Friday, April 1, 2016

Daredevil (2015)

Daredevil's concept is essentially a blind lawyer with superhuman senses that fights crime in Hell's Kitchen. It's extremely scaled down from the usual Marvel Cinematic Universe fare that deals with alien invasions and the fate of the galaxy. Daredevil or Matt Murdock is trying to jumpstart his grass roots law firm with his best friend Foggy by day and protecting the city from criminals (and getting his ass handed to him) by night. In all facets of his life, he has a lot to learn. He has no clout or experience as a lawyer and he's just going out in a mask and black clothes to do what he can't in the courtroom. It's refreshing to have a hero that is just a person. He's not inhumanly strong or fast, but he pushes himself to his limits for what he thinks is right. He learns from his mistakes and strives to fix any harm he caused on his journey. I find him much more relatable because he has the limitations of a real person. His background is interspersed within the forward moving plot, detailing how he became blind, how he was trained to fight, how he lost his father. I found his backstory heartbreaking because his father wanted so much to be someone his son could look up to.

My first reaction is how brutal the violence is. Daredevil beats a human trafficker to a bloody pulp, stabs criminals in the eyes, drops them off buildings, and summarily breaks bones and maims the corrupt. Karen is savagely strangled with a bed sheet and she practically scratches the attacker's eye out. The action is less stylized and far from neatly choreographed. The effects of the violence aren't glossed over or sanitized. Daredevil often goes home injured and bleeding. Some episodes have him very narrowly escaping death. Bones are broken and blood is spilled on both sides. People are tortured. One particularly good scene in the second episode has Daredevil battling criminals in an apartment hallway in one continuous take. Not only is it an awesome scene, but it's a nod to the brutal Korean film Oldboy. Both fights are one continuous take and show violence for what it is: messy, tiring, clumsy, painful, and fueled by willpower. Take notes DC; this is what gritty and dark looks like.

Daredevil's Hallway Fight Scene by kimchisuckerdude

The cast of characters that help Daredevil are varied and generally virtuous at heart. Foggy Nelson, Matt's lawyer partner, is Daredevil's foil. He's kind of goofy, kindhearted, and sweet, but he isn't just there for comic relief. He has his own harsh journey to follow on the other side of the law than Daredevil. Karen Paige was saved by Matt and Foggy from being framed for murder and she now acts as their secretary. Her goal is to bring Wilson Fisk's company down for killing her co-worker, framing her, and trying to kill her. Despite her fear and lack of physical strength, Karen uses all of her resources to accomplish her revenge. Claire is the nurse who helps Daredevil occasionally. She puts her job and life on the line to do so and definitely pays for it. She still perseveres and does what's right. I like that Matt doesn't really have a love interest. Claire is more of the voice of reason who tells him things he needs to realize.

Wilson Fisk or Kingpin is the big villain of the season, expertly portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio. Our first introduction to him has a particularly brutal criminal killing himself rather than facing Fisk. This version of Fisk is a bit different than the usual fare. He's often soft spoken and clumsy with his words, but when his temper rises, he unleashes his rage and his considerable strength. His abusive father shaped him, but he strives to be different. His life is spotless and ordered in contrast to his actions and orders. All of his orchestrated violence and destruction is for what he believes to be the greater good. His goal is to make the improve the city and isn't cruel without reason. It's a small but significant distinction to be cruel for the sake of cruelty as opposed to being cruel for a purpose. Fisk has a softer side as he awkwardly but sweetly romances an art dealer named Vanessa. Usually, superheroes feel the pain of their loves being targeted to get to them, but this show turns it around to the villain. He experiences the pain her inflicts on others. His character is so dynamic that I still feel sorry for him when he's in pain despite his monstrous actions, corrupting judges, cops, and other supposedly lawful entities.

Daredevil is a formidable step forward for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At this point, the tone and style are set for the big screens films. This one sets the scene for the small screen ones as realistic and brutal while still keeping moments of levity, compelling characters, and a complex plot. The only real problem I had with it is with the source material. The different ethnic gangs are stereotypical in their dealings, which doesn't really fit in to the style. It's the only aspect that lacks and I hope next season (which is on Netflix now) can move beyond it. I am thrilled for what the next season has to offer.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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