The Man Without Boundaries: Marvel's Daredevil (REVIEW)
written by Omar Castillon (@omar_castillon)
Marvel Studios and Netflix have finally pulled off the impossible. The two super companies have collided and created the ultra violent and down to earth adventures of Daredevil. The man without fear has once again graced its audiences with over-the-top action, corruption, and ultra sensory skills that would make anyone jealous. Best of all, this series connects with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and eventually connects characters such as Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the Iron Fist. All four of these characters will assemble to become The Defenders.
This isn’t the first time that Daredevil was in the limelight. But before I touch up on that, I must breakdown what all happens in the Daredevil series without spoiling so many things since it is still a recent series. Matt Murdock and his partner Foggy Nelson have a humble start to the series by starting up their own law firm. Their first client, Karen Page, is set up for a murder that she did not commit. Murdock and his unique gifts realize Karen was telling the truth about not killing a man that was in her apartment. This little case spawns a web of conspiracy with the company Union Allied and further goes deeper with investors connecting to the Russian Mafia, Yakuza, Triads, Wall Street and other big wigs that oppress the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. Between Murdock, Foggy and Karen they go through a series of investigations and uncover the true mastermind behind mysterious deaths, business deals as well as human trafficking, arms dealing and drug smuggling. A man by the name of Wilson Fisk (if you are not familiar with Wilson Fisk as The Kingpin, then you have never watched or read a Spiderman, Daredevil or just Marvel comic ever) is at first brought up as an elusive man that criminals fear mentioning. It becomes a power struggle of ideologies in terms of cleaning up Hell’s Kitchen between Murdock and Fisk.
In terms of production value to the series, holy crap! I was amazed by the quality this show had for a TV series. It almost felt as if I wasn’t even watching a TV series and instead an elaborate 13 hour origin film. Granted this was the same formula used for Agent Carter not too long ago, but that did have a much more “network TV” vibe. Because Daredevil is on Netflix, the people behind the series could have some liberty on the portrayal of Daredevil the way it was meant to be told. By that, I mean they could have partial nudity, language and even gratuitous amounts of violence. Anything that happened or was said during the series would never make it in network TV. Censors would have banned it and it probably would have gone to cable or even HBO for that matter. Instead Netflix subscribers have the chance to experience original programming along with having the ability to watch the entire season in a couple of days. Some luckily finished the season in a day but that’s beside the point.
Charlie Cox’s portrayal of Daredevil fit like a glove. He looked the part and even acted the part pretty damn well. His charming persona and brutal nature were all good tropes to further show how badass Daredevil is not only as a vigilante but as a human being. The backstory for Murdock gets broken up throughout the season. The first instance is his relationship with his boxer father and how he had to patch him up after a fight. Battlin’ Jack Murdock didn’t want to be known as a loser to his son so he goes against the mob’s wishes and wins a fight when he should have taken a fall. This leads to his death and eventually orphans a young Matt Murdock (even though there is a mother we never see…). Another instance is his training in martial arts by his mentor Stick which is reminiscent of the mentor/student dynamic in Kill Bill Vol. 2 with Pei Mei and The Bride.
Anyways… the costume, “what the hell is up with the black costume? Shouldn’t he be wearing red with the devil horns?” you my oblivious fan are both correct and completely wrong. In the comic Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, Frank Miller chronicled the first outings of Daredevil with the black outfit portrayed in the Netflix series. Sure it may have lasted 5 episodes too long to introduce the red outfit with the horns but that’s just fine. I was honestly fine with the wait and eventual satisfaction of Murdock’s transformation from black outfitted vigilante to a symbol that Hell’s Kitchen needs, the Daredevil himself. As for the whole outfit debate, it doesn’t really matter since Murdock kicks so much ass throughout the entire season. One fight in particular is in episode 2 where Murdock investigates the kidnapping of a young boy by the Russian Mafia. In those last minutes of the episode, there is a fight scene that takes place all in one continuous shot. People online have compared this sequence to fights from The Raid (first and second) to the hallway fight scene in Oldboy (Korean version). I had never seen a fight scene so choreographed and so precise in a TV show. Again, this was the moment I forgot I was watching a TV show on Netflix.
There are a few flaws plot wise that bugged me. Fisk meets a woman who later becomes his fiancé in the season, but her character seemed a bit too…meh. There wasn’t much for her since she is just there to be Fisk’s love interest that causes tons of problems later in the season. Fisk’s right hand man Wesley got on my nerves some episodes for being too secretive for secretive’s sake. Don’t worry, his character gets his comeuppance later in the season. The most frustrating character though was Leland Owlsley who is Fisk’s insider man in Wall Street. He was such a scumbag and I wanted him to be killed off by anyone in the series. And yet he’s the one character that gets away with it no matter what. Maybe that’s just how it was meant to be. The point is Leland annoyed the hell out of me and yet becomes that one guy you really want to hate. I wouldn’t say Joffrey levels of hate, but it’s pretty high up there.
Now let’s briefly mention the other Daredevil starring the new Bruce Wayne/Batman, Ben Affleck. The Daredevil movie from 2003 was smack dab in the middle of a strange period in superhero films. Spiderman was already a big hit and the second one was already being developed during this time. In place of the second Spiderman film which was set to release in 2004, we have Daredevil. Let me take you back to 2003 real quick: nu metal in everything, superheroes were dark and foreboding, angst so hard that you could barely squeeze one out, Evanescence. So yeah, there was a particular style that was trending in between the Spiderman films (although Spiderman 3 followed that stupid formula and completely ruined my 16th birthday you son of a b…).
Don’t get me wrong, the 2003 film had some source material by having Daredevil fight in his red outfit and even killing someone at the very beginning. Could have sworn he didn’t want to kill anyone. Elektra was even introduced and killed off for plot reasons because angst and mmmm Evanescence. Bullseye who was something out of a psychiatric ward or a Limp Bizkit concert is one of the antagonists in the film that really gives it that comic book vibe. The Kingpin in the 2003 film already has that “I’m a bad guy” persona nailed down. In the Netflix series Wilson Fisk was a flawed individual that wanted to change the city for the better. In the 2003 film, Fisk said, “forget that, I’m just gonna send some crazy Irish man to kill my enemies.”
Nothing was truly safe from the cheese factor in this film. You have future husband and wife Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner fight in a playground just to get a name. Did I mention Evanescence? Yeah, the band that sounds like the bastard love child of Enya and Avenged Sevenfold was shoehorned though the entire flick. Basically, the film happened whether we like it or not and we should be thankful that MCU happened and Daredevil was given a better portrayal by Marvel and Netflix. If the Daredevil from the 2003 film were in the recent Marvel projects, I’m sure that would give Evanescence a new gig after being out of the mainstream eye for more than 10 years now. As for Daredevil on Netflix, go watch it and talk about it and even be happy that there wasn’t a Ben Affleck cameo…even though he is Batman now…
TL;DR? Netflix's Daredevil is an absolute must-watch experience for any Marvel fan! As an added bonus, no cheesy "I can see you when it rains" scenes!