he Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most impressive collections of entertainment of all time. Spanning across a dozen movies, all written and produced by different people, and a handful of television shows that all tie together into one single story. It gives outsiders a gateway, and hardcore fans something to chew on in the wait between blockbusters.
On their own, many of the MCU movies are quite good. They have their own self-contained story that doesn’t require watching six other movies or reading between the lines. They’re chock-full of lovable characters laced with a much needed sense of humor. Where it really shines though, is when all of those individual puzzle pieces come together to form a bigger picture, like the Avengers, and fill out any small cracks with interesting tidbits of subplot. Daredevil does not follow this formula, in fact it really seems to be doing the complete opposite, which I have problems with, but we’ll get to that a little later. Spoilers for the MCU ahead.
DAREDEVIL'S BIGGEST CHANGE IS IT'S
DARKER AND GRITTIER TONE
I’m sure you all know the story by now, but if you don’t here’s the TL;DR of Daredevil: boy gets blinded by mysterious chemicals at the age of nine, develops heightened senses, one of them hearing, which causes him to effectively drown in emergency sirens and cries for help that surround him throughout the city. He learns to fight, and does what he can to silence bad people.
Before I really get into pulling it apart, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed the first season and I’m glad to hear they’ve been renewed. Regardless of how hardcore you are about the MCU, there’s a lot to love here. I can’t fault the acting, the production quality is supreme; easily matching the quality of any of the movies. The biggest change would be that of its darker and grittier tone. Along with it, a much more serious and mature style of story-telling, which in some respects I really like. It’s good to see that Marvel are confident enough to explore that avenue with characters that were once marketed to children. It’s like if Mickey Mouse turned out to be a drug trafficker and spat on peasants as they walked beneath his penthouse. I digress.
The main story focuses on lawyers Matt Murdock AKA Daredevil (Charlie Cox), his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), and their client turned Secretary, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). Matt, as you’d expect, takes center stage most of the time with his crime fighting alter ego drama. Even still, it’s not exactly clear why Foggy or Karen are even part of the story. For episodes at a time they’re only interaction is with each other and even that seems to only be for exchanging edgy puns or remarks about sticking it to the man or some lawyer gibberish. They come into their own a little later in the story, but for a while they genuinely feel like filler between fights. Many of their scenes struggle to find an emotional balance as well. When an elderly women they meet, that's likely to keel over at any minute, becomes an unnecessary victim to Fisk, Foggy and Karen go on a bender that seems to last for weeks like they had themselves murdered someone. Yet, later in the show when they actually murder someone, it seems to be shrugged off by the next episode and is never really brought up again.
The fight choreography, which as you’d expect being paramount to the show, is handled exceptionally well. There’s a single-take fight scene a few episodes in that lasts a minute or two which is particularly impressive. I’m sure there’s a few clever cuts in there somewhere but the overall product is awesome. The show has a great pace throughout the season and never really falls into a slump, in fact it even impressed me a few times with its risky change in direction.
FEW PUNCHES ARE PULLED WHEN IT
COMES TO VIOLENCE AND GORE
Meanwhile, crime lord Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) is running an operation, in collaboration with several others, to rebuild the city; getting rid of the scum that fill the streets. As villains go I’d consider him to be rather pathetic. I’m still not entirely sure if that’s just his character or if it’s the fruit of lazy writing. The show tries to flesh out his backstory a couple of times, but all we really see is just how gullible Wilson was at a young age. He listened to his father to the T, even when it required smashing his dads head in because he was being a bit of a dick. Wilson’s menacing, draped in shadow, fear to speak his name, reputation stems from eating some cake after he got punched in the face and then stared at a wall for a bit. I’m not buying it. The show also tries desperately to validate his motive, to the point of reiterating it so many times with so many synonyms that you forget rebuilding the city actually means killing all of the little people beneath him.
Wait for it. Daredevil to the rescue. Few punches are pulled when it comes to violence and gore. One scene has you watch as a man’s head literally gets smashed to bits. In that respect, it feels more genuine than the mainstream MCU where plenty of people get killed, but rarely on screen. Even when they do, it’s usually by turning to stone or drowning or some such.
Aside from a few minor quarrels, Daredevil is genuinely interesting and befitting of a place in the MCU. Which makes my gripe with it all the more unfortunate. As I said, all of the MCU puzzle pieces contribute to the universe when they acknowledged everything else that’s going on. Agents of Shield has been tying itself closely with all of the movies since it began, and more recently tied a considerable subplot into the new Avengers movie without you even realizing it. Unless you’ve been watching the show, than gold star for you. Even Guardians of the Galaxy, a comedy space opera, ties into the Avengers, it’s all part of what makes the MCU so awesome.
A GUY WITH SUPER SENSES, PLASTERED ALL OVER THE NEWS, GOES UNNOTICED BY SHIELD?
Unlike any other Marvel movie or show, Daredevil refuses to acknowledge the existence of anything. It doesn’t acknowledge the Avengers, Shield or even Hydra. None of them are even mentioned, nor alluded to. The closest nod you’ll get is a newspaper clipping that says ‘Battle of NY’ on it, a dated comic reference to the wings on Captain America's head, which he doesn't have in the movies, or to the keener, a brief mention of the Roxxon Corporation. That’s it.
The Agents of Shield television show has gone to great lengths to establish that any new people who appear to possess power are immediately nabbed up and put on to an index. If you’ve been keeping up with the end of Season 2 you’ll know just how far those lengths go. Am I to expect that a guy with super senses plastered all of the news in New York City goes unnoticed? People who cry for Daredevil's help in the streets seem to completely forget that Iron Man lives up the road, in fact, the show seems to forget that too. In a number of skyline shots, the Stark Tower is completely absent even though the building the Stark Tower replaces, MetLife, appears a dozen times. It's even missing from the all of the promotional material, including the photo at the top of this article. I'm almost willing to let all the other stuff slide, but failing to acknowledge a key landmark in Marvel's version of New York is unacceptable. Also, why are petty crime bosses trying to take over New York for financial gain when aliens literally invaded it only a few years ago, followed by a massive Hydra outbreak? These seem like the kind of things that should probably, at the very least, get a mention. Is the show embarrassed about where it came from, or is it just ignoring these details to stay so far out of the way that it's almost in a different universe at this point? All of these oddities paired with its darker, more serious tone make it even harder for me to believe that Thor and Helicarriers exist in this world. Plus, correct me if I’m wrong, but Fisk in the comics was affiliated with Hydra as well, so there’s that.
I'm not saying I want Coulson and crew to turn up and take over the show, or to retrace storylines, like those Hydra ones, again and again. I'm simply asking for the show to acknowledge the world it's in. It constantly dances around any superhero terminology at the risk of sounding cheesy. In truth it's almost worse to call attention to tropes from the comicbooks, like writing Wilson Fisk's name on a King playing card, then shrugging it off and continuing to be ambiguous about it. You're a show about superheroes, watched by people who like superheroes, made by a company who's done this kind of the very well for a while now. Maybe be a little less conservative.
As a standalone, or possibly even as a tie-in with the future Netflix Marvel shows, it’s admittedly impressive. I love the stories the show has pieces together and the direction the show is headed into the second season. From a fans perspective though, I feel a little insulted at the disconnect between worlds, and feel that the very reason I’m so obsessed with Marvel right now, the closely knit characters and stories, has been thrown to the wind. As for puzzle pieces, this one doesn’t fit here.
APRIL 10, 2015
Some images from Netflix
By Aaron Bishop on May 13, 2015