Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Totally digging Daredevil on Netflix
No real spoilers.
No offense to Mr. Sea’s godparents, who have had very long and impressive careers in the television industry, but I have not been a huge watcher of broadcast television for many, many years -- DECADES, in fact. I think the last regular prime time TV show I was addicted to was the original broadcast of Star Trek: The Next Generation(!). Most of the regular viewing I’ve had in the last few years have involved either old reruns (MeTV is wonderful), or various DC animated series, or the stuff Mighty Mite watches on PBS Kids (most of which is actually pretty entertaining for adults, too). I even ditched cable/satellite TV a few years ago when it finally dawned on me that I was paying an awful lot of money for something I hardly watched. I much prefer viewing movies and BBC stuff, new and old, on my own terms -- so for the last couple of years, I’ve been subscribing to Netflix’s streaming service and watching everything mostly through Amazon/Kindle and the PlayStation Network.
Netflix has been streaming its own series programming for a while, which I’ve basically dismissed with a shrug -- until now. As an ancient and certified comic book fangeek, how could I resist giving the new Daredevil series a shot?
My brother watched the entire series in a relentless Saturday night marathon. I’ve made it to episode 8 so far, and that’s saying something. I generally dump TV series pretty quickly if they don’t catch my interest in the first episode or two -- part of the reason why I’m not much of a series viewer. THIS series, though … Wow.
When we were kids, my brother collected mostly Marvel and I collected DC, and then we read each others’ collections. Worked out pretty well for us. So, most of my Daredevil knowledge dates from the 1970s and early ‘80s -- yes, including the Frank Miller era. Netflix’s Daredevil draws so heavily from that era that watching it, I almost feel like a teenager again, sitting on that awful orange shag carpeting in my brother’s bedroom and reading through his box of Daredevil comics.
Netflix’s Daredevil is gritty, gruesome, and glorious (plus no commercials -- yay!). It definitely earns its TV-MA rating -- NOT kid friendly AT ALL. However, given the circumstances in this series’ version of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and the crime organizations involved, the violence and blood do not feel gratuitous. For the most part, the actors’ portrayals are spot-on. Charlie Cox is intense and deceptively low-key as Matt Murdock. The villains are deplorable characters, but fascinatingly complex and nuanced, especially Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. And Elden Henson, bless his heart, not only nails Foggy Nelson’s behavior without making him too much of a jerk, he even looks like Foggy Nelson.
A huge, huge, HUGE thanks to the series creators for telling Daredevil’s origins mostly via backstory snippets throughout the episodes. I despise series that start off with one big fat origin story -- I just wanna get to the action! Okay, so Daredevil hasn’t appeared in costume yet, but … Seriously, most people watching the series already know Daredevil’s origins, so kudos to everyone involved for just skipping ahead to the good stuff.
Will this series attract any new Daredevil fans? Not sure. My guess is that many new viewers will be strongly reminded of Batman. Indeed, watching this series so far, I’ve been reminded of Nolan’s Dark Knight movies more than once. This is not a criticism -- quite the contrary. After all, the modern interpretations of both Batman and Daredevil have been heavily influenced by Frank Miller, so how can there not be similarities? Still, this TV Daredevil’s universe has been so well-fleshed-out in only a few episodes, I can’t imagine there won’t be any new fans.
Warner Bros., take note: When Disney first acquired Marvel, I was a bit worried. The gritty Marvel universe didn’t seem like a logical fit, and it appeared Disney merely wanted Marvel because they wanted to compete with Warner Bros.’s ownership of DC. Well, that may have been the case, but I don’t think Disney could have done a better job with Marvel right out of the starting gate. Indeed, they have surpassed Warner’s accomplishments with DC in live action, and I think it’s now obvious that Warner’s is scrambling to catch up, what with the Superman/Batman film, and the upcoming Wonder Woman film, et al. One very important thing that has given Disney an edge here is that Disney has not forgotten that all of these characters exist in the same universe. In fact, they capitalize on this fact, which is also a bit of a Marvel tradition -- These characters do not and never have existed in individual vacuums. Warner’s has a history of isolating the DC characters in their live-action films -- “Oh, no, you can’t have XYZ appearing in THIS film, because we’re thinking about putting him in ANOTHER film. So don’t even mention XYZ in THIS film.” In the modern Marvel films, by contrast, TV and movie, there’s a lot of cross-pollination, and characters freely refer to each other. (I like how in Daredevil, the characters tend to comment on the Avengers’ “incident.”) This not only keeps the Marvel film universe rich and well fleshed-out, it generates more interest among viewers so they’re more likely to watch all of these films. It’s fun, and it’s good business. I think Warner’s has finally figured this out, but we’ll see.
Which reminds me -- I would LOVE to see Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow appear in the Daredevil series, given the comic book history between the two characters. Here’s hoping!