So I’m a pretty big Marvel nerd, in case you didn’t know. That doesn’t mean I’m blinded (pun intended) or biased by anything in this review. I pretty much hated the first Thor and was very “bleh” when it comes to the first Captain America movie. I don’t mean to say they’re flawless films, because most of those movies are admittedly flawed. I just enjoy most Marvel Studios projects in spite of them, immensely so. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about Daredevil.
Daredevil is, and I believe I can say this with certainty, not only Marvel Studios’ greatest achievement, but Netflix’s best work so far, as well. I can’t think of any TV show or movie that has made me empathize with literally all the characters in some way. If Matt, Foggy, Karen, or even Fisk is sad, I feel their pain; I understand them. If there has been a movie or show that has done that to me before, it certainly wasn’t superhero-related, I must admit. Hero or villain, I felt I understood them and their actions, however flawed they’re logic may be, even if something like this happens.
Yeah… Kingpin is terrifying.
This empathy is in no small part due to the performances, especially that of Vincent D’Onofrio. Remember the L&O: C.I. days, where he played a possibly borderline autistic, yet brilliant detective? Well, those days are over. In Daredevil, he plays a possibly borderline autistic, rich, absurdly violent, straight up creepy psychopathic crime boss who makes some extremely stupid decisions when he’s angry, in case you didn’t notice that. Yet, unlike the usual villain, who you just don’t like, Wilson Fisk is an extremely empathetic man with goals who wants to do the right thing and save his city; of course he wants to do that in the most wrong way humanly possible, but still. He has emotions, he even genuinely loves a woman. He also had… like, pretty much the worst Dad ever. For real, though.
On the flipside, Charlie Cox, who I have never heard of before now, plays a blind lawyer who is also basically a ninja, and does so extremely well. It’ll make sense, trust me. By day, Matt Murdock is a brilliant defense attorney working in his own firm with his best friend, Foggy Nelson. But by night, he mercilessly beats criminals and scumbags as the vigilante who will eventually come to be known as Daredevil, but is known throughout most of the series as “the Man in Black.” Unlike Fisk, all this violence, which they both deem as “an unfortunate necessity,” doesn’t sit well with the staunchly Catholic Murdock. Most times, the whole “is what I’m doing right?” church-penance thing feels hokey and uncomfortable. It’s completely believable here; some of the most important and pivotal scenes take place in a church. In fact, the second scene in the series is Murdock giving his first confession in a very long time. The entire dialogue is great and gives us insight into Murdock as a character.
Speaking of violence, everyone who says “Marvel’s for kids” can be sent packing. If you let kids watch this, as I’m sure many parents who are familiar with Marvel Studios’ other works did, you are making an awful parenting mistake. That’s not to say it’s egregious and disturbing for the sake of it. It never goes too far. It goes as far as it should; as far as it needs to to get it right. And they do. Marvel Studios struck a deal with Netflix in 2013 to produce a series of shows focusing on lesser-known, darker, “street-level” characters. Netflix, a private, non-network entity, was free to give the Daredevil team complete creative control. They completely disregarded Marvel Studios standing as “the kiddified one,” creating something so dark and so gritty it makes Chris Nolan’s Batman, who I love, look like Adam West. You may be wondering how something like this can be set in the same universe as “The Avengers.” I was constantly forgetting I was watching a show set in a world with superheroes. That’s because it isn’t a superhero show. Creator Stephen S. Deknight explained that he took inspiration from Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, and The French Connection. It is not a superhero show, it’s a 13-hour neo-noir film set in a world with superheroes. It’s not campy, there are no indestructible boomerang shields or magic hammers with names no one can pronounce. And it is amazing.
The fight sequences are better than virtually anything else. Neither Oliver Queen nor Jason Bourne have got jack against Daredevil, and I love both the Bourne Trilogy and Arrow. If you need proof…
2008’s Iron Man did something unprecedented when it established the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Daredevil did something equally unprecedented when it decided to break free of that universe. It’s not bogged down by references to characters or coming events, nor does it attempt to tease what’s to come. Instead of Daredevil being about the universe, the universe is a unaffected backdrop. The events and characters of Daredevil are laughably insignificant compared to The Avengers. Ironically, I felt there was a lot more at stake, a lot more to loose, in Daredevil than in Iron Man or the Avengers, and this is coming from a guy who loves those movies. Daredevil is the best thing Marvel’s done so far. It accomplishes this by… not being anything like Marvel. So, you can hate Marvel. You can hate superheroes. It doesn’t matter what your excuse is, you need to watch Daredevil.