I finished watching the first season of the Marvel Television produced series for Netflix and to be honest, I was not holding my breath, but rather, tuned in to see what they've done to the TV version of the character compared to the the comic title. I think they have done it justice plus one.
Daredevil stars Charlie Cox (Boardwalk Empire) as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, with Elden Henson (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) as Foggy Nelson, Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood) as Karen, and Rosario Dawson as Claire, Matt's after-hours nurse. Vincent D'Onofrio (Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Full Metal Jacket, Men in Black) starred as Wilson Fisk, known to comic franchise fans as The Kingpin.
The series opens showing us Matt as a child, pushing an old man out of the way of a truck and getting caught up in a chemical spill, which changes him forever, blinding the boy. But in the process, we also learn that the Murdock's have this peculiar genetic predisposition of being able to take a hit... and that in and of itself is one of the key characteristics that make this hero stand out, his ability to take a hit, over and over and over.
The entire first season is an origins kind of tale, as we watch Matt first don a black outfit and a ski mask pulled over his face, covering his eyes and we follow him through his transition of learning what it is to be a hero.
We learn through various flashbacks the motivations for each of the various characters, especially Matt's struggle with what the accident left him with, which was an incredibly heightened set of senses (The man three floors down, wearing the cheap cologne will be here soon), and a kind of obscurely referenced vision where the entire world looks like an infrared vision of sorts, but on fire.
I was not sure how Charlie Cox would pan out, but by the end of the season, I was convinced, hook, line and sinker, that this is Matt Murdock, AKA, Daredevil. Plus Cox beefed up in a lean, muscular way that gave credence to the man who has to fight tooth and nail for what he needs. Every victory is earned.
In the comic Matt's heightened senses used to be referred to and portrayed as radar. But in the show they barely allude to it that way, but instead, they make it clear that he has learned how to interpret the input from his senses in such a way that he can not only be aware of as much as any sighted person, but they can also help him pinpoint little facets of life, such as when a person is lying or not.
I felt at first like it was lacking that we did not become privy to the idea that he has "radar," but ever so slowly, I came around to the idea of appreciating his zen-like awareness and deadly training from a man named Stick, played by Scott Glenn.
I know Foggy Nelson is an integral part of the story, as well as Karen, but I thought I would have to suffer their existence between Murdock's story, but again, I was proven wrong and enjoyed how they provided the glue that held various scenes and plot points together.
I like Karen, she provides all the things the guys don't. That being common sense and a girl's perspective. I love how she was taking the cue from Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) and learning how to dig in and get the story right with proof and facts and not just opinions.
But alas, for me, the icing on the cake was D'Onofrio's portrayal of Wilson Fisk. He delivered a three-dimensional character in such a fashion that if you are not careful, you might find yourself rooting for this murderous man, who is a caring soul with a slight streak of frustration and anger, using whatever means there is, to achieve his goal. Plus, looking back at his youth, you get him.
I think D'Onofrio's portrayal as Fisk is on par with Tom Hiddleston's of Loki in the Marvel movies. You can't help but like and root for the guy to some degree.
Time and time again, D'Onofrio proves himself to be talented beyond belief and can deliver a personality that is so different from any other character, that he truly brought Wilson Fisk to life, like no other person could possibly have done! He was a pure pleasure to watch.
I loved this Marvel "television" series and it is the best to date. It blows the candy-ass Agents of SHIELD out of the water, and I sort of don't mind that show. But this one takes a man and puts him in a dark, crime ridden neighborhood, and he decides to do good, and speak he language that the bad guys can only understand, and that is with violence and threats.
At first I thought the show might have been too violent. The first few episodes Daredevil speaks the language of the thugs, and that meant that once they were down, you made sure they stayed down. That meant a few moments of beating mercilessly on a man on the ground.
The other aspect is that Murdock can take a hit. And sometimes he can take some seriously debilitating hits. Scary looking hits. But remember his lineage. His father was a boxer and could take hit after hit, without slowing down. And thus, Matt inherited that aspect and drive of his father's. It made him the perfect vigilante.
But the violent demonstrations are up front in the season mostly and so the rest of the show focuses on conflict and resolution. Don't get me wrong, it is still there, if you count moments where one guy slams his car door on another guy's head enough times to decapitate him. (Not shown, implied) Hey, the other guy insulted him and he was upset!
But I think some of these moments are necessary to remind you this is not that candy-popcorn world we've sometimes seen in other Marvel projects.
It's rare when the dialog rivets my attention, and it did with most every second of conversation. No time was lost with banter. it was focused.
--How they made a nice, dark, gritty and dramatic end-product with Daredevil on Netflix.
--That they showed that the good guy does not always walk away unscathed.
--That they downplayed the sci-fi aspect of his radar.
--Watching the progression from his first days out in his black ninja-like garb, to that final episode when we see the famous red suit the character is known for.
--How they evolved the suit.
--The slow unfolding of his origin.
--The Marlon Brando-like delivery of the King Pin (Fisk).
--How they made this story digestible by anyone who chose to tune in and not just genre fans.
--How they took the time to really explain his father and inspiration.
--The alluded to superhero group, without using the name.
--How it is questioned how much like the bad guys he becomes.
--How bad guy was almost admirable in his own love for the city.
--How they did not try to appeal to a wider, generic audience, but stayed focused on the gritty, appreciative audience of the world Daredevil lives in.
--That they could pick up the "Dark Knight" tone and extend it so well into Matt Murdock's world.
--That unlike Agents of SHIELD, Arrow or other series about rich vigilantes, Murdock and team are just plumb broke and the characters work with what they got, from the digs they have. It's nothing fancy, but...
--Cox is perfect in this role. He made it his own and kept it distinct and true to the character. Particularly the Frank Miller version of the character.
--That we have four more "street level" Marvel characters coming from Netflix. (Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Power Fist and a final, group series, The Defenders.) is pretty exciting, now that I've seen this.
--Had one primary story and that they were sticking as close to realism as they could.
--That they took the time necessary for us to fully understand most characters.
It's more adult than any other Marvel/Disney production to date.
You have to be careful looking up reviews for this show. It was obvious some mainstream sites assigned the review task to writers who don't get the genre of the comic book realm. So rather than appreciating all that was done with the series, they spend much of their time bashing the part of the comic book story that requires some form of disbelief neutering. But you also have to find a writer that appreciates the well written aspect of the genre.
I don't know what else to say. Daredevil was a surprise hit for me. It was a Marvel product with a different feel or tone than the other projects. It is Batman, without the cape or money. (Technically, capes just get in the way any way.) And Rotten Tomatoes has a critic's score of 98%. That's huge.
If you like or appreciate superhero productions, or just well written stories with a "wee" bit of violence, I think you will LOVE Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix.
OH! And yes, the "man himself," Stan Lee, actually makes a quick cameo. That, I did not expect in the television setting, but loved seeing. 'Nuff said.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =