Monday, April 13, 2015

Daredevil (2015) - Series Review

Marvel's Daredevil, currently available on Netflix, is sensational.  Those who have enjoyed this unique character in comic book form over the years know just how rich this property is, but those who only knew of the Devil of Hell's Kitchen by virtue of the misguided 2003 theatrical release may be surprised to hear this.  Rest assured, Marvel didn't send Matt Murdock and company to Netflix because they had concerns about Daredevil's viability.  No, apparently they did it to give him a bigger presence in their imprint.  Thirteen episodes (roughly sixty minutes each--and all of which are available now) allow Charlie Cox and the rest of the cast to dig deep and deliver a stirring series that establishes Daredevil as one of the most exciting and dramatic creations the house of ideas has to offer.

I'm a big fan of comics, and Frank Miller's work with Daredevil surely ranks among the best stuff that I've ever had the pleasure of reading.  Anyone who feels the same way will be thrilled to learn that his stellar run with the character is well-represented here, both in terms of presentation and plotting.  The story is appropriately grim, yet it is also engaging and dramatic.  Most importantly, it's action-packed and the fight scenes are tremendous.  There are a number of battles contained in this series that are among the best throwdowns we've seen in a Marvel production, to include movies like The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Yes, it's true--this Daredevil kicks ass.  And, just like in the comics, he also gets his ass kicked a lot.  There's as much (if not more) screen-time devoted to Matt getting doctored up and trying to explain his various bruises and lacerations as there is time devoted to the brutality that yields all this damage. 
Obviously, the casting is critical for a venture of this nature, and Charlie Cox is a perfect fit for the part of Matt Murdock/Daredevil.  Like many of Stan Lee's greatest creations, it's entirely possible that this hero's civilian endeavors are more important to the tale than the stuff that happens when he dons a costume and squares off against his enemies.  Cox never falters and he benefits from a rich part that presents him with a lot of tough decisions to ponder and a wealth of emotions to portray.  In the end, Matt Murdock emerges as one of the best-defined characters presented in any of Marvel's film and television ventures, and Charlie Cox seems like a legitimate star.  There are a great many reasons that this series works, but none are more integral than Cox and his winning performance.
He's backed by a number of worthy players who all benefit from compelling parts and detailed storytelling.  Honestly, after watching this show audiences will be far more familiar with the supporting cast of Daredevil than major characters who have graced the big screen in Marvel's cinematic universe--characters like Hawkeye and Falcon, among others.  Perhaps the biggest winner in this regard is Vincent D'Onofrio.  Not only does this amazing talent literally transform into the Kingpin (like, not only does he look like he was plucked from the pages of the comics down to the lines on his face, but how did he know what Wilson Fisk always sounded like in my head?), but Loki is the only other villain who has played such a major part in Marvel's live-action escapades.  The way this villain is fleshed out was superb and the rage he displayed whenever he lost his cool was truly frightening.  Elden Henson also did a fine job as Matt's sidekick, Foggy Nelson, and Toby Leonard Moore was also a big find as Fisk's right hand of doom. 

Honestly, everyone did a great job, to include Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page.  Rosario Dawson was as beautiful as ever in the role of Claire Temple (though I wish she had been given the opportunity to do more badass Roasario Dawson stuff) and Bob Gunton was nice and slimy as Leland Owlsley--a mundane but entertaining take on Marvel's B-rate villain The Owl.  I wish there had been more of Scott Glenn as Stick, but he was a great choice for the part, and John Patrick Hayden brought a lot of heart to the part of Matt's father, Battlin' Jack Murdock.  All things considered, the casting was top-notch, and the writing made the best use of all these incredible talents. 
A great cast, lots of action, and a fast-paced show with a lot of heart--what's not to love?  I can't think of anything this show didn't do well.  Maybe the only complaint I could muster is something that most won't agree with and it could be a bit of a spoiler.  So, yes, SPOILER ALERT and all that, skip the rest of this paragraph if you're worried about such things, but I liked Daredevil's "black pajamas" look so much that when he finally put on his actual costume I was a bit disappointed.  Honestly, they did a nice job with the outfit, but it just didn't work as well for me on-screen as his simple black get-up did.  This may sound downright blasphemous, but when I saw Daredevil in his official costume, well, that's the only time this show reminded me of that 2003 disaster starring Ben Affleck.  Let me soften the blow a bit by stating once more that I liked the red suit and they did a good job with it, but it just didn't thrill me as much as the black look did.  Maybe that's just me.

In closing, this show was totally awesome.  This was the adaptation that fans of the character deserved, and it looks like the Marvel shows coming to Netflix have a very bright future.  I loved the nods to Iron Fist in this series, and given that he's one of my personal favorites, I'm salivating at the prospect of seeing him get this sort of treatment.  If you dig comics, or movies based on comics, or badass shows in general, do yourself a big favor and watch Daredevil on Netflix.

Final Grade: A

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