Marvel’s highly anticipated Daredevil TV show will finally make its debut on Netflix on April 10, but it looks like the much-discussed series is already living up to the hype. As evidenced by early reviews, critics are loving the small-screen adaptation, dubbing it a “bloody fantastic” take on the superhero origin story and one of Marvel’s best television offerings yet.
For those unfamiliar with the comic, Daredevil centers on Matt Murdock (played by Boardwalk Empire alum Charlie Cox), an attorney who was blinded as a child after an accident involving toxic chemicals. Though he practices law by day, he dons a mask at night and uses his heightened senses to fight crime in an effort to clean up New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. As most probably know, the character has a mixed history on screen, having been previously portrayed in a painful and critically lambasted 2003 film starring Ben Affleck. Thankfully, it seems Netflix’s upcoming 13-episode series provides an entirely different — and much more satisfying — interpretation.
Daredevil is the first of the streaming service’s multi-series deal with Marvel (also including A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist), and apparently, it’s kicking off the partnership with a bang. The series, which hails from Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods, Lost) and Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus, Alias), is earning a widely positive critical reception thanks to its gritty undertones and noteworthy performances from Cox and the rest of the cast.
As the trailers have already made clear, the series is edgier than what audiences have come to expect from Marvel’s feature films. Embracing the tone of Frank Miller’s Man Without Fear comic books, everything about the highly stylized series is shadowy and dark, from the opening credits to the crime-packed corners of the city to the hero himself, who wears a black ninja-style outfit instead of the traditional red costume.
Adding to its darkness is the show’s no-holds-barred approach to violence. The series is as much a real-world crime drama as it is a superhero story, grounded in of cops, crime, and law. While obviously choreographed, the abundance of fight scenes between Murdock and the bad guys don’t feel rehearsed, featuring plenty of messy movements and bloodshed. As Variety puts it, “the pulpy style and brutality (torture is one of Daredevil’s tools) clearly seek a higher sense of realism, which must be balanced against the notion of a blind superhero who can shimmy up walls and whose spectacular hearing lets him function … as a human lie detector.”
Speaking of the hero, Marvel seems to have hit the nail on the head with Cox’s casting. The actor is earning high praise for his charming portrayal of Murdock. “From the moment he first seeks forgiveness during a confessional — to forgive not for what he’s done, but for what he’s about to do — to when he goes out and ‘does it,’ Charlie Cox utterly embodies the role,” the Washington Post reports, later adding that his performance “displays a calmness that highlights the contrast with his masked persona.”
His portrayal is only boosted by the supporting cast, which has also earned plenty of critical attention. Vincent D’Onofrio is garnering particular praise as crime boss Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin). “Marvel fans espousing Loki as the movie empire’s sole successful villain will eat an Infinity Stone at the unveiling of … Fisk,” Screen Crush writes. Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page and Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson have also been credited for bringing a little lightheartedness to an often grim show.
That’s not to say the series is perfect. Reviews have pointed out that the pacing, like that of many other Netflix shows, can be a little slow, and that the show’s use of flashbacks could be smoother. But all in all, critics seem to have remarkably little bones to pick with Marvel’s first entry to the streaming service. With a stellar ensemble cast and an action-packed storyline, it seems Daredevil has all the right elements to make just the satisfying street-level superhero drama audiences have been waiting for.
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