Dear Netflix: ‘Daredevil’ brings Marvel to the even smaller screen

With a 13 episode mini-series agreement, will Marvel manage to give the hero the time his story warrants?

By Elana Williams | April 21, 2015

Tags: Comic Books Netflix Television TV

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Dear Netflix,

Let me preface this by saying I am not an action fan. I’ve never seen a “Fast and Furious” movie or an episode of “24,” and I definitely didn’t jump on “The Walking Dead” bandwagon.

It’s just not my genre of choice. I’m a fan of TV with a puzzle, a plot or a personality to guide it; every once in a while, this can happen in an action series, but most of the time I end up being drawn to character-driven dramas. In a hero narrative, though, perhaps this is possible.

Enter “Daredevil.”

This week’s show is a step into the dark for me; at Caleb Bishop’s urging and following some vague comments I’d heard about it being a well-done series, I ended up watching a genre I loathe this week.

At first view, “Daredevil” seemed to me like any other action-superhero series. The main character, Matt Murdock, is a charming young man just starting out his law practice with his best friend Foggy Nelson. Murdock is blind as a result of an unfortunate accident at age 9; he seems to have ended up with superhuman hearing and smell as a result of this also.

I’m telling you all this because while “Daredevil” has been around for over 50 years now, I knew nothing about his backstory before watching, and I’m guessing many of you are in the same boat. After a 2003 “Daredevil” movie starring Ben Affleck (a joint venture between Marvel and Fox) that received pretty terrible reviews, the hero has faded into the background in recent years.

So how did it show up on Netflix? Last year, Netflix and Marvel (owned by Disney) signed a joint agreement to create and air four different mini-series on the online platform, all set in the Marvel universe, of course, and then another “Defenders” mini-series, which will bring the four heroes together.

Netflix has first-airing rights, we know that. But it appears Netflix doesn’t really own the series at all. While “Daredevil” has the tag “Netflix Original,” Marvel is the one producing the series (with ABC Studios), and seems to have a pretty tight grasp on it.

And the production value itself? Well, Marvel definitely hasn’t disappointed so far. “Daredevil” has a great cinematic edge; with a blind main character, we get lots of interesting visuals.

Murdock often completes his daily tasks in near darkness, because why turn on the light? This brings a realism to a setting that would probably have been portrayed as fairly dark and dreary in the first place.

“Daredevil” doesn’t make one cinematic choice almost every superhero movie does, though; there are no sweeping city views. Hell’s Kitchen, where Murdock lives, is corrupt. It’s evil. It’s a lot like where every single superhero lives, and in every single superhero movie/TV show there’s some sort of aerial shot showing just this.

Why doesn’t “Daredevil” do anything like this? Is it some sort of sly plug about Murdock being blind and not really knowing what his city looks like? Is it a small production cost? An oversight?

It’s little, but while I may be an avid action hater, I’ve seen my fair share of hero movies, and this is an essential. In “Daredevil,” we get sweeping statements about crime in Hell’s Kitchen, or an accident, but no real look at where they’re living.

So Murdock is blind. He’s a kind of crappy lawyer, but he has good instincts. Shortly into the first episode, we find out he’s “Daredevil” as well: a masked man who goes around and punches out human traffickers, essentially.

I like this approach. A TV show doesn’t have the time a movie does for a lengthy “this is how I became a hero” sequence, so “Daredevil” does it through flashbacks instead.

He’s not the best at the whole crime-fighting thing at first (think “Spiderman” in the early days), but boy is he committed to a very firm idea of right and wrong. What loses him clients as a lawyer is sure to help during his night job.

He only gets 13 episodes, though, then onto the next series. What do you think? Does this do any character justice?

I’m not so sure.

Iffy about this team-up,

Elana

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