Thursday, April 23, 2015

Marvel's Daredevil Review

     When I first heard that Netflix was doing a Daredevil series, I wasn't terribly excited.  The original Daredevil movie (2003) was not only terrible but it has the unique distinction of being an extremely memorable bad movie.  Some of the distinct details of how bad it was include:
-A villain named Bullseye played by Collin Farrell who literally has a target drilled into his head
-When Matt Murdock/the Daredevil and his love interest, Elektra meet up, they solidify their budding romance by showing off their fighting skills on a playground
-Because the noises of the city are too much for him, Matt literally sleeps in a coffin filled with water.
See- lots of ridiculous details that are all surprisingly very memorable.

     I am pleased to say that Netflix/Marvel's Daredevil is a lot better than the movie.  The series is really solid entertainment.  In terms of tone and feel, it reminds me a lot of Batman Begins and is definitely very heavily influenced by the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy.  Daredevil also has a fantastic theme song that I just want to keep replaying.

     Daredevil tells the origin stories of how Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a blind lawyer with heightened senses, who fights injustice in New York's Hell's Kitchen.  By day, he and his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) have their own start-up law firm, Nelson and Murdock.  By night, Matt is a vigilante who takes the law directly into his own hands, who is sometimes aided by nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson).   Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is their secretary who investigates a mystery that has been haunting her.  She later loops in Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), Hell's Kitchen's world-weary investigative reporter.

    Daredevil relies on many tried and true tropes and character archetypes.  While it does not really do anything revolutionary with the plot or the characters, it executes what it has well and that's always pleasant to watch.  Matt/Daredevil, like Batman, has his one rule- he will not kill anyone directly and struggles with the morality of what he does as a vigilante, especially since he is Catholic.  Ben Urich is the Jim Gordon of this universe- he's seen a lot of ugly things happen and is worn down by the world he lives in but he will continue to fight to find the truth.  The heroes in the series are fantastic.  They feel three-dimensional and really drive the series forward.  The Daredevil, who has a disguised speaking voice from Matt's, also provides yet another example of how heroes can disguise their voices and still sound menacing without grunting into incoherence.

     On the other side of the fence are Hell's Kitchen's villains.  Vincent D'Onofrio gets top billing among the antagonists as the mysterious Fisk.  Fisk is highly reminiscent of Bane- both are not only physically intimidating men but also highly intelligent.  D'Onofrio plays Fisk too big and I really wish he'd gone with a smaller, more subtle performance.  Fisk has a halting manner of speaking like he has trouble pushing out his words and that becomes more distracting the more Fisk speaks.  Most of the villains are flat characters who feel like flimsy cut-outs.  The only two exceptions are Wesley (Toby Moore), Fisk's loyal right hand man, and Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), an elderly heroine manufacturer who has her own army of blind drug runners.

     Episodes shift between the character-driven ones and the action-focused ones.  The action-focused episodes almost remind me of Justice League and Batman cartoons with elaborately choreographed fight scenes.  With the TV-MA rating, the fight scenes do get brutal and very violent.  Daredevil has a good grasp on the small/character driven events.  I would really like to see it address the world of Hell's Kitchen more.  One thing that I really enjoyed about the series is how actions do have consequences in this universe.

     The first moment I knew I wanted to invest time watching this series was actually a small one in the second episode.  The second episode is now famous for the fantastic tracking-shot hallway fight scene.  In the second episode, there is also this small scene in which Foggy and Karen go out for drinks because Karen does not want to go home yet.  Karen, seeing all the seemingly seedy people in the bar feels uncomfortable but Foggy goes around and tells her about each of them including how they've been helping one scary looking guy get his kid into daycare.

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