TV Review: ‘Marvel’s Daredevil’

Marvel's Daredevil TV Review on Netflix

Marvel Television’s plan to bring second-tier heroes to the screen has found a logical and hospitable home in Netflix, a subscription service that should benefit from capitalizing on the ardor of the fanboy base via a multi-series relationship. First up is “Daredevil,” a character with a spotty track record, from the 2003 Ben Affleck movie to a backdoor pilot a quarter-century ago in an Incredible Hulk TV movie. Dark, brooding and violent, the slickly produced series casts the blind hero as Marvel’s version of Batman, a masked vigilante as apt to get roughed up himself as pummel the bad guys.

That blindness – the byproduct of an accident that gave the young Matt Murdock (“Boardwalk Empire” alum Charlie Cox) superhuman senses as compensation – actually serves a more practical purpose in TV terms, since the advantage Daredevil gains while battling in darkness also tends to obscure the limits of a made-for-TV budget. And since purists often gripe about such things, it’s worth noting the costume isn’t the traditional red design but a black ninja-style get-up that resembles the one sported in the aforementioned “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk,” from the bad old days of comic books on TV. (In a later episode Murdock wryly describes the outfit as “a work in progress.”)

Otherwise, the series – from “Spartacus” veteran Steven S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard – does reflect the desire to inhabit a “darker, edgier, more mature corner of the Marvel universe,” as content chief Joe Quesada has put it, while capitalizing on the serialized format to gradually spoon out the character’s origin story, trusting that plenty of fans already know it.

As a consequence, the first episode hits the ground running, introducing Murdock and partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) as they’re launching their law firm, while quickly jumping into a case of corporate corruption involving a woman (“True Blood’s” Deborah Ann Woll) whose path has crossed the holdings of the mysterious Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), a.k.a. the Kingpin, who’s name is treated with more hushed reverence by underlings than that of Lord Voldemort. Indeed, a bald bad guy hasn’t spent this much time speaking from the shadows since Brando in “Apocalypse Now.”

A subsequent episode also brings a wounded Daredevil (actually referred to in the five previewed episodes only as “the man in black,” not to be confused with Johnny Cash) into contact with a helpful medical worker (Rosario Dawson), which certainly comes in handy given the amount of punishment he endures.

The luxury of a series allows the producers to add pathos to the plight of Murdock’s father, the pug of a boxer who wanted better for his son, while indulging in side trips like a romantic subplot for the Kingpin. At its core, though, this is a pretty faithful retelling of the comics, while embracing a tone similar to Frank Miller’s invigoration of the character in the 1980s.

The pulpy style and brutality (torture is one of Daredevil’s tools) clearly seek a higher sense of realism, which must be balanced against the notion of a blind superhero who can shimmy up walls and whose spectacular hearing lets him function, among other things, as a human lie detector. Helpfully, Cox brings the necessary mix of grit and Marvel-esque self-doubts to the dual role.

Compared to Marvel’s experience with “Agents of SHIELD” for ABC, operating in Netflix’s pay-to-view world is clearly liberating, in much the way animated direct-to-DVD titles enable the comics companies to cater to knowledgeable fans without needing to worry too much about luring the uninitiated into the tent. And the binge prospect should be helpful in getting people hooked on the overarching adventure, complete with Russian mobsters and feuding crime factions building toward the inevitable Daredevil-Kingpin showdown.

By that measure, Marvel has shrewdly expanded its portfolio, and Netflix has upped its must-have quotient with a fiercely loyal segment of consumers. Viewed that way, costume or no costume, “Daredevil” looks dressed for success.

TV Review: 'Marvel's Daredevil'

(Series; Netflix, Fri. April 10)

Production

Filmed in New York by DeKnight Prods. and Goddard Textiles in association with ABC Studios and Marvel Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Steven S. DeKnight, Drew Goddard, Jeph Loeb, Jim Chory, Dan Buckley, Joe Quesada, Stan Lee, Alan Fine, Cindy Holland, Kris Henigman, Allie Goss, Peter Friedlander; co-executive producers, Joe Pokaski, Douglas Petrie; supervising producer, Marco Ramirez; producer, Kati Johnston; director, Phil Abraham; writer, Goddard; based on the comic created by Lee, Bill Everett; camera, Matthew J. Lloyd; production designer, Loren Weeks; editor, Jonathan Chibnall; music, John Paesano; casting, Laray Mayfield, Julie Schubert. 60 MIN.

Cast

Charlie Cox, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Scott Glenn, Bob Gunton, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis Hall, Ayelet Zurer

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  1. GarryW says:

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  2. Haredevil says:

    Fanboys are such babies. Street vigilante trained in martial arts defends a corrupt city dressed in a costume to generate fear and dates women that are bad for him with a twisted Rogues Gallery. Those descriptions fit Batman and Dardevil. Daredevil is a variation on the iconic Batman theme which predates hi by 30 years. His comic sells well under 50,000 copies an issue. Pointing these things out is not a personal attack and when you freak out over comparisons between Daredevil and Batman you sound like an ill-informed, thin-skinned, basement dweller with no perspective beyond “Daredevil is my fave! He fights Bullseye not the Joker and he’s blind and Catholic! WAAAAAAH!!!!”

  3. pluckykerplunk says:

    i’m trying to read this article and your commercials are blasting me left and right. i won’t be back to your site.

  4. Bob says:

    They aren’t “Second-Tier”, they are “Street Level” heroes. Daredevil has generally been a more popular character with more critically acclaimed stories than many of those in the Avengers.

    DD is also not very analogous to Batman and anyone suggesting such is betraying their lack of familiarity with either character and their stories. Sure, they both have some “ninja-esque” roots but the simularity ends there.

  5. Rachel Farland says:

    I’ve been waiting for Marvel’s Daredevil for such a long time. I think it will be the highlight on Netflix for quite sometime. The best bit is despite being outside the US, I will still be able to watch Daredevil on US Netflix using this really nifty service called PureVPN. For all those who will be outside the US on April 10, I recommend they try this service. Why can’t April 10 come already? :p

  6. “At its core, though, this is a pretty faithful retelling of the comics, while embracing a tone similar to Frank Miller’s invigoration of the character in the 1980s.”

    That’s all i wanted.

  7. Fanboy base? Why not just say fan base? Because a helluva lot of women (like me) are going to be tuning as well. I have the entire first phase MCU blu-ray movie package, I’m waiting on money to get Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 and 2 and waiting for another special package for phase two.

    I also can’t wait until April 10 when Daredevil is released.

  8. TONY says:

    MARVEL’S version of Batman?
    He doesn’t have a clue…..

    • kappabeat says:

      Daredevil is often considered Marvel’s Batman

      • Swearengen says:

        Neither Daredevil nor Iron Man is usually considered Marvel’s Batman, Black Panther is.

        Rich, intelligent, martial artist, cool tech, and dresses in black.

      • Lex Walker says:

        Iron Man is actually more often considered Marvel’s Batman: rich playboy who uses his wealth and smarts to fight crime with an array of gadgets.

      • Alexander says:

        Other than being proficient in martial arts, Batman and Daredevil have nothing in common.

  9. Pete Pfau says:

    Purists aren’t going to gripe about the black prototype suit because it’s FROM the comics.

  10. VARIETY’s Brian Lowry doesn’t even mention Daredevil’s famous character designer Wallace “Wally” Wood in this write-up. VARIETY thinks of Daredevil simply as a TV/Film property; they need to get hip to this MAJOR character’s RICH history! The comics world is in the midst of a 50th anniversary celebration of Wood’s Daredevil design. Not mentioning Wood in a Daredevil article is as bad as not mentioning Jack Kirby in a Fantastic Four article!

  11. dlefeb says:

    Also the costume is based on the design from the Man Without Fear series.

  12. therealeverton says:

    After the massive egg on their face that resulted from the media’s description of Iron Man, Thor & Co as second tier “The B-Team”, you’d think there would just be a description of characters not yet thrust into the mega-mainstream as something else. Here the answer is handed on a plate as the “Street level” heroes Marvel is putting on Netflix are darker and that is the reference point, not some outdated idea that they are not A-Team (especially as most of them are important Avengers these days, amongst other things.

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