Review: Daredevil on Netflix

"Daredevil" fan art by Nagy Norbert

"Daredevil" fan art by Nagy Norbert

Over the span of three days, I consumed the entirety of Netflix's first contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil.

Welcome to the darker, edgier, more realistic(-ish) corner of the MCU. It's no less awesome than the rest of it.

It ties into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe only in so far as one of the premises is that the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City is one of the neighborhoods that got hit pretty hard by the alien invasion in the Avengers movie. (Which may account for why the Kitchen is a bad neigborhood in the MCU despite it having been gentrified in the real world decades ago.) The construction companies involved in the reconstruction over the past several years have ties to criminal activitiy.

In case you are unfamiliar with Daredevil here's a rundown of the premise: Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) is a lawyer by day, and by night is a masked vigilante, eventually named Daredevil. The twist, Matt is blind, but he can fight in his masked persona as if he was sighted (or better) given his other senses that have become superhumanly strong. His main nemesis is the new secret crime boss of New York City, Wilson Fisk (played by Vincent D'Onofrio).

I'm of two minds on how much they embraced ability to go more "adult" I don't mind it being darker, dangerous, and with a bit of a body count. But at times it went too heavily into explicit violence, almost Tarantino-esque. So much that few negative reviews called it "blood porn". Episode 3 was the worst offender here, and though it could have been worse, it was pretty hardcore.

At its best, the violence was shown to have consequenses. The beatings Matt takes carry over from episode to episode, requiring lots of medical attention from an unlikely ally in the form of an ER nurse during her off-hours treating him in secret (played by Rosario Dawson). The wounds and torn flesh are shown onscreen when being treated, which must have been a masterwork in effects makeup.

Further consequese is that to the soul of Matt himself. How far outside the law is he willing to go is one that Matt wrestles with throughout the series, especially as it becomes increasingly apparent that the bad guys have too much an edge in terms of control of what should be institutions of law and order through bribed and threatened cops, lawyers, and media.

Between the blood and explicit language (Certainly R rated quality language) this is clearly not for kids. But I think it goes a little too far in distancing itself from the tone of the rest of the Marvel movies and TV shows. With its levels of violence and language it is more like HBO's Sopranos (though not quite so frequent with the cursing, and no nudity or sexual activitiy, save for a brief tease of nudity in the first episode.), when it ought to have reigned it in to more of a basic cable level, ala Breaking Bad.

Still, I wouldn't say that the MCU shouldn't have darker corners, meant for more mature audiences. It's just that with the connection to PG rated material, it would have helped to keep it a bit more accessable.

It's said that any hero is only as good as it's villain. And D'Onofrio delivers a great performance as Wilson Fisk. It's notable that through the first two episodes (and most of the third) Fisk isn't even mentioned by name. He's refered to only tangentially, but clearly the top man in the criminal world, and one to be feared.

But once his is introduced onscreen its in the context of him wooing a woman, Vanessa. His relationship with her and his freindship with his right hand man, Wesley, are strong, positive relationships. This is not some cardboard cutout one dimensional villain. He has ambitions and dreams that are laudable. But his criminal means, dark secrets, and occasional brutal nature have clearly cast his path as one of evil. Just as Matt goes through his own crisises, we see Fisk deal with his own.

The closing fight scene of episode two has been praised up one way and down the other as an incredible one-shot scene (with some opportunity for cheats as the camera reverses direction) set in a hallway. It tells a story of endurance, determination, and heroics like no fight scene in the history of super-hero adaptations. Even if you don't watch the entire series, episodes one and two are must see. Do not stop at just the first episode and give both a try.

I find that at it's best, the vigilate aspect of the super-hero genre is an exercise in personal ethics, and Daredevil has embraced that. Matt and Fisk's personal journeys show the consequenses of the choices on each other, and their personal relationships, as well as how those personal relationships affect their own choices. It's this thread that ties the whole season together, and makes for compelling viewing.

Netflix has lined up four more series for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, which will tie in to Daredevil and each other to some degree, leading ultimately to "The Defenders" a team-up series featuring all four characters. One hopes that there will be further seasons of Daredevil on top of this, but based on the example here, I'm a least looking forward to the rest of Netflix's Marvel offerings.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

The Lack of MagSafe — The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks on complaints that the new MacBook doesn't have a MacSafe power connector:

You're charging it wrong.

USB-C won’t cause more crashing MacBooks, just as long as you use the MacBook as it is intended: on battery power.

Thomas Knapp on 'Net Neutrality:

Apparently the Internet needs to be "saved" from the guys who made it cheap, ubiquitous and pretty darn free (free as in free speech, not as in free beer). Who's doing the saving? The gang that historically has always, every time, without exception made anything and everything it touches more expensive, less reliable and less friendly to freedom of expression.

Read more at Knappster.

Robert Crumb on the Charlie Hedbo attacks.

From the New York Observer:

I’m not going to make a career out of baiting some fucking religious fanatics, you know, by insulting their prophet. I wouldn’t do that. That seems crazy. But then, after they got killed, I just had to draw that cartoon, you know, showing the Prophet. The cartoon I drew shows me, myself, holding up a cartoon that I’ve just drawn. A crude drawing of an ass that’s labeled “The Hairy Ass of Muhammed.” [Laughs.]

You did what?!

Yeah, I sent that to Liberation, so we’ll see what happens. You know, that’s the most I’ve stuck my neck out for a long time…

I've got my differences with the man (mostly for his reasons for leaving the U.S.). But much respect to him for living up to the phrase "Je suis Charlie" in the most accurate way possible.

Do read the whole thing

Late addition before publishing:

Apparently, the cartoon has been released:

 
 

"Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea! And ideas are bulletproof."

In a post in 2008, I made note of how harassment of critics made it necessary for those protesting Scientology to protest as Anonymous, the hacker collective who has chosen their public visage to be a Guy Fawkes mask (as depicted in the comic V for Vendetta).

All those reasons increase tenfold when such harassment escalates into assassinations, as Islamic facists have done to the staff of Charlie Hedbo.

So, I find it appropriate on several levels that Anonymous is now engaging the Islamic facist movement. Not only in that the anonymity protects its members. But that a comic book character, is now the avenger of the artists and publishers of comics killed in this attack.

Je suis Charlie (Screw 'em if they can't take a joke)

Imagine the offices of Mad Magazine or The Onion being stormed by gunmen, killing off many of their most biting satirists. This is effectively what happened in France this week, when the popular comedy newspaper, Charlie Hebdo lost many of their top cartoonists, in such an attack.

An excellent primer on Charlie Hebdo, and its criticism of Islamic extremism, has been published at Vox. It is a must read to understand what's going on.

Links to other coverage:

I find the following excerpt of commentary at the Independent by Mike Harris to be especially important:

Cartoon by The Independent's Dave Brown

Cartoon by The Independent's Dave Brown

Time and time again in the coverage of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, words have prefaced the description of the magazine: “controversial”, “poisonous”, “offensive”. It’s as if to say, if only their cartoonists had held their pens and their writers had held their tongues. If only they’d been a bit more cautious this may not have happened. Perhaps. Few have put their neck out and said - I defend the right to insult. We want the illusion of freedom, but many are all too willing to cast aside those who push at its boundaries.

In a globalised world, where ideas can be distributed from Paris to Fallujah in real-time, we can no longer protect people from ideas they do not like, even if we wanted to. We cannot but help insult the religious. Our way of life is an insult. Should gay couples not Instagram their wedding in case it insults those wed to religious orthodoxy? Should atheists hold their tongue to avoid insulting religious prophets? Do I have to be polite to the English Defence League or the vile Al Muhajiroun? Take a step back. There is no way way you can avoid offending those who wish to develop a global caliphate.

There can be no negotiation between liberal democracy and totalitarian theocracy. It does Europe’s beleaguered minorities no favours to suggest there is. We cannot filter out every offensive tweet, or insulting Facebook post. To suggest we can merely inflames the sense that free speech is always to the detriment of minority groups.