Spring 2015 Review: Daredevil

13 Apr

Daredevil

Marvel, which seeks to continue its world domination, and Netflix, which seeks to grow its library of hit TV shows, made a smart decision with Daredevil, a classic but underutilized Marvel character, by taking the property in a slightly different direction than the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While other superhero movies (and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) seem to be getting bigger and bigger – unbelievably powerful superheroes, alien invasions, intergalactic terror, and impending world destruction, Daredevil scales down. Daredevil localizes itself not only within one city, New York, but within one neighborhood within that city, Hell’s Kitchen. Daredevil doesn’t deal with aliens or gods or robots, but with gangsters and corrupt politicians and businessmen. Daredevil battles thugs and henchmen via hand-to-hand combat.

The second way Daredevil differs from his superhero predecessors in film and television is that his day job is actually relevant to the show in a way most other superheroes’ occupations aren’t. Usually these jobs are just a convenient cover for the heroes’ nighttime pursuits. Here, however, Daredevil’s lawyering represents an integral part of his character is a way that’s simply not true for Spiderman as a photographer or Superman as a writer or Batman a wealthy playboy or C.E.O.

Daredevil is about the fight for justice and what’s right, which sounds similar to the motive of just about any other superhero, but Daredevil merges the legal and extralegal avenues toward that goal in a unique way through his work as a defense attorney. The justice he attempts to hand out during his nights is directly connected to his struggle to fight for justice as he truly believes it should be meted out, through the legal system during the day. The courts just need an occasional outside push to help them function correctly.

Daredevil fights are designed to highlight the smaller scale street level (comics term which refers to characters with no or few powers) nature of the characters – dark, martial art clashes in dark alleys under little light.

While Daredevil does take this interesting approach that stands apart in a couple of noteworthy ways from Marvel’s existing properties, it is still a relatively conventional superhero story. There’s not going to be anything groundbreaking here, and Marvel products, as I’ve said before, tend to have high floors but low ceilings. There’s something to be said for that; while I like to see programs shoot for the stars, there’s room for solid but not spectacular entertainment as well. Still, it’s worth pointing out. It’s difficult to be great with the restraints Marvel puts on its programming, but it’s also difficult to be awful. I don’t always like to reward that level of risk averseness, but to its credit, Marvel has done a good job putting enough of its properties closer to their ceiling, relatively low as that may be, that at least the calculation seems to make a lot of sense for them both commercially and creatively.

The acting is competent, the writing is adequate; the dialogue isn’t David Mamet but it doesn’t embarrass itself either. Daredevil is not for people who don’t like superheroes; there simply isn’t enough to differentiate it from what anyone who doesn’t like superheroes don’t like about them to begin with. Those who do, though, will probably find Daredevil enjoyable.

Will I watch it again? Yes. I like superhero shows well enough that I’m watching The Flash, Arrow, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD, and Daredevil seems like it could be at least as good as any of those, and maybe better.

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