The first episode of “Marvel’s Daredevil” hits Netflix on April 10th and wastes no time jumping into the story. It’s a confident move for Netflix’s first entry into genre fiction, but it’s earned by the Marvel Cinematic Universe branding. This confidence carries throughout the whole series and it doesn’t let up for a moment. This is the best comic-book adaptation ever created, and while that may seem like a bold claim, take it with the assurance earned by Netflix’s past efforts. “Daredevil” is nothing like any superhero TV show on television thanks to it’s shocking violence, and masterful attention to detail.
Daredevil is a crime noir in superhero clothing. The theatrics of flashy costumes and origin stories are gone. Instead, the brutal reality of being a street level defender is substituted. The initial trailers drew comparisons to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, but those are unfounded. Sure, both feature heros clad in black striking fear into the hearts of thugs with vigilantism but the similarities stop there. There are no super villains to speak of, and in Hell’s Kitchen criminals are king. The easiest comparison to make is The Raid: Redemption both in terms of scope and the sheer brutality of the fight scenes.
Charlie Cox’s portrayal of Matt Murdock has real pathos with a really hard edge. He’s believable as a blind man and surprisingly visceral in his physicality. He has an incredible chemistry with Elden Hensen’s Foggy Nelson, their relationship feels pulled from the page. Foggy is the jokey loveable best friend and Matt is the incredibly serious and depressive realist. Their law work is only in its infancy when the show starts but together they look like champions. Thier first scene as lawyers is incredibly real and funny. Within two scenes they have a lightning quick rapport that only becomes stronger as the episodes progress.
While those two stand out the rest of cast, is just as well developed. Rosario Dawson plays Claire, a night nurse who haphazardly ends up in Matt’s life. Together these two share a lot of chemistry and motivate some of the best scenes in the early episodes. Deborah Anne Woll is perhaps initially presented as just another pretty face as Karen Page, but her own story develops with its own set of fantastic twists and turns.
So far the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has only had two hours to develop any of their major villains (save for Loki) so forgive the hyperbolic statement: Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is the most terrifying villain in this universe. He’s played with reserve, a slow boil of terrifying proportions that erupts in one of the most violent scenes in the MCU. D’Onofrio not only understands the character but embodies everything that has made Kingpin an endearing presence for many years. Daredevil is as much about his rise to power as it is Murdocks, and the parallels are incredible. Fisk isn’t the big theatrical villain we’ve come to expect, he’s a quiet thoughtful criminal puppeteer, and he’s an absolute joy to watch.
This provides a new angle on rising to power in the MCU that works remarkably well. Both leads are caught in a massive territory war that spins directly out of the events of The Avengers. Saying anything more would be a disservice to the show, but rest assured the story is engaging and believable on a street level. Even without the fan service to superheros proper this would be a compelling journey.
Daredevil is unmeasurably more brutal than anything Marvel has previously put on the screen. There is a certain visceral level to the show that reminds the viewer that this is a regular man in a mask. There is more a lot more blood than you’d expect, and plenty of creative deaths. Moreover, the choreography is impeccable. There is a single take fight scene at the end of the second episode that gives the hammer in a hallway scene from Oldboy a serious run for its money.
Stylistically, everything looks lifted from the pages of the comic. The sense of style is superb. It’s something that has yet to be embodied in any other superhero show. The angles of each shot give creative new takes on noir conventions. Most scenes feature unidirectional lighting and incredible cinematography that harkens back to its comic book roots. Everything is crafted with a meticulous touch that never overwhelms.
Daredevil’s heightened senses continue to help this stylistic appeal. Charlie Cox’s ability to be in tune with sound cues creates a harmony of death on the screen. There are cuts to the television equivalent of a insert panel, with a heightened SFX que, that embody Daredevil’s senses in the moment, but this trick is never over done. Instead it’s used sparingly in moments of extreme action.
Netflix’s Daredevil is nothing like any of the superhero shows before it. It’s more of a crime drama with a vigilante than pure genre fiction, and it’s shockingly refreshing. It’s a bold step in the right direction for Marvel. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece meticulously crafted on every level, and the best entry in the MCU to date.
The entire first season of Marvel’s Daredevil hits Netflix on April 10th and consists of 13, hour-long episodes.
Five episodes watched for review.