Daredevil, the new Netflix series that shows how Marvel on the small screen can be just as good, if not better, than its big screen counterparts.
There is no reason to leave you in suspense with my opinion because Daredevil is absolutely amazing! Daredevil blends superhero action, political thrills, and even a fresh take on the crime drama genre. It uses the unique advantages of Netflix to create an adaptation that falls somewhere in-between television and film.
Summary: Daredevil is a 13 episode Netflix original series starring Charlie Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio. Cox plays Matt Murdock who, by day is runs a law firm with friend Foggy Nelson. However, at night, Murdock uses his enhanced senses, which he gained after being blinded by chemicals at a young age, to fight crime and clean up the streets of New York's Hell's Kitchen.
Note: For the sake of brevity, I refer to Daredevil as a "TV series" or just "series," even though it is not technically on "television."
Plot: 9.7/10- Daredevil's narrative switches between Matt's past and the present events to tell his origin story without halting the plot. With the additional few minutes and lack of commercial breaks afforded by Netflix's format, Daredevil's pacing is always moving forward without having to create that moment of "suspense" to make the viewer come back after the break, which produces a more cinematic experience. In regards to that, do yourself a favor and watch Daredevil on a television if possible and not a computer screen; you do will yourself a disservice otherwise.
Tonally, Daredevil is dark and gritty executed to near perfection. Instead of using visual filters to create the illusion of "dark and gritty," the series' visuals are raw. The dark underworld of Hell's Kitchen looks real, which gives off the raw tone that makes the series work so well. However, at times, the cinematography could be better, but as a whole, Drew Goddard and co. deliver the goods. Despite Daredevil being far darker than other Marvel properties, it still fits in the world, since it takes place in the dark corners that the main heroes never delve into.
Obviously, the creators of Daredevil wrote the series as a one off with only the Defenders miniseries to continue. Therefore, the writers take big risks and the results are rewarding. You never know what to expect. Every time you think you know how certain often used scenes will turn out; they flip the cliché on its head and does something entirely different, which is fantastic. It takes the usual crime drama tropes and subverts them without a hitch.
As someone with knowledge of the comic books, certain twists are shocking. While I have only read a few Daredevil comics, this makes me want to pick up Frank Miller's "Man Without Fear" run, which heavily influenced certain elements of the series.
The references to the Marvel universe are subtle yet effective. It uses the destruction of New York in The Avengers as a plot element for the actions of the criminals in the series, and it is a rather brilliant idea.
As with any multiple episode series, there are moments where the writings' quality takes a slight dip with infrequent illogical moments. However, compared to most other TV series, Daredevil's occasional lapses in quality are few and far between with the final few episodes feeling slightly rushed.
Admittedly, my review of Agents of SHIELD season one last year was bias due to my love of Marvel, and therefore I overrated the series. However, with Daredevil, I feel the need to stress that my review is not just "fanboy" raving. Daredevil is a highly sophisticated story that is among the best that I have seen from the medium.
Characterization-Acting: 9.9/10- Much like my review of Age of Ultron, my thoughts on the individually will be split up for another post. However, it is suffice to say that the characters are exceptionally written with Charlie Cox’s Daredevil ranking among my favorite superhero performances and Vincent D'Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk potentially being the best villain in the MCU.
Action/Direction: 9.9/10- From the very first scene, Daredevil's action direction is a clear cut above everything else that you will find on the small screen, and it is one of the many highlights of the series as a whole.
As a connoisseur of action so to speak, how action sequences are directed and framed in the camera are important to me. All too often, action in western media use unbearable amounts of shaky-cam, dark lighting, and clunky choreography. Eastern films and a few western films have high quality action direction, but it is an art that is frequently left at the wayside. Thankfully, whoever was the action director of Daredevil, particularly the early episodes, did an exceptional job.
Depending on the action sequence, particularly the ones in the first half, the fights are brutal and raw, while also well choreographed. There is a rawness to the fights that reminds me of the first Raid film, albeit not nearly as flashy or bad*ss. The choreography combines martial arts, boxing, street brawling, and Matt's unique powers to create well directed sequences that make you feel every punch. Other than his enhanced senses, Matt is essentially human, which adds another layer of tension, because he is a vulnerable human being. Despite the dark lighting in many scenes, the light present brilliantly highlights what the viewer needs to see, and there is NEVER any shaky-cam!
The final action sequence at the end of episode two is one the best action sequences that I have seen from western entertainment, not just television. It is reminiscent of Oldboy's hallway fight scene to a small degree with its use of its seemingly the one-take style. *Mild Spoiler* As the fight progresses, Matt is struggling to fight the swarm of enemies, and he uses the wall for momentum to add an extra force to his punch. You can feel his desperation; it is amazing! *End Spoilers*
My only issue is that a few of the action sequences later in the series are not nearly as well executed. They are still a cut-above the rest, yet lack the rawness of the earlier fights, particularly a duel with a specific red clad foe. However, other than that, the action is above and beyond that of other recent media.
Content: Being TV-MA and releasing on Netflix provides the series with advantages. First off, however, for those, like myself, that were worried that being TV-MA on Netflix would mean f-bombs and nudity, fear not, there is no such thing in the series. However, there is quite a bit of swearing with words like s**t and d**k, and while the usage of swearing is humorously awkward at times, what is used never seemed offensive to me.
As for the violence, it is far less than series like The Walking Dead. Not being forced to censor violence like films affords series the ability to use the violence to add the gritty tone in an organic fashion. The violence is not that excessive, in my opinion, although I am desensitized to violence in general, so I'm not exactly a good judge.
Lastly, there is very little on-screen suggestive content (a woman’s bareback). However, there are references to mature themes in the dialogue.
Humor: 8.1/10- In the dark and gritty world of Hell's Kitchen, there is still a sense of Marvel's trademark levity and wit, and yet it never breaks the seriousness. Much of the humor comes from the blind jokes by Matt and the character interaction earlier in the series. It is all organic, which is why it works.
Entertainment Value: 10/10- Daredevil glued me to the screen every single episode. It is riveting entertaining that sinks its teeth into you and never lets go!
Overall: 9.8/10- Daredevil is positively brilliant! Aside from an occasional narrative stumble, Daredevil's characters, story, and direction rank it among the best comic book adaptations in any media, whether it be film or television. If you enjoy well written media, Daredevil is an absolute must-watch, especially for fans of Marvel.
Closing Comments: Without exaggerating, Daredevil is among the best television series that I have ever seen, right up there with Firefly and Doctor Who. It far exceeded my expectations; season two cannot come soon enough.
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