‘Daredevil’ Does Comic TV Adaptations Right

Charlie Cox stars in the Netflix Original Series “Marvel’s Daredevil.”  Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2014 Netflix, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Charlie Cox stars in the Netflix Original Series “Marvel’s Daredevil.”
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix
© 2014 Netflix, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Marvel has brought their universe to a dark place

There was some trepidation when it was announced there would be another go at Marvel’s Daredevil — the 2003 Ben Affleck vehicle had left a bad taste in many people’s mouths — when Netflix said they were going to make a series of the character. It was also a little worrying that since, thus far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been more on the lighter side of things, that Daredevil would be thrown into a PG world, where he certainly does not belong.

Fear not, for Netflix’s “Daredevil” has certainly brought the MCU into a darker territory than it has ever visited. Which proves that Marvel is not afraid to show the dark and gritty when it does the character justice (unlike, say, the opposite when DC made a dark and gritty Superman because it worked for Batman. Come on, DC, primary colors are not always bad).

And the world in which Daredevil lives is not a pretty one. Set in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, the city is still recovering from the devastation brought upon it during the end of “The Avengers.” It is a city now being overtaken by crime — specifically human trafficking in the street world and shady business dealings in the white collar world. Enter lawyer Matt Murdock, blinded in his youth but can see that crime is destroying the city around him, and the street and corporate crimes are related. He fights for justice day and night, but differently depending on whether it is the sun or moon out. Clad in black, he brings street level justice to street level criminals.

And he does it in spades. “Daredevil” is also perhaps the most violent of anything from the MCU. There is no sugarcoating it, no little puns after he beats someone to a pulp. And he is not invincible either. He takes knife wounds, bruises and so forth.

Charlie Cox gives an impressive performance as Murdock, charming, funny and smart — and struggling with his demons. It is great how they combine his family’s past, his sense of justice and his faith into character rather quickly than dole out another long-winded origin story. No, this show jumps right into it, while sprinkling out how he came to be throughout the narrative.

“Daredevil” is also incredibly good at showing that there are bad guys in their universe that are complicated, scary and human. Sure, Thanos, Red Skull and Loki are bad, but you don’t sympathize with them, and you know they couldn’t really exists in the real world. Enter Vincent D’Onofrio (“Full Metal Jacket” and “Law &Order: Criminal Intent”), who gives a powerhouse performance as Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin). Fisk is believable (minus the no paper trail of his existence in the show’s reality, he’s off the grid) as a crime boss and is frightening in his revenge (when he beat that Russian to death with a car door was disturbing). You also sense his loneliness is a dark and corrupted world he has created around him (a lot of that is on D’Onofrio’s performance giving Frisk a sense of humanity).

By and large, “Daredevil” is another feather in the cap for both Marvel and Netflix. It is the first part of a series of shows for the streaming giant that will lead up to “The Defenders,” a street-level superhero ensemble similar to “The Avengers.” It adds to the MCU much better than, say, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Agent Carter” in that we actually get not only a superhero in this show, but an interesting set of characters (“Carter,” for its part, fared much better than “Agents”).

All 13 episodes are currently streaming on Netflix.

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