Marvel and Netflix's first limited series, Daredevil, is finally here and man, it was so worth the wait. Before I get into why I think it's all kinds of terrific, I want to make one thing crystal clear: this article isn't a jab at the other comic book shows. I'm absolutely loving The Flash; Arrow's quality jumps around yet it still has my attention; The Walking Dead's latest season showed a lot of promise; Constantine was solid; Nick's TMNT is a total joy. I hear Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has made significant improvements, but I'm way too behind and don't see myself catching up with it in the near future. Sorry, S.H.I.E.L.D. fans. "But Gregg, what about Gotham, Powers, and iZombie?" Hey, random reader, I'm trying to get to why I really enjoyed Daredevil, but sure, I'll quickly answer that. Gotham: wasn't a fan, sorry. Powers: has potential, but rarely leaves me hooked. So, I'm left feeling down the middle. iZombie: sorry, haven't checked it out yet. Now, let's get to why Daredevil made such a strong impression, okay?
|Daredevil wasn't kidding when he said Hell's Kitchen is his city.|
The show is not too dramatic and the occasional bits of comedy most definitely don't get in the way of the more serious story and it doesn't ever feel out of place, either. (Unless you dislike Foggy, but that doesn't apply to me.) What's really great is this show doesn't let loose simply because it can. It shows a lot of restraint with its graphic content, making those especially savage moments even more effective when they do drop. Just because they can curse or show gruesome violence doesn't mean they're constantly throwing it in our faces and I think that's to be commended. We get a proper look at just how ugly the situation in Hell's Kitchen has become (the very first episode includes human trafficking, after all) and we feel the weight behind these situations, yet surprisingly gory displays of violence aren't common and when characters do curse, it feels natural instead of just some attempt to be edgier. They aren't saying "shit" every other sentence just because they can and when they do have disturbing elements, they're handled appropriately instead of aiming just for shock value. When there's a very unsettling story about a twisted father, it's used to enhance Matt Murdock's story; it's not there just to stun. The show has plenty of darker elements, a ton of drama, and a whole lot of violence, yet it's not a depressing experience that feels like it's taking itself way too seriously. It brings the kind of content you'd never see in one of Marvel Studios' movies, yet it doesn't feel like it's a different world, either. We're just exploring a whole new part of the one we already know pretty well. Avengers Tower may be right around the corner, but this show is exploring conflicts that are simply under the powerful team's radar.
|Photo by Barry Wetcher.|
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of interesting heroes, but overall, the villains haven't exactly been one of the universe's biggest strengths. Luckily for us, that isn't the case in Daredevil. They could have gone with cliche crime lords and one-dimensional baddies, but instead of being lazy with its antagonists and focusing mostly on the good guys, the show gave its foes a great amount of insight. Some may not enjoy the show's take on Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, but I view it as the big guy's origin story. Instead of him just acting like a tough guy and enjoying a cigar, we're given a far more complex and fleshed out foe. The actor, Vincent D'Onofrio, does an awesome job handling the surprisingly awkward character's mannerisms. This isn't the Kingpin you'd expect, but he's still able to command respect and absolutely reminds us he's a brutal, brutal man. The other villains don't receive as much insight -- which is to be expected -- but they still get more than enough of the spotlight at one point or another. After watching the first episode, I was concerned the handling of the villains would be really generic. Well, this is me happily eating my words.
|Photo by Barry Wetcher|
I can be a pretty big snob when it comes to action. For example, I was told by many that Captain America: The Winter Soldier had brilliant and stunning action sequences. I saw it the day after I watched The Raid 2 and I couldn't help but feel like the action was just pretty good. Certainly the best choreography we've seen from a Marvel Studios movie, but it wasn't as intense as it was built up to be. So, you can bet I was feeling a little skeptical about how Daredevil's agility and hand-to-hand encounters would be handled. Thankfully, a majority of it is solid and there's more than a few moments that were legitimate jaw-droppers. There's an extended and astonishing shot that'll remind you of Oldboy and they frequently manage to use slow motion at just the right moments. Okay, sometimes you can tell when there's a stunt double or you may question why someone is such a terrible shot, but overall, the action sequences are massively entertaining and oh-so-visceral. Daredevil isn't as agile as you may expect him to be, but they remind us every now and again that the dude is a brawler and nimble. He endures some crazy stuff and there's dozens upon dozens of harsh punches. And when the show does unleash some stronger displays of violence, they're definitely memorable.
|From left to right: Dr. Evil, the latest voice of Wonder Woman, Cyclops, Gwen Stacy, Fulton Reed.|
Oh, and now that we know they're cool with making the action more brutal and occasionally even over-the-top, Gareth Evans needs to direct the Iron Fist show. Make that happen, Netflix and Marvel!