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Creator: Drew Goddard
Starring: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Jon Bernthal, Elodie Yung, Peter Shinkoda
Current streaming on: Netflix
Words: J. Senior
Ever since the distant year of 2003 comic book fans around the world have been crying out for someone to finally do justice for the character of Daredevil. Possibly one of Marvel’s most iconic and beloved graphic novel characters. Sadly, due to the exploits of Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell and director Mark Steven Johnson, it took the character over 11 years to recover from the dreadful movie adaptation that was released by Twentieth Century Fox. As an action movie it had everything you needed to be entertained, but it missed out the inherent grit that Daredevil is defined by.
For the uninitiated, Daredevil A.K.A Matt Murdock, is a blind lawyer who lives in the district of Hell’s Kitchen in New York. Blinded as a child, he was in the same accident, blessed with super heightened senses, meaning that his hearing, touch, taste and smelling reflexes compensate for his lack of sight. He is technically blind but can still “see” with the aid of this power. This means that he can fight expertly and perform daring death defying stunts without the hindrance of fear that real sight provokes… hence his name being Daredevil. By day he fights crime in the courtroom with his legal partner Foggy Nelson and by night he delves deeper into his legal cases, dishing out vigilante justice to see that any criminal that escapes a federal charge is put behind bars… And that’s a brief overview… word counts being considered…
With that in mind we’ll not go into too much depth as to why Ben Affleck’s Daredevil was so truly awful. Other than the fact that Daredevil goes around murdering people, Colin Farrell played Bullseye as an Irish bar brawler with a head tattoo and Jennifer Garner pouted for two hours without ever being truly convincing, it just didn’t work. It was Fox’s attempt at an adult super hero movie, way before the genre was in need of such an evolution but without being brave enough to go all out for the R-rating. It was basically Deadpool; way before it’s time, with shit actors and nowhere near as many jokes. Apart from that peanut choke scene.
Fox deliberated with the Daredevil property for years, a sequel nearly surfaced *shudders* (there’s a post credit scene in the Elektra movie that eludes to this) and a version by director Joe Carnahan set in the 1970’s that almost came to fruition. The latter came so close to filming that casting was in process before the rights happily reverted back to Marvel in 2012.
The deal to adapt Daredevil onto the small screen via Netflix, was a stroke of genius. In the intervening years thoughtful and intelligent narratives have tended to crop up, more often than not, in TV dramas with shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad flying the flag for complex and in-depth character driven stories. It also serves Daredevil well, as a character he has a rather complicated and drawn out genesis that begins in childhood. In more ways than one he is similar in that respect to Spiderman (who coincidentally has never seen cinematic justice). He also faces off against an array of villains that have long back stories and are intertwined with other heroes in the Marvel universe. Kingpin (played by Vincent D’Onofrio in the TV series) crops up in Spiderman stories as well for example.
What creator Drew Goddard and co. decided upon when they began the process of creating Daredevil in 2013, and subsequently Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist (the latter two we have yet to see as of yet) is that the show needed to be stylistically unique, and although a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also needed to stand alone. Daredevil is a more human story, he isn’t an Avenger or a World defending alien, he is a man that is deeply entrenched in the politics of the district in which he lives. It draws heavily from Frank Miller’s Daredevil comic, see Matt Murdock’s black cowl in Season 1, and also martial arts films like The Raid and Oldboy. The action scenes are expertly choreographed and high on violence. The show is also a story of social justice, that feels like Boston Legal with super heroes thrown in for good measure. It follows the in-vogue trend set by Christopher Nolan, in that it is measured and realistic, whilst also touching upon areas that are mythical and unknown. It’s believable and enthralling.
The primary focus of the series is the trio of Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who run the small and fledgling law firm Nelson & Murdock. By day we see their struggles, representing clients who are poor and have no defence against the law and big money court cases. By night we follow Matt as he begins his journey to become the hero of the show’s title. In Season 1 he pursues a crime syndicate headed by D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. Daredevil is tasked with fighting the Kingpin’s operations from the bottom, on the streets under the shadow of night. Which often sees him face-off against scores of villains; Russian mobsters, biker gangs and sword wielding ninjas. Whilst also trying to bring down Kingpin’s conglomerate company through the courts. At times the acting can be pretty hard going, but when the action kicks in, all that fades away. Goddard and co. seem to revel in placing Daredevil in situations that seem inescapable and relish in the tension as he fights to make his way out.
This year they have ramped things up in Season 2, bringing in anti-heroes such as The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) and Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung). This sees our hero facing conflict on multiple fronts and having to divide his time between his everyday life and his alter-ego. It’s a real masterstroke that opens up new narratives while refreshing previous ones all at the same time. Charlie Cox is excellent at performing the dual role on screen and it isn’t out of the question that he may crop up at some point later down the line in an Avengers movie or something similar.
This may be tied into stories like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy but it’s a far more real and human story, which prides itself on its visual concept. This isn’t the kind of story you can tell in a feature film. It deserves every one of its 26 episodes so far, with the promise of more to come. The fact that it was the building block for the other Marvel TV series previously mentioned, that are now moving into production at a rapid rate, is testimony enough.
If you enjoy thoughtfully paced character driven TV shows that can also deliver on stunning levels of action then look no further. Daredevil it seems, is here to stay, and is settling in for the long haul. I cannot wait for Season 3 already and I’m not sure how I’m going to fill my waking hours for the next 11 months… beats 11 years I suppose…