The Man Without Fear has FINALLY been realised in all his glory!
When it comes to Marvel heroes, Daredevil is one of the more ill-fated in his representation on the big screen. Considering that he is SUCH a great hero with an emotional backstory and some very interesting abilities, it has been a real shame that, until now, people mostly remember Daredevil as this:
I mean… SERIOUSLY?! Ok so whilst reviewers of the day, in general, said the film was “ok”… that is a GENEROUS description. I could spend the rest of this article telling you how WOEFUL this film was (or even how speechless we are that, despite this steaming pile of garbage, Ben Affleck has STILL end up being cast as Batman for the upcoming Batman vs Superman film… WHAT?!) but onto much bigger and better things… on the smaller screen!
So, after much anticipation across the media, Netflix and Marvel Studios teamed up with a vision to bring some of their more gritty, street level heroes to life… at the forefront of this – Daredevil!
Spoiler Alert: if you haven’t watched Daredevil yet, proceed with caution… there may well be spoilers!
In April this year, the day finally arrived, and many people (us Super Gamers included) were coerced into buying a Netflix membership PURELY to see this show… was it worth the risk? Well, the MCU hasn’t let us down yet (if you ignore The Incredible Hulk movie… yeah, just ignore that)!
Firstly, to get it out the way, YES as Marvel Cinematic Universe fanboys, it was nice to see a few nods to the larger universe, particularly the events of the first Avengers film and the levelling of half of New York (the show IS set in Hell’s Kitchen after all). These guys DO inhabit the same world as the heroes we’ve already seen, so it was nice to acknowledge that… acknowledge, and then leave alone. One of the reasons that Daredevil works so well is because, whilst it is AWARE of the larger MCU, it doesn’t RELY on being part of the MCU.
It is a very strong and engaging crime story (with a lot of Noir elements – another thing we tend to get giddy about), but it’s also highly stylised at times as well: it’s almost a piece of art watching some of these episodes – but more gushing later! The general tone of the series, unlike it’s film counterparts, is a lot darker and grittier, with our hero taking more than a few beatings and dishing them out. By reducing everything to a small scale, unlike the grand battles of the MCU films, you really feel every punch thrown, and see the consequences.
Considering that Marvel Studios has already made some fantastic casting decisions for their heroes, but seem to be completely off the PACE when it comes to villains…
…Daredevil is right on the money with an EXCEPTIONAL cast.
First, the man himself, Charlie Cox… firstly, we love that he’s English (yet another high caliber actor from our home country!) but, much more than that, on the face of it people may have questioned his casting, but that melts away as soon as you start watching it. Now we couldn’t imagine ANYONE else playing the part! He provides so much gravity to the role that it makes Murdock’s somewhat unbelievable powers seem so VERY real. And, aside from that, his cool and assured presence as a lawyer by day and powerful and unrelenting vigilante by night is compelling to watch. Again, this was a smart decision by Marvel, as not only is Charlie proven on the small screen, for his work in Boardwalk Empire, but he’s also had his share on the big screen too, being the central character (though somehow discredited by not being named the “lead”) in Stardust back in 2007. This leads us to believe that it is only a matter of time before we see the Man Without Fear battling it out on the big screen (we live in hope that he may yet make an appearance in next year’s Captain America: Civil War, though that hope is dwindling since they’ve unveiled pretty much ALL of the main characters).
So Charlie Cox is fantastic but, as we all know, one man does not make a show great. Why Daredevil works so well is because of the entirety of the cast. Even THIS guy from The Shawshank Redemption makes an appearance!
Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Elden Henson as Foggie Nelson both are a joy to watch, particularly as they bounce off of Charlie’s Matt Murdock, Foggie being the empathetic comic relief and Karen being the earnest heart of the show. Both were relatively unknown to us before this show, though some will recognise Deborah from True Blood, and Elden from the Mighty Ducks trilogy back in the 90s. Again, some very insightful casting as both make the parts their own.
We cannot mention cast without giving a nod to Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple AKA Night Nurse. Although more of a recurring guest, Dawson, a veteran on the screen, makes the part her own, and it seems more than likely she’ll be a crossover character of sorts, rumored to appear in the Luke Cage series next year.
And finally, (and by finally we mean FINALLY!) Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk AKA the Kingpin. Although the show suggests it’s about the Man Without Fear, it’s just as much about Fisk and his criminal empire, as he becomes the Kingpin of crime. D’Onofrio plays the part as though it was made for him, revelling in the fact that the Kingpin is such a grey area – not an out and out baddie, but still very much a tortured soul and somebody who carries out bad things. We see throughout the series that Fisk believes his intentions to be good… but as we all know, some of the worst things in the world are made with the best intentions. At times we even find ourselves cheering him on (I know… cheering on the baddie?!) as we see his blossoming romance with his eventual wife Vanessa. The many levels to this character make him both deep and engaging but also encourage an apathy – or even a most uncomfortable feeling – from the audience that we would otherwise not experience. His fits of rage are as sudden and violent physically as they are mentally. D’Onofrio should be proud, creating a baddie that can really show the guys on the big screen how it’s done. Despite the end of this Season, we KNOW this isn’t the last we see of the Kingpin.
Lastly, we couldn’t do this review without noting the character development. We’ve mentioned Fisk’s journey into the criminal underworld, but that’s certainly on a par with Murdock’s backstory, shown through a series of flashbacks, and we particularly appreciate the relationship with his father, boxer “Battling Jack” Murdock. In some ways you can compare how we see a young Matt Murdock to Peter Quill as a kid at the beginning of Guardians. Both have more than their fair share of tragedy, which not only connects with the audience on an emotional level, but also shows the repercussions of that trauma in their adult life – something all of us can identify with on some level.
All in all, Daredevil is a fantastic romp into the dark underbelly of crime in the city. Put what you know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the back of your mind, because this series sets itself apart from anything else Marvel-made to date.
FINAL VERDICT: 5 Stab-Proof Suits out of 5
ALSO, if you’ve got excited enough about the first Season of Daredevil, look out for Season Two next year! Filming began in July, AND alongside the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, we’re going to see THE PUNISHER – played, in all his glory, by Walking Dead and Fury favourite, Jon Bernthal – we may not have seen his performance yet, but we already know this is a fantastic bit of casting!
And finally… this:
Elektra too??!! Season Two’s going to be BIG!
Until next time, Marvel-fans!