Marvel has been on a bit of a role recently and by recently I mean the last seven years. While Marvel has gone from strength on the big screen such has not been the case for their small screen ventures and after the middling Agents of Shield and the work in progress that is Agent Carter, Marvel are all set to expand their television universe as well. Marvel and Netflix have planned to release 4 stand-alone super-hero shows in the next 3-4 years. The shows being; Daredevil, AKA Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and then a team-up of them all in The Defenders.
Daredevil is the first to arrive. What’s surprising is that why did Marvel take so long to secure it’s rights from Fox considering the lamentable Ben Affleck version came way back in 2003. Created/ adapted by: Drew Goddard and Executive Produced by Steven DeKnight, Daredevil is something that’s very much out of Marvel’s comfort zone. It’s dark, brooding, gritty and unlike anything Marvel has ever done before.
For those unfamiliar with the comics, Daredevil follows the story of Matt Murdock, a man who was blinded by a freak accident as a boy but saw his other senses enhanced to super-human proportions. Eager to stand-up and protect his Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood he takes up the role of a hard-working yet fledgling lawyer by day and hard-nosed masked vigilante by night.
Daredevil goes to great lengths to establish itself as a crime-drama first and a super-hero show second and it succeeds. The show is driven by stupendous performances, a well thought out and tight plot that functions perfectly, and unrelenting violence. Daredevil is a bold step forward for Marvel and something they should be very proud of. The writing is impeccable and the writers present us with a complex, tightly woven plot which sets the tempo for everything that follows. Unlike other super-hero shows who make use of the ‘case of the week’ formula, Daredevil presents an intricate, multi-layered and well-structured story that develops steadily and manages to keep us engaged throughout. The atmosphere plays an integral part in capturing the dark and ominous tone and the Hell’s Kitchen backdrop sinks in wonderfully with the show.
As far as pitch-perfect castings go this show has managed two, Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/ Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. Cox is perfect and nails every aspect of his role to precision. For someone who’s known for his smaller supporting roles in The Theory of Everything and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire he’s someone you least expect to pull off something like this. He brings just the right level of vulnerability and charm to Murdock and the perfect mix of toughness and intimidation to his by-night alter-ego Daredevil. And then ofcourse there’s D’Onofrio, a well-known character actor and supporting player in Hollywood best known to people for his performance in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Here, D’Onofrio steals the show as Wilson Fisk, his complex and at times deeply disturbing turn is mesmerizing to watch. Much of the show’s success should be owed to his performance. The supporting performances are consistently great. Toby Leonard Moore and Vondie Curtis-Hall are the standouts as James Wesley and Ben Urich respectively but Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Helson and Rosario Dawson are also great to watch. The show never shies away from violence, rather excels at it. The action sequences are superbly choreographed and expertly directed, infact, I can’t remember the last time I saw such fluent and effective on-screen combat in any movie or television show. It’s also stunningly well-shot and the distinct visual style reflects the darkness and sombre nature of the story.
All in all, The first season of Daredevil is a masterpiece that should set a new standard for all TV shows to come – not just comic-book ones. Its quality rivals that of Marvel Studio’s best films and it should be watched by anyone and everyone who enjoys great television, regardless of the person’s preconceived notions towards super-heroes and comic-book shows.