Review: Daredevil (Season 1, Episode 1)

This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on April 10th.

 Last time audiences saw Daredevil, they didn’t exactly part on the best of terms with him. It wasn’t us, it was definitely him. Bouncing around like a demented, CGI enabled frog, to a “worst of noughties grunge” playlist, the 2003 film didn’t really leave viewers hungry for a sequel. The character ended up being reduced to the most generic and basic archetype imaginable and the film reeked of everything that was wrong with early 2000s superhero films. Fast-forward to 2015 and superheroes are something of a big deal. And why shouldn’t they be? Because they’ve been done right. But it’s no secret that Marvel studios are running out of their better known properties. Hell, they’re at the stage now where they’re having to make films about a talking raccoon and damn them, they even pulled that off well. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve finally come around to resurrecting Daredevil, albeit on the small screen this time.

No doubt tentative after the last attempt, Marvel has assembled a crack team to ensure that this time the job is done properly. Enter Drew Goddard, veteran Buffy writer and director of the superb The Cabin in the Woods. Possibly keen to bank on more of that same magic that they’ve captured with Joss Whedon, Marvel have slotted Goddard (a regular collaborator of Whedon’s) into a writing role on the show. Along with that they’ve clearly poured a lot of money and resources into making it look the part. So is all of this effort worth it? In short, yes.

The pilot hits the ground running surprisingly quick. Forgoing most of the customary origins malarkey, we’re introduced to Matt Murdock as he first dons his suit. The subsequent episode works mainly to establish the rest of the characters and all of the background stuff that is needed to get things going, but it does so in an economical, to the point kind of way. In brief, Matt Murdock and his friend ‘Foggy’ Nelson, are aspiring defense attorneys, who have yet to take on a single client. The reason for this being that Murdock insists on only taking on clients whom he believes to be innocent. As should be familiar to fans of the source material, his primary method for deducing their innocence is through hearing their heartbeat and judging their truthfulness accordingly.

Yes. Murdock’s great ability is that he has super-hearing. But it’s not as lame as it sounds. After all it isn’t really a superpower, it’s a byproduct of his disability. Blinded in an accident as a young child, Murdock learnt to harness the full extent of his other senses, turning his apparent disadvantage into a strength. Thankfully this is all kept within the realm of reality, unlike in the 2003 film, in which Matt’s hearing effectively provided him with a second sight in the form of a comically discerning sonar-vision. Of course Matt’s not just a lawyer, he’s also a nocturnal vigilante who goes by the name of Daredevil… in case that wasn’t obvious by now.

daredevil-charlie-cox

Credit: Netflix

It’s encouraging to see that Marvel aren’t lazily resting on the jokey formula that has worked incredibly well for them so far, and that they are instead coming at each character with a different approach, one that suits them. This wise decision allows Daredevil to capitalize on what distinguishes the character from all the other heroes currently popping-up in TV and film. Placing emphasis on Daredevil’s unique characteristics (his blindness, his dual role as both lawyer and vigilante) Goddard and co. are able to avoid the curse that has plagued many angsty heroes, namely that they often come across as bland, whiny Batman wannabes.

Pertinently resisting the urge to imitate The Dark Knight, Marvel have gone their own route here, giving the show a distinctive, brooding style. Whilst only really delved into in the first few minutes, there’s even a hint that the show may go on to explore Murdock’s Catholic heritage and focus on the themes of sin and guilt, that have become so central to the character ever since Frank Miller redefined him in the 1980s.

With such a stark tonal departure from the likes of Agents of Shield and Avengers Assemble, references to the wider shared universe are sensibly kept to a minimum. There are no aliens or Norse Gods to contend with here, just vague references to the New York “incident.” Still the show never loses sight of its comic-book origins. With images that feel as if they have been ripped straight off the page, and some impressively choreographed, but crucially grounded fight sequences, Daredevil doesn’t forget to deliver on what the fans expect and crave.

RATING: 8/10- Things are off to a good start for Marvel’s latest foray into Television. 

Daredevil is broadcast on Netflix.

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