In about three weeks, I hope to have seen and reviewed the upcoming smash hit, the second Avengers film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Age of Ultron, which will, of course, have made the box office explode by then.
As my own anticipation reaches a fever pitch, it couldn’t be a better time for Marvel to release its first Netflix series, Daredevil. Not only does it serve to freshly whet my substantial appetite for all things MCU, but it’s a mark of how this phenomenal success has evolved and expanded over the years since it first began. Interconnected movies, television shows, shorts, and now a Netflix original series, a concept which, itself, is still new. I mean, who would have ever predicted all of this? It boggles the mind and inspires the soul!
Truly, Nick Fury had it right when he told Tony Stark, “You’ve just become part of a bigger universe.”
So, the burning question: how does Daredevil measure up, and add to, that universe?
Put succinctly, it is very different from the rest of the MCU thus far. Those differences, such as the much bloodier violence, may shock and unnerve some people, and make Daredevil something not meant for all audiences, but I personally find that they give the MCU, as a whole, a new depth we haven’t seen before. This isn’t Tony Stark in his ivory tower trying to create world peace as he flies over everyone’s heads. This isn’t Coulson and his agents fighting a shadow war across the world, rubbing shoulders with aliens and supermen. This is ground level, or sub-ground level, in a dangerous corner of the world, the infamous Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City.
Here, things are not sunshine and flowers and fluffy bunnies. Life here is much more stark, harsh, brutal, unfair, and unforgiving. Good, innocent people die, simply for being in the way of someone more powerful. People are betrayed by those they trust, not for some ridiculous Nazi dogma, but just for money, and for convenience. Criminals prey on their fellow man, including women, children, and the elderly, without mercy or morality.
All the greater, then, as we see people, absolutely normal, everyday people, striving to do what’s good and right, no matter the hazards or the cost. Which can be very high at times.
After Marvel unveiled the MCU’s third phase, I saw someone on YouTube saying that Marvel needed to, at some point, move away from having everything be about saving the world or the universe, back to helping the little old lady and her cat in a tree. While the cat in a tree is missing from this specific scenario, I can see that same sentiment behind Daredevil.
So, instead of going up, up, and away, we descend to the ground. That is just so Marvel, isn’t it?
I realize, as I say this, that Daredevil himself, a blind lawyer named Matthew Murdock, has a superpower as surely as the Hulk, but simple heightened senses do not make a man super strong. He may not see in the conventional sense, but he is more aware of the world around him than many people with a perfectly good set of eyes. So, his power just lets him know what’s happening. Not exactly in the same league as throwing lightning bolts or using entire cars as boxing gloves.
So, yes, Matt is not a normal human being, but he does share all the limits and weaknesses of such, outside anything that affects the eyes, such as flashes of light. Forget fighting an entire alien army with half a dozen super soldiers, Matt is fighting a horde of men with guns and knives who could kill him dead with one lucky shot! To him, a regular thug is every bit as dangerous as his most skilled and deadly opponents! With such nigh-suicidal bravery as that, the moniker “Daredevil” suits him perfectly!
Also, he’s not known as “Daredevil” until the end of the season. (spoilers!) He doesn’t have the red costume, with the horns and such, until then, and it’s not his own vainglorious ego which inspires the demonic appearance. He’s been called “the man in black” or “the man in the mask,” for the most part, but when footage of his antics is leaked to the media, he is dubbed “The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.” In his fight against criminals, he simply ends up embracing the symbolism of the Devil, coming for the souls of the wicked.
This is very much the origin story for Daredevil, including his relationship with his father, his initial training by his mentor, his reasons for becoming a lawyer – he fights for his city both within and outside the law – his forming friendships and relationships, his first exploits as a vigilante, the crafting of his costume and weapons, and, most especially, his first, great war with his classic archnemesis, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.
Speaking of, the best stories of arch-enemies feature how they are similar as well as how they are different, so we see a great deal of Fisk’s journey as well, particularly his downfall. He doesn’t see himself as the bad guy, of course. He has people, albeit very few people, whom he cares about more than himself. He is generally calm and calculating, save for when certain boundaries are crossed in his mind, such as when he is embarrassed while on a date, or when he perceives a threat to those he protects, at which point he flies into a homicidal rage. He even sees himself as the savior of his city, much like Matt is fighting to save it. And herein lies the chief difference between them.
Fisk sees the city as a place, and doesn’t care whose blood he spills, and he spills quite a lot, so long as the benefit outweighs the cost. Matt sees the city as the people who live there, and every one of them is as precious to him as his own family. So while Fisk is tearing the city down, in order to rebuild, Daredevil fights to save lives. And this is how they come to blows. They talk the same talk, but they do not walk the same walk.
In the end, though, it’s the relationships between all of these people that carries the story of Daredevil and makes it matter to the audience. Countless superhero movies and shows have focused too much on the grand conflict and super abilities of their characters, but Marvel leans more in the direction of the characters themselves, and Daredevil does that in spades. Be it Matt and his friends, or Fisk and his circle, or criminals with each other, or all of the above and the rest of the ordinary people in Hell’s Kitchen, this show is about people. That is, after all, what Matt’s struggle as Daredevil is all about.
To end with, we already knew, before the show’s release, that it was going to be part of something bigger, not only as part of the MCU, but as an exclusive storyline based around the Defenders, rather than the Avengers. We got just a few hints of that overarching plot, just enough to tease, and they didn’t have to use post-credit scenes to sew it all together in the end. There are things here which will come back into play later. And I can’t wait to see it!
Oh, one more thing… the technical aspects of this show, including the acting, the cinematography, the style (there are very long scenes without cuts), the sets… all very well done.
Due to the bloodier parts of the show, and some language, I can’t give Daredevil “perfect” marks, but it’s a profoundly good and well-crafted work.
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.