Note on the MCU
If you’ve spent more than a few minutes in a conversation with me, you are likely to have heard something along the lines of: “There is no better time to be living as a comic book fan.” Nowadays, I cannot be more certain of this fact; the ageless rivalry between DC and Marvel is taking Hollywood by storm, every single hero – at least the ones that matter – are being picked up by networks and studios left, right, and centre, meanwhile I’m sitting here with a barrel of popcorn watching it all unfold. Although the approach taken by each of the two comic book giants is entirely unique, thus making a comparison slightly irrelevant, Marvel seems to have the whole interconnected story lines thing figured out. I do not intend on delving far into the realms of discourse regarding Marvel vs DC, (That is a topic for another time) both of them are companies with their own distinct way of operating – whether it be for print or on the silver screen – however I am definitely going to bring up the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve mentioned the MCU, and – with the way it’s looking – it probably won’t be the last. The first thing I will tell you about the MCU is that it isn’t an easy venture. The plan was to collect super heroes from all over the Marvel mythos (only those that Disney owns the rights to, though), figure out a way to connect them through an overarching story, stay true to the comic book versions of the heroes, all the while preserving the production quality across different mediums. When it comes to Daredevil, it pretty much checks out on all of the above, although there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were definitely enough of them to give you a sense of the implied interconnectivity.
Daredevil is one of the first installments in a series of Marvel TV productions to be showcased on California-based streaming service Netflix. It wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences when I heard tidings of Daredevil being touted for a TV show ; the reason being that I was assailed by flashbacks from the monumentally bad Ben Affleck-led Hollywood adaptation, forcing me to break a sweat in an attempt to keep my lunch down. Thankfully, the nausea abated almost instantaneously when I learned that among the showrunners was Drew Goddard, who worked with Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon on a multitude of productions. I was confident that the show was in good hands.
A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist are all titles scheduled to appear on the network throughout this year and the next, with an undoubtedly magnificent crossover miniseries called Defenders to act as the capstone for the Netflix-exclusive line-up.
Beware: spoilers ahead
The series opens to a rather typical exposé of Daredevil’s origin story, much like its nausea-inducing predecessor did. This parallel was not entirely unwelcome as the opening scene of the movie wasn’t horrendous. Thankfully, the show does settle into a darker tone shortly after the opening sequence when the rest of the supporting cast is systematically introduced to the viewers, starting with a corpse, and another one. In case you didn’t catch that, that’s a reference to the astounding emotional range of Deborah Ann Woll as the enamored secretary Karen Page, although to be perfectly honest, I am not sure if her natural acting ability – or lack thereof – is to blame or the rather the poor dialogue she has. (To be fair, she does pull off the “startled deer” face better than anyone I’ve ever seen) Karen Page isn’t the only kink in the chain; one of the biggest problems I have with the show is how poorly written the female roles are. With the exception of the Rosario Dawson cameo, every single female character on the show felt lackluster in comparison to the male counterparts. Even the gorgeous Ayelet Zurer’s portrayal of Vanessa -who has a pivotal role in the story and is a major source of character development – left me wanting more. It may not entirely be Goddard’s or Zurer’s fault. It may just be the case that I simply could not notice her character over how awesome Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk was. It’s been a while since I was legitimately in awe of a character on any screen; the last time I felt this enthralled was watching Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) on Breaking Bad. I could write a sonnet and a half illustrating just how fantastic I thought Wilson Fisk was; throughout the entirety of the show, there wasn’t a dull moment involving Wilson Fisk, the fact that I’m able to say that given that Daredevil is essentially a 13-hour long movie is a testament to how well the character is written and depicted. (I know I said that Marvel vs. DC wouldn’t be brought up, but I guess I lied) There were some plot line directions that were taken by the showrunners that I definitely disagree with, most of them involve killing off characters that are somewhat important within the MCU as a whole; Ben Urich and Leland Owlsley come to mind. They both enjoy a relatively important role in the Marvel Universe within the comic books, and though the deaths serve to develop my favourite character on the show, it is unfortunate that they have been forever removed from the MCU. The other decision I disagree with was taking away from the comic book Matt Murdock by completely stifling his playboy personality on the show, I understand that you were going for dark and gritty, but is it too much to ask to display a little bit of that suave personality we know so well? The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been lacking a captivating villain to stimulate the other end of the morality spectrum, this is something DC has almost always had, whether it be Heath Ledger’s chaotic Joker, Jim Carrey’s psychotic Riddler, or Jesse Eisenberg’s upcoming Lex Luthor. In comparison Ultron was incredibly bland, Red Skull is nowhere to be seen, most of HYDRA is gone, Von Doom and Magneto belong to FOX, and Loki is just an insane demi-god who eventually bores you with his childlike antics. However, times have changed; Wilson Fisk has given the MCU something it has needed for the longest of times, a villain that just baffles you. It may be a little too hasty to call him the Joker of the MCU but that claim definitely isn’t too far off. I hope. Characters aside, the plot is a rather benign superhero vs. supervillain story with a few memorable scenes dotted throughout. That’s not to discredit just how memorable they were, taking the the fight scenes as an example. Daredevil’s fight scenes are some of the most entertaining I have seen in a long time, better than any other fight scenes in superhero/comic book inspired shows currently on TV. In particular, the one-take hallway scene in the end of the second episode elicited a lot of respect for the show; I was basically hooked after that. Add to those scenes with some haunting Tarantino-esque violence involving Wilson Fisk and you have yourself some excellent television. I would definitely recommend you take a day off work to binge the 13 hours, as it was meant to be watched.