“Daredevil” dares to challenge the superhero film

Courtesy of Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix has solidified itself as one of the best generators of original programming, rivalling the likes of modern powerhouses like AMC and HBO. No longer must cord-cutters leave their rooms to join their family around the hearth and watch shows together, but now we are allowed to be cooped up in our rooms and binge-watch whole shows, getting jaundiced with our lack of vitamin D.

It is because of our hideous reflection of self-indulgence that we are then thankful for lawyer Matt Murdock’s blindness!

Netflix’s new show, “Marvel’s Daredevil” has recently arrived on the scene, and looks to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe through a 13-episode run that follows the rise of the eponymous street-level superhero. The story follows the newly established lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who is a blind defense attorney by day and a blind superhero with heightened senses by night. Over the course of the series, he attempts to thwart the nefarious deeds of the criminal kingpin Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his multifaceted criminal organization of yakuza, Russian mobsters and Chinese heroin manufacturers.

Though on the surface, this seems like a less-than-innovative plot for a superhero story, what really makes “Daredevil” so impressive is its inclusion of the greater Marvel Universe in subtle ways, and the exemplary interactions between its characters.

“Daredevil” takes place in a fictionalized version of the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, recovering from the Chitauri alien attack that took place in 2012’s “The Avengers.” In the aftermath of the large-scale destruction and chaos, Murdock is positioned as a man trying to keep peace and order in a town that had so recently suffered from intergalactic battles between superheroes, gods and an alien menace. Additionally, the show’s setting opens it up to introduce various other entities from within the Marvel Universe that would ordinarily not matter to the calamity-stopping members of the Avengers, instead opening the way to showing heroes who are dedicated to the everyman.

It is this scaled-down setting that also makes the characters so interesting in the show. Despite what the title of the show would have you believe, the main character is not Daredevil, but his alter-ego Murdock; and for what that is worth, this winds up making the show much more interesting.

Marvel and Netflix have shown a dedication to human drama in this show that is a rival to milestone series like “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad,” making the show not only accessible to those who enjoy the nitty-gritty action of a street-level hero, but also those who like to watch dramas unfold around incredibly well-written characters.

It is also fortunate that the acting all-around is strong enough to support the discussions between characters in a universe that presupposes the believability of men in iron suits and angry green men, without making you question your sanity more than once or twice. Cox and D’Onofrio are on the ball in every scene they have, often making themselves conflictingly sympathetic to the viewer. By the end of the show, many viewers may even find themselves liking the villainous Fisk, despite the fact that he seems like the scary man from that one bus ride you took that one time.

Even the supporting cast hardly has any weak points, sporting the talents of Rosario Dawson, Deborah Ann Woll and even old-time pros like Scott Glenn. The lowest points of the series only arguably come when Murdock is shown as a child, and even then, Skyler Gaertner is remarkably less hateable than many other child-actors (lookin’ at you Jake Lloyd).

While the production quality is excellent in every regard, what may act as a deterrent to some is the level of violence and grit in the show. Unlike the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Daredevil” is not bound by the Motion Picture Association of America, and thus can get away with showing a level of violence that people who enjoyed “Thor” may not find appealing. Instead, audiences are served a series of villains that are so threatening, a man would rather impale his face on a spike than face them after snitching.

Those potential audiences who are expecting “The Flash” or “Arrow” will not find themselves in their comfort zones, and would do well to temper their expectations. They should also expect a better show.

Despite the few aspects that may act as a turn-off for some, “Daredevil” manages to take a character that was previously known for Ben Affleck in leather and a soundtrack that featured Evanescence, and remakes him into one of the best-written heroes of recent years. If you have Netflix, give the show a chance. If not, get a free trial and do the same.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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