The last few years have seen a superhero renaissance at the cinema. We’ve seen 3 iron Mans, a couple of Captain Americas and (as of next week at any rate) two Avengers and a Guardian of the Galaxy. And that’s just from Marvel Studios, you can add in X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man from various other studios.
TV-wise we’ve had Agents of SHIELD, which is a spin off from the Avengers but thanks to a deal signed in late 2013 with Netflix, things have become an awful lot more interesting. Marvel TV and Netflix announced in October 2013 that they would be making 4 series, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, culminating in a mini series called the Defender (another superhero group, in case you wondered).
This excited me tremendously as Daredevil has always been one of my favourite Marvel superheroes. Daredevil is blind attorney Matt Murdock, who was gifted modest super powers by the radioactive material that blinded him as a child. His remaining senses were enhanced after he was blinded- he’s very agile, has “radar” like hearing that can locate where people are, and the ability to “hear” whether people are lying or not. Although fantastical, they are a lot more believable than most of the super-super heroes.
The big issue with superheroes generally is the “super-power arms race”- big, super-powered heroes need big super-powered villains to fight. You’re not going to see Thor taking down a mugger after all, and what this leads to is a further distancing into fantasy. Daredevil is a distance away from the brightly coloured spandex sort of superhero that many people are familiar with.
All thirteen episodes of Daredevil were released on Netflix last Friday and I’ve spent the last few days binge watching the first half of the season.
Like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the first thing you notice about Daredevil is the runtime. Unlike the typical hour long American show (or half hour in the case of Kimmy Schmidt), Daredevils episodes are actually an hour long. Compared to the normal 42-44 minutes you’ll see on something like Vikings because they’ve not been built around advert breaks, this gives an awful lot more time to develop plot and play out a story.
The second thing you’ll notice is that Daredevil carries a 15 certificate. This is completely warranted, and in some instances, like when Fisk kills a Russian gangster, it seems generous that it got a 15 rather than an 18. Make no mistake, if you’ve let your kids watch Iron Man or the Avengers, you should not be letting them watch Daredevil.
But it works for adults because Daredevil is grounded. He gets hurt, he gets beaten up, yes, all the baddies show a level of martial arts expertise that wouldn’t be amiss in a Bruce Lee film but aside from that, it’s all good stuff. Think of Daredevil more as a vigilante than a super hero and it’s fine to watch if you’re not a super hero fan. If you’re a super hero fan, it ticks so many boxes, you can’t help but love it to bits. Matt Murdock is well cast, Foggy Nelson, his partner in law, is fairly well cast (albeit a little more slicked back than I remember from the comics), and even the big bad guy, Wilson Fisk, the Kingping, is portrayed well.
Production values are extremely high, the Hells Kitchen area of New York is believable and well realised- it is a world that is at once realistic but also a world that Daredevil can live in. And the fight scenes, oh my word. In episode 2 there is a fight scene in a corridor that is a single shot. The single shot is a little over 5 minutes, with the fight taking over 3. It is incredible:
I watched Daredevil on our 60 inch telly via Sony’s built in Netflix app and I kept on forgetting I was watching a TV programme. The series is so well made, it seems so cinematic, that you can quickly forget that it’s episodic television. Better still, as it’s Netflix, there is none of that artificial pacing around advert breaks, or the fade to/from black where an advert would go if it’s on terrestrial telly. It’s fully immersive for the whole hour.
Netflix has shown the way with Daredevil, it is truly spectacular.
Disclaimer: Im part of the Netflix StreamTeam of ambassadors