The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe has skipped theaters and has gone directly to Netflix. Daredevil is unlike any other film/television series I’ve seen from the MCU. It’s a dark, gritty, and incredibly violent action show with a sprinkling of courtroom drama as Matt Murdock, the Man Without Fear, is a blind lawyer by day and blind vigilante by night. I’m only a few episodes in and what I’ve seen so far has been amazing. It’s certainly better than Ben Affleck film because it has the virtue of better writers and not beholden to a 90 minute run time. The thirteen episodes gives the plot enough time to come to a boil as Matt establishes himself as the protector of Hell’s Kitchen, defending his home from corruption and ne’er do wells.
Daredevil is set firmly within in the MCU but it goes to great pains to isolate itself from larger events (well, so far). It exists in its own little bubble where the biggest danger threatening the area are the greedy interests of the mob. The organized crime angle is a nice change from megalomaniac super villains, fascist regimes and intergalactic radicals. I love that the biggest danger this corner of the world faces are corrupt construction companies taking advantage of the destruction wrought by the Avengers during the Battle of New York. Wrangling these people together is William Fisk, an imposing figure working behind the scenes who will eventually become the Kingpin. I started the episode where he is formerly introduced and I like what Vincent D’onofrio has done with the character. Fisk looks and sounds dangerous, capable of committing atrocoities to consolidate power, but his interactions women show a child-like innocence and awkwardness. I’m really excited to see what he brings to the rest of the season.
As an origin story, Daredevil leans a little to close to Batman Begins. Murdock’s first on screen battle with criminals is nearly identical to Batman Begins, right down to the all black costume (popularized by Frank Miller’s run on the comic). When interrogating criminals, the dialog is a nearly copy of Nolan’s script, right down to the aggressive “Where is he?!” shouting. Where Daredevil has Batman Begins beat are the fight scenes. The benefit of the series being on Netflix is that it didn’t have to pull any punches when it comes to onscreen violence. And Daredevil is magnificently violent. The fights Murdock gets into are choreographed in such a way that makes me think of how fights play out in real life. His fighting style is a lot like his father, a boxer killed by the mob for not taking a dive, and as such, the hits are brutal, ugly and lack the graceful finesse of martial arts. Matt decimates his opponents through sheer brutality, hammering against foes with merciless abandon that makes you wonder if he delights in the carnage he causes. Apart from the fights, there’s a lot of mob-related violence on as well. Never seen someone get their head caved in by a bowling ball? Now’s your chance. The look of the show is equally ugly and gritty. In fact, the representation of Hell’s Kitchen looks like a perfect home for Frank Castle. Oh my god. How awesome would it be to have an episode or two where Daredevil and the Punisher fight like they did in the comics?
Although I’m only on the fourth episode, Daredevil has completely won me over. I really hope that the show is successful enough for Marvel, ABC, and Netflix to produce more seasons. It’s funny, it’s awesome, and the casting (specifically D’onofrio and Charlie Cox) is fantastic. Great job, Marvel!