By Wes Smith
It’s hard for me to get excited for Marvel productions. It’s not because they are bad or not entertaining; I was simply introduced to comics through DC. So, most of my experience with The Avengers and the like comes from spur-of-the-moment decisions to walk into the theater, whereas Batman films can rile up months of speculation from me. After I sit myself down to watch a talking raccoon fire off a few rounds, I tend to have a great time. It just took awhile to get there.
With Daredevil, Marvel is once again trying to prove I am an idiot for not paying more attention.
For the general public, Daredevil is mostly associated with the flawed-but-respectable Ben Affleck film from 2003. For the uninitiated, the story follows Matt Murdock, a man blinded in a chemical accident who gains super-human ability in his remaining senses. Using his honed senses, he works to rid Hell’s Kitchen, NYC of the crime bosses that thrive there.
The difference between the Netflix show and the film are almost readily apparent and highlight the strength of Marvel’s decision to use the streaming service for this property. Unlike the standard Disney fare on ABC, Daredevil lends itself to a gritty, gruesome world in the underbelly of New York City. It’s violent, to be sure, but also well-produced in a way an ABC budget likely would not hold. Instead of CGI effects, the strength of Matt Murdock’s abilities is shown in good old-fashioned choreographed fights. At times, it resembles more of a feature film ala The Raid more than a superhero television show. The ending of the second episode, in particular, may take home several awards for choreography and stunts.
That doesn’t mean the entire show is all action, of course. At its heart, the show is about a man struggling to find his purpose as he tries to uncover what ails Hell’s Kitchen. In the search for Kingpin (wonderfully and brutally played by veteran actor Vincent D’onofrio), there are many low-key moments that could be as much as an episode of Law and Order as they are a superhero showcase. Daredevil is as much a crime thriller as it is an excuse to show off the stunt team.
Complimenting the darker tone of the series are strong performances from the cast. Rosario Dawson and Deborah Ann Woll lend their characters purpose, and Elden Henson make a great bit of likeable Everyman sidekick in the Murdock-and-Nelson Law Firm. But, of especially strong note is John Patrick Hayden as Matthew’s boxing father, who carries the first two episodes with a strong, resonate weight that affects Matthew’s motivations.
Overall, the show simply wouldn’t have been possible on another network, as the bloody, thrilling atmosphere wouldn’t fly on network television. However, in choosing Netflix, Marvel has landed a winner with Daredevil and gives hope of the remaining series to be released via their streaming deal (most notably the Krysten Ritter-led Jessica Jones). Of course, there are ample references to the brighter, colorful superheroes also flying around with their suits and hammers, but those references never overwhelm and only showcase a passing glance at the overall Marvel universe. Daredevil is most definitely a beast of its own.
If you’re like me and simply waited to give it a go, you won’t be disappointed. Daredevil is an extremely engaging and grown-up addition to the Marvel canon and one that was arguably needed through the popcorn-assault of their film branch. Highly worth watching, and I can definitely say I am eagerly awaiting a second season.