a degree of creative freedom not available on network television, where a new series is at the vagaries of ratings and advertisers. Daredevil is available to stream in its entirety, so you have the choice of experiencing the show slowly or binge-watching the entire lot in a single sitting. It's tempting to do the latter, there are only 13 episodes, but the series is worth taking your time over. The fact that the writers don't have to stretch their story arc over 24 episodes gives them the chance to cut away any fat, leaving 13 episodes that are as tight and lean as their hero.
Steven S. DeKnight went on record before the show premiered to point out that despite the greater freedom, people shouldn't expect Spartacus levels of swearing, sex and violence - this is still a Marvel series after all. However that doesn't mean that this new series isn't far removed from the movies or even the day-glow comic fun of Agents of Shield. This is a very different part of the Marvel Universe, one that is significantly grittier and more realistic. Yes Matt Murdock has heightened senses and the capacity to take a hell of a beating but he faces real world crime and as such there's some strong language and graphic violence.
This is the Marvel Universe at street level, so the heroes and villains are far more relatable.
From the classy opening credit sequence, you know that Daredevil is going to be a very different experience from the films and TV series that Marvel have previously produced. However the story sticks with Daredevil's established mythology and stays very true to the tone of the comics. Matt Murdock, played by Charlie Cox, is a young lawyer in Hell's Kitchen who was blinded as a young boy saving a man's life in a traffic accident. His single father was a small-time boxer, who was killed by local gangsters for refusing to throw a fight. Matt has inherited his father's fighting skill and temper, along with an unhealthy streak of Catholic guilt. To compensate for his lost sight, his other four senses have become heightened and he trains constantly for his nocturnal activities.
This first season of Daredevil is very reminiscent of Frank Miller's Daredevil - The Man Without Fear graphic novel, with a realistic portrayal of how someone would set about becoming a super hero vigilante. Other aspects of the Daredevil story are in place with Eldon Henson as Matt's partner Foggy Nelson, Vondie Curtis-Hall as reporter Ben Urich and joining the cast is Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. However casting a shadow over everything is Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk, better known as The Kingpin, who is always there in the background but gradually becomes a more physical presence as the story progresses.
Daredevil is another winner for both Marvel and Netflix, with adult storylines, great writing and acting and superb production values. The show was shot on the streets of New York and that just adds to sense of realism, whilst those with Ultra HD TVs and a fast enough broadband connection can enjoy Daredevil in 4K. As the first step in an ambitious game plan Daredevil hits a home run, and not only leaves you wanting more but also looking forward to what other characters Netflix bring to this more relatable corner of the Marvel universe. So whilst you can look forward to seeing how Iron Fist turns out, don't expect to see Iron Man flying over head.
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