Dr Doom Reviews: Marvel's DAREDEVIL (Full Series)

Dr Doom Reviews: Marvel's DAREDEVIL (Full Series)

With the release of the first Netflix series for Marvel, the question on everyone's mind is: did they pull it off? Well, DrDoom watched all thirteen episodes in one sitting (yes, really) and here he presents his thoughts! Come check it out!

Daredevil has been a character who has suffered a long and tumultuous history when it comes to adaptations outside of the comics. While always being a major player and one of the best characters in Marvel's pantheon, he hasn't quite received a definitive adaptation. Early live action efforts in the 70s were an embarassment, he has never received a dedicated animated show, and the 2003 film by Fox Studios was mostly seen as a disappointing venture all around. Having reacquired the rights to the character in 2012, Marvel Studios finally got the opportunity to try the character out for themselves as the first entry in a new segment of the MCU that will be presented on Netflix. So, the question is . . . . how successful was it?

Let me get the obvious answer out of the way: yes, absolutely, this is the definitive adaptation of the character, and is my pick for the greatest live-action superhero show ever created. The show combines stellar writing and plotting with one of the most uniformly excellent casts I've ever seen in a superhero adaptation to create something truly special. Not everything is executed perfectly, and there will no doubt be certain aspects of the show that will be disappointing for some fans, but that does not take away from the fact that showrunner Steven Deknight and his crew have crafted a phenomenal show in Daredevil, and one that will no doubt be looked at as the new benchmark for superheroes in live-action television.

To discuss every aspect of the show in detail, I will have to venture into minor spoiler territory, so please be forewarned. However, I will avoid spoiling major plot developments and twists, so rest assured that if you have been following the show's production, then you will not be seeing any revealing information here. So, let's dive in!

The first thing that must be praised about the show is the leading man, Charlie Cox, who is just the latest in a long line of essentially perfect MCU castings. Like Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston before him, Cox completely embodies the role to the point that it would be extremely difficult to imagine anyone else playing the character for a long time coming. The way that his version of Matt Murdock is able to express so many emotions via subtle inflections in dialogue and gesture while maintaining the illusion of being blind is nothing short of incredible, and he nails virtually every scene he is in. He is able to portray Matt as the complex character he is, and from his resolution, his intelligence, his wit and yes, even his fear, Cox hits each note without missing a step.

However, Cox isn't the only one who embodies their character. Pretty much every major cast member pulls in quality performances, and I highly doubt that anyone would object to seeing these actors playing these roles on the big screen. Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson play perfectly off Cox, with Woll contributing emotional truth and Henson adding an excellent brand of humour that is a completely different tone from what we've seen in the MCU before. What makes this even better is that both of these characters undergo major tonal shifts midway through the season, and their respective actors make the transition without any hitches. Henson's range must really be complimented here, especially in Episode 10. I won't spoil what happens, but you'll know it when you see it.

Of course, everyone wanted to know how Vincent D'Onofrio fared as the villainous Kingpin, one of Marvel's most recurring and beloved villains. I am happy to report that D'Onofrio delivers basically a perfect performance, and one that left me utterly enthralled in any scene he was in. What really surprised me though is that the performance was not at all what I was expecting. Seriously, the way he portrays the Kingpin is utterly unique, and while that may sound disconcerting at first, be assured that he creates an incredibly compelling character, and one who is every bit the "child and monster" that D'Onofrio promised on social media. While some chastise the MCU for having weak antagonists (a claim I don't necessarily agree with), there is no denying that D'Onofrio's Kingpin has easily become one of its greatest, and will no doubt be a major factor in the franchise going forward.

Other major performers include Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, Bob Gunton as Leland Owlsley, Toby Leonard Moore as James Wesley, Ayelet Zurer as Vanessa Marianna and Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich, and all of them do great jobs. As I said before, I feel that there is not a single weak link amongst the main cast, although some of the smaller roles are filled with thespians of questionable quality. These are minor distractions however, and don't take away from the show's overall impact. Scott Glenn's guest appearance as Stick in Episode 7 (and yes, it is only in Episode 7) is a welcome midpoint for the series, and he too plays the character with all the talent he can muster.

As for the show's writing and overall narrative, Daredevil also manages to excel, for the most part. The plot follows the main narrative threads of Matt developing as an upstart vigilante at the same time as Wilson Fisk is building his criminal empire for the first time. These parallel formative arcs compliment and enforce each other in interesting ways across the season, and it was definitely the right decision because of how it reveals how both of these pivotal characters operate within the world and as psychologically complex human beings.

Daredevil picks up shortly after the attack on New York by the Chitauri in The Avengers, but only uses that as a starting point. While there are a couple of mentions of "The Incident", the overall show feels relatively isolated as a part of the MCU, and this is a strength. While we know that somewhere out there the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy are having their own adventures, the specific focus of the narrative never leaves Hell's Kitchen, nor the main cast of characters who it so wonderfully constructs. There are a couple blink and miss it easter eggs (apparently Ben Urich wrote a news story on the Hulk vs. Abomination battle in Harlem), but Daredevil is concerned with introducing a new part of the world rather than rehashing any of the old ones. Do not expect any surprise superhero cameos or even SHIELD agents in this one.

How Daredevil weaves the threads (which continue to multiply as the series progresses) is done elegantly enough that you're never really confused by anything major that happens, and most of the many flashbacks are incorporated in a way that enforces rather than detracts from the narrative. Seeing the formative years of both Matt and Fisk (and the parallels between them) is not only important to developing the characters but also the current narrative at hand, and this makes the frequent trips into the past not only bearable but always engaging. The whole concept of 'origins' is one that causes frequent frustration and conflict amongst fans, and there is a lot of origin to cover here. For some, it might be too much, but I was never bothered or taken out of the experience by it.

What did take me out of the experience somewhat was that certain plot threads seem to be abandoned at the favour of others. There is a noticable shift in the second half of the season, with two major plot threads basically disappearing: the relationship between Matt Murdock and Claire Temple, and the nature of the Yakuza threat. While neither of these break the series in any way, and they may be followed up in future seasons, it was somewhat disappointing to have major questions about two seemingly important plot threads that basically evaporate. The fact that Claire Temple was a major focus of the marketing but essentially all but disappears in the second half of the season is perplexing, to say the least.

One plot thread that did payoff in a huge way (aside from the main Daredevil vs. Kingpin thread, which is handled fantastically the whole way through) is the romantic relationship between Wilson Fisk and Vanessa Marianna, who has been reimagined as an art gallery manager who Fisk meets and courts over the course of the season. Given that Vanessa has always been shown as Fisk's wife of numerous years, seeing instead the formation of this relationship from the beginning is both unique and rewarding, because it adds so much more complexity to the scenario while Matt is considering the morality of how he battles his nemesis. Matt knows that Fisk has a woman who he loves and who loves him in return, and this causes a great deal of conflict in him as he tries to construct Fisk as an absolute monster in his mind. Vanessa isn't just a generic love interest either, having a handful of excellent character moments across the season. Seeing her fall from a respectable woman into someone who is utterly devoted to a criminal madman is both tragic and compelling. I certainly hope we see more of this relationship in future seasons of the show, because it was definitely a highlight for me.

The final piece of the puzzle is the technical aspects of the show, and once again Daredevil is a huge success. The action scenes and fight chereography in particular are done to such a meticulous level of detail that I had to rewatch certain scenes a second time because I couldn't help myself. Daredevil could actually be seen as a deconstruction of superhero action due to how realistic it is; the amount of time it takes for Matt to defeat a single opponent is quite jarring at first, with each foe taking sometimes dozens of punches and kicks before being knocked out. The level of blood and the intensity of the violence are both much higher than any previous Marvel Studios production, and they have not shied away from the gritty nature of the franchise in any way.

This all culiminates in a spectacular final confrontation between Daredevil and Kingpin in the finale, and it is every bit the epic boss fight that you would have always wanted. The ferocity and tone of this final battle is right on point, and after the building of tensions across the entire season, is definitely the climax it deserves. Editing and music are also done well enough, although the latter tends to be relatively generic and forgettable, which is a disappointment (aside from the great main credits theme).

A couple extra points where the show falls short (and these are minor) involve the suit and the extra villains. While we were promised an evolution of the suit over the course of the series, the red costume does indeed only show up in the last episode (just in time for the final battle, thankfully), and it feels less like an evolution and more like an instant upgrade. I really like the final suit, although I also understand why some might have issue with it. As well, there are no other major supervillains that Matt fights who are from the comics. Civilian versions of The Owl and Gladiator are present but don't see much in the way of combat, although there is an incredible boss fight midseason against an original character from a comics-based organization (take a wild guess who said organization is) that is phenomenal in every sense of the word. However, the overall lack of supervillains for Matt to fight definitely needs to be addressed in future seasons, especially given the episodic nature of the platform. I would also have liked to have seen more actual legal work being done (Nelson & Murdock technically only appears in court once), but this is understandable given how the plot pans out.

Despite some minor quibbles with usage of characters and plot developments, Marvel's Daredevil is a huge success in pretty much every area. Fans of the property will no doubt be pleased at seeing the definitive adaptation of the character on screen, and even casual fans who haven't read the comics before will be presented a thoroughly engaging and satisfying show that manages to tell a single, cohesive and concluded story while also leaving plenty of room for development in future seasons. The CW had better take note, because Daredevil has just shown everyone how it's done.


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