With just a few weeks till Marvel fan boys worship onto the alter of the Avengers, Netflix and Marvel have released a new TV series based upon one of their B-Level characters. While Captain America, Thor and Iron Man will be fighting robot James Spader, on the streets of New York the Daredevil will rise and watch over Hell’s Kitchen.
Daredevil follows Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a small time lawyer in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. While Murdock lost his sight at an early age, his other senses are stronger allowing him to smell and hear things most can’t. During the days he spends his time working in his law firm which he co-founded with his friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) defending those who walk through their door. However, at night Murdock is the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, a masked vigilante trying to stop criminal element that’s taking over the rebuilding suburb.
Along with the help of his receptionist Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and local journalist Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) the leader of a growing criminal organization, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is discovered and forced to leave the shadows.
But with Fisk’s power and influence Murdock’s vigilante side is labeled a terrorist and is hunted for many of the crimes Fish has caused. With the police and media after him, Murdock has to change from a villain to the Daredevil that defends Hell’s Kitchen from those who wish to do the residents harm.
With two TV series and 10 films (soon to be 11 with Avengers: Age of Ultron) before it, Daredevil as a series had to find it’s place among the multiple million dollar franchises. That beings said, the show ends up presenting a solid product without trying to feel anything like the past titles.
The production feels small, but the budget is used well for the many different sets and practical effects. While Murdock’s first suit looks a little lame at first glance, once in movement the costume flows quite well, making the character look intimidating and strong.
When Murdock isn’t in the suit, Cox portrays him much smaller, and relies more upon the characters walking stick to make the two sides of the character differ. Seeing how the character is blind Cox isn’t given a lot to work with in his emotional range, however, he seems to nail a whole series of smaller twitches during his more frustrated moments. The biggest being the subtle movement of his jaw line while he listens to a client’s story or for the heart rate of a criminal.
While Cox is the main actors the supporting cast also get chances to shine as both Woll and Henson bring, at times, a lighter tone to the show. While the two get closer we see more of Woll’s performance of Page, as she tries to hide her personal history from her new employers.
That being said, the real standout in the cast is D’Onofrio as the Kingpin, Fisk. The show takes it’s time in giving us too much information about Fisk and lets D’Onofrio’s performance lead our suspicions. What becomes clear is that Fisk is a man who wants to be seen as the master of the room and will go to any lengths to not be spoken down to or embarrassed. This leads to several mood swings from the former Law and Order: Criminal Intent actor, which adds a lot of depth to a character that was kind of left empty in the franchises past film adaptation.
Backing up the solid acting are some well shot action scenes. With major action films leaning more towards quick cuts and shaky cam grittiness, Daredevil cinematographer Matt Lloyd keeps the camera movement clear with a mix of locked off angles and light handheld work. This allows the viewer to see the excellent choreography and hours of prep that the actors went through. Each fight feels real as Murdock often leaves the fights more beaten up than the gangsters left in his wake.
The sequence that stands out the most is the ending action scene in episode two, in which Murdock moves from a hallway to two different rooms fighting off around 10 thugs. The camera stays in the hallway, moving between three points as the fight continues. While their were a few spots for (potential) hidden cuts the sequence ends up looking and feeling like a high quality tracking shot.
Past the fights scenes Daredevil features a lot of nice touches that make the show feel different from other programs either of Netflix or in the Marvel wheelhouse. One of these touches is the shows title sequence. Made by the same team that did True Detective’s opening, the one minute clip matches the shows bloody tone.
All these positives withstanding there are a few issues with this show. As per the norm with new TV shows, Daredevil takes a while to fall into it’s groove. However, the tone of the show is a shaky at times. For example when it comes to it’s violence the show will bounce from TV-14 fights to “Oh my god, did he just take that guys head off his a car door?” levels of blood. And while said decapitation wasn’t shown, it was an extreme spike in violence that only happens once thus sticking out awkwardly.
Music wise, the show doesn’t do much to stand out either. While the score isn’t always the most important part of a series, I struggle to remember any of the shows music. With show like this every major plot point needs to stick out and the idea of adding sound cue that have lasting impact would of helped this show a great deal.
Finally, Daredevil leaves us after 13 episodes will still a few burning questions after Kingpin is behind bars, and considering that fact that this show could just be a jump on point for show’s that have little or nothing to do with this one, some closure was needed. As it stands the team behind the show seemingly don’t know if there’s a future for Daredevil thus potentially leaving some of these plot lines to be forgotten.
That all said, Daredevil is still a strong show. It’s action packed, features some strong performances from it’s main actors and fits in well with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without coming across like another Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off. I’ll take Murdock over Agent Coulson any day of the week.
Daredevil was produced by Marvel Television, ABC Television, DeKnight Prod. and Goddard Textiles. The series is available to stream on Netflix.