Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zak Attack Unleashed: Marvel's Daredevil (2015)

Now before we get into this, I just want to make something perfectly clear. There will be some SPOILERS here. Some of them minor, others potentially major. So if you haven't seen Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix, do yourself a favor and just binge watch the entire first season for the next 2-3 days. And avoid any and all contact with the outside world during that time if you want to avoid anything remotely spoiler related.

So Marvel's Daredevil... holy shit I was not expecting this show to be this addictively good. Now I'm sure by now you've all heard from many a reviewer, blogger, and YouTuber alike that this show is friggin' amazing. And it is. This is practically the most dark n' gritty thing Marvel has put out thus far. And given some of the other dark n' gritty mediocrity I've had to endure (looking at you Man of Steel), this is quite possibly my favorite. Hell I'd even go so far as to say that this show is light-years ahead of shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Flash (2014). And this's coming from a guy that genuinely loves those shows mind you.

So basically I'm just going to focus on a few of the elements of the show that I personally found to be great, because honestly there's just too much to cover in just one review. Think of it as sort of a highlights of Marvel's Daredevil if you will.

Now one of the things about the show that I was a little skeptical on was Vincent D'onofrio being cast as Wilson Fisk (A.K.A. The Kingpin). Up until now, my personal favorite interpretation of the Kingpin has always been the one in Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994), voiced by Roscoe Lee Browne. To me he personified everything I loved about the Kingpin. He was business savvy, intelligent, and calculated every move he made against his enemies. And probably most important of all, he's the kind of man you don't want to judge at first glance. Sure he may look like just some old fat guy, but he's a lot stronger then he looks. This is a guy who can pretty much fend for himself against guys like Daredevil, and my personal favorite comicbook character Spider-Man (as you can see in the image below).

After seeing Vincent D'onofrio's portrayal of the Kingpin, while I can't say he's better then Roscoe Lee Browne's (because personally I love his interpretation far too much, he is the definitive Kingpin in my eyes), I can say however that his portrayal is certainly different then that of the Kingpin from Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994). And honestly, that's a good thing really. In this version he's more relatable and human as opposed to Roscoe Lee Browne's more, as my friend Oscar from the Hybrid Network puts it, "more classic comicbook mustache twirling villain" And as much as I love Browne's version, I have to admit looking back he is certainly a more cheesy kind of villain. Whereas D'onofrio's interpretation of the character is a bit more realistic and grittier. Which of course lends credence to all the Frank Miller-esque qualities that the show presents.

"I've done things that I'm not proud of, 
Vanessa. I've hurt people and I'm going to 
hurt more. It's impossible to avoid
for what I'm trying to do. But I take 
no pleasure in it, in cruelty. But this 
city isn't a caterpillar. It doesn't 
spin a cocoon and wake up a butterfly. 
A city crumbles and fades. It 
needs to die before it can be reborn."
As much as the show is about Matt Murdock's ascension into becoming the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, and the moral implications that come with working outside of the law, Marvel's Daredevil is also the story of Wilson Fisk's rise and fall as the Kingpin of Crime. Throughout the course of the show, we see him struggle to keep his fellow crime bosses in line, all the while under the guise as the hero of Hell's Kitchen. Promising to rebuild New York City for a better tomorrow. And while his actions as the Kingpin are morally reprehensible, his motivations for doing so is ultimately what makes him such a compelling character. One element in particular that highlights this fact is his relationship with an art gallery owner named Vanessa. 

Characters such as the Kingpin quite literally make the MCU's current batch of villains (with the exception of Loki and Ultron) look pale by comparison. Hell, it's almost not even fair. If Marvel were to put half as much effort into strengthening their film's rogues gallery as they do arbitrarily "diversifying" their characters in the comics, then villains like the Kingpin would be in an abundance.

So yeah, he may not be my favorite iteration of the Kingpin, but he's definitely a solid close second in my eyes. And quite possibly one of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Then there's the show's more religious aspects, specifically Matt Murdock's Catholicism. In this regard, there's definitely a lot of moral conflict in terms of Matt's part time career as a crime fighter. While he certainly beats the ever living crap out of most of the criminals he fights, he still holds himself back from ever dealing that fatal blow. In episode 9 "Speak of the Devil", Matt is at a crossroads as to what he should do in stopping the Kingpin once and for all. While he could effectively kill him, his religious upbringing is essentially what's holding him back from doing so. But at the same time, if he does nothing to curtail the Kingpin's growing criminal empire, Hell's Kitchen will be lost forever. So he goes to seek the guidance of Father Lantom (who essentially acts as Matt's moral and spiritual compass throughout the course of the show) for what he should do next. Telling him that as long as the Kingpin is allowed to go unchallenged and gain more power, innocent lives will be at risk. Father Lantom replies by simply saying "Another man's evil does not make you good. Men have used the atrocities of their enemies to justify their own throughout history. So the question you have to ask yourself is... are you struggling with the fact that you don't wanna kill this man... but have to? Or that you don't have to kill him... but want to?"

However, when an elderly woman who just so happens to be one of Matt's clients at his lawyer firm Nelson and Murdock, is murdered by one of the Kingpin's lackeys, Matt dons his proto-Daredevil suit and goes out to confront him. But after almost getting sliced to ribbons by Nobu (a warrior assassin for the secret organization called The Hand), and then practically beaten to a pulp by the Kingpin himself, the overall encounter leaves Matt a little worse for wear. Both physically and mentally. Even after Father Lantom warns him about the consequences of killing the Kingpin, he still tried to despite the fact that he failed at doing so. Which is enough to convince him to choose his next move more carefully, while also adding a bit of guilt to Matt's spiritual conscious. While most heroes like Superman, Spider-Man and others have this moral code of never taking a life, Matt is essentially conflicted on the subject. Because not only does Matt consider killing morally wrong, when it comes to down to his faith it's practically the first step towards eternal damnation. He's damned spiritually if he does kill the Kingpin, and damned morally if he sits by and does nothing at all.

This episode in particular serves as an examination of the inner conflict of Matt's character. What's lawfully right versus what's morally right.

It's that kind of writing that makes a show like Daredevil so entertaining. For every choice that's made by one of the characters, there is always consequences for those choices. No one comes out of this show unscathed. When the shit hits the fan, it hits it fast and hard, with little to no punches being pulled. When it gets bloody, it gets brutal. Honestly, I NEVER would have expected Disney (the parent company over Marvel) of all people to green-light a show of this caliber. But hey, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth. I'm just thankful that they did. Which only has me even more excited for the other Marvel/Netflix shows yet to come.

Then there's the Daredevil suit. Now for a good chunk of the first season, Matt goes around in his proto-suit, which is derived from the Frank Miller run of the Daredevil comic. Matt doesn't really get an actual suit until the third act of the Season 1 finale, episode 13. He eventually gets his new duds from a man named Melvin Potter after discovering back in episode 9 that when he tried to kill the Kingpin, he discovered that the Kingpin's business suit was lined with some form of fabric-like armor of sorts. So in return for promising that he'll protect Melvin and his loved ones, Matt gets a new costume made from presumably the same material as the Kingpin's suits. With more then a few touches to give it the signature Daredevil look.

Now I understand that there are some who have issues with the design of the suit and whatnot, but to be honest, I kinda like the new costume. My only nitpick really is that there's a tad too much black, and the the iconic "DD" isn't present on the costume itself. Overall though it's an good look for Daredevil. Plus I'm sure somewhere down the line the showrunners will eventually change up the look of the suit. But again, it's not half bad really.

Now judging by immense popularity that the show has garnered in recent weeks, and the now confirmed Season 2 that's in development, I don't think it needs any further recommendation on my part. And while I may have left out a few other personal highlights of the show (such as Scott Glenn's portrayal of Matt Murdock's blind sensei Stick, and a few others), I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt, Marvel's Daredevil is nothing short of absolutely fantastic. If you're a fan of Daredevil, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or just dark n' gritty crime dramas in general, I’d say give the show at least a viewing and draw your own conclusion from there. You'll probably wind up digging the hell out of it.