WASHINGTON, April 10, 2015 – Rejoice, long-suffering fans of Marvel Comics’ most unusual superhero, Daredevil! All 13 season one episodes of Netflix’ long-awaited new series, “Marvel’s Daredevil” (or just plain “Daredevil”), were finally made available today for your binge-viewing pleasure.
Judging from the 95 percent positive critics’ ratings already posted to movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, Netflix’ latest original series offering is off to a flying start.
Developed for Netflix’ streaming site by Drew Goddard and produced by Marvel Television and assorted associates, this latest offering from the Marvel family unfolds within the continuity of what’s been dubbed the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” That essentially means it’s been written and designed to fit into the Marvel movie world as it’s been developed in the popular “Avengers” series of blockbuster films.
According to several reports, the new series will eventually lead to a new “Defenders” crossover miniseries. The Defenders are a ragtag, sometime team of interesting but mostly second-tier super-powered heroes whose semi-permanent members include the Incredible Hulk and Dr. Strange along with a changeable cast of characters like Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, the Gargoyle, Luke Cage and whoever else might be hanging around awaiting the appearance of another ominous menace.
But the Defenders is another story. Right now, we’re concerned with Daredevil, Marvel’s unique blind superhero. We last saw him on the silver screen over 10 years ago in 2003, as impersonated by Ben Affleck in a disappointing flop of a film. (So why has Ben been cast as Batman for an upcoming Batman-Superman reboot? Yep, still another column.)
This time, Charlie Cox stars as Daredevil, aka Matt Murdock, a relatively mild-mannered attorney by day and a crime-fighting vigilante by night. Blinded by a chemical accident when he was younger, Murdock has since compensated for his disability by developing his other senses to an astonishing degree of intensity, adding into this mix a considerable set of martial arts skills.
As in the recently-concluded Batman film trilogy, Murdock’s own vision of New York/Gotham City is very much like Frank Miller’s: a grimy, ominous wasteland of crime and injustice, just the sort of near-apocalyptic witches’ brew of evil and violence that requires the services of a superhero to thwart miscreants and corrupt officials alike.
Netflix’ vision of Daredevil is decidedly darker than older Daredevil fans might remember. Not exactly family-friendly fare, it’s all grit and grime, nastiness and bloodiness, an epic if shadowy battle pitting Matt Murdock and his alter-ego against urban mankind’s essentially irredeemable and hyper-violent nature. If this series is not R-rated for violence, it certainly comes close to that at times.
Co-starring along with Cox in series 1 are the quirky former “Law & Order: CI” star Vincent D’Onofrio as arch-villain Wilson Fisk, former “Sin City” madam of mayhem Rosario Dawson as a composite of Marvel characters Claire Temple and “Night Nurse,” and Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Bob Gunton and others in supporting roles.
While early-adopting viewers and critics are ecstatic about this new series’ dark and horrific vision and its flawed, Batman-like vigilante super-hero who isn’t exactly super-powered, this writer, at least, is beginning to wonder if the entertainment industry isn’t getting close to jumping the shark on superhero movie blockbusters and superhero TV and streaming series.
We’ve already seen (at last) some considerable success in a pair of TV series from the DC Comics Universe, namely the CW’s “Arrow” (Green Arrow) and its recent and wildly successful spinoff, “The Flash.” “Hawkgirl” and others are officially on the way in this DC TV continuity, while the Batman vs. Superman cinema-epic is just around the corner. And let’s not forget Fox TV’s surprise hit Batman prequel, “Gotham,” now renewed for a second season.
Meanwhile, now owned by the Disney studios, the Marvel film universe is likely to continue its box office rampage this summer with the release of the latest “Avengers” film, “Age of Ultron,” an event likely aided and abetted to some extent by TV’s reasonably well-received “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Tying in with the Avengers, the new “Daredevil” series on Netflix appears to be taking place in what’s left of Matt Murdock’s city after the events of the original “Avengers” film released in 2012. That’s a big plus for the Marvel franchise on both sides of the entertainment equation.
But are we beginning to reach the saturation point on superhero movies in 2015? It’s hard to say. On the surface, at least, that would appear to be a pretty good assessment.
Corrupt politicians, phony leftist high-tech CEOs and elite, privileged Hollywood and media types aside, however, much of America still lives in the shadow of the massive societal destruction and dislocation wrought by the recent and perhaps still-ongoing Great Recession.
Not surprisingly, as in the Great Depression in the 1930s, today’s frustrated Americans of all ages seem once again to be turning to movies (and now, TV) as an avenue of pure entertainment that, for an hour or two at least, offers a blessed avenue of escape from our otherwise unescapable and troubled times.
Like the good-guy WWE wrestling champs that they often resemble, today’s popular pulp superheroes, as portrayed on-screen, offer the appealing and satisfyingly violent vision of an intrepid band of righteous, highly individualistic vigilantes who finally choose to bypass idiotic laws, cretinous politicians and corrupt cops, often attacking earthly and unearthly villains in the process when what passes for political and law enforcement leadership fails. Their ultimate aim: to impose law and order and yes, justice on a rapidly faltering, leaderless world, by murderous violence if necessary.
This is, to many, not merely a fantasy. It’s an uplifting vision with an increasingly powerful appeal. Until individual lives and careers begin once to improve and to thrive—if indeed they ever do—the public is likely to continue its embrace of silver screen, TV and streaming series superheroes who simply choose to stand up for what’s right, cut through the crap and get the job done.
And that band of heroes includes Daredevil, whose continuing adventures begin today on Netflix.
Here’s a trailer to give you a sample of the upcoming action on “Daredevil”: