It is no secret that for all the Marvel Cinematic Universes brilliant qualities, it has always felt a bit light weight. As of yet no one important (which sounds a lot more horrible than I mean it too) has died, with even Phil Coulson (whose death played an important part in uniting The Avengers) coming back from the dead for Agents of SHIELD. However, stepping into this ring is Daredevil, a character non comic book fans will be aware of because of an awful Ben Affleck film back in 2003. A blind lawyer, he spends his nights dealing out a different kind of justice on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen and his introduction to the MCU via Netflix, sees Marvel looking at a grittier New York.
At the start of Daredevil, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and his business partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) have just set up their legal practice, having turned down high paid and powerful jobs in order to try and make a real difference. Matt, who was blinded by an accident in his childhood, isn’t happy with just doing that however and is also moonlighting as the yet unnamed Daredevil with the help of a black mask. His enhanced senses, which can let him smell what aftershave someone down the hall is wearing, and martial arts training have made him a formidable opponent and his ability to get information in less traditional ways, aids them in their early cases. Their first client Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) joins the firm and the three of them quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the shady, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).
What it creates is a program that is part superhero show and part crime drama. There is no flying over New York and swooping down to the rescue here, instead we say the dark and grimy streets of Hell’s Kitchen and get to know the people, good and bad, who inhabit them. Daredevil creates a sense of place that feels very real and you have to remind yourself that somewhere out in this same universe, there is a small tree grooving away to The Jackson 5.
The twelve episode format has also allowed Marvel to get past some of the recurring problems, which have popped up in their films. The biggest one being in the character of the ‘Big Bad’. We are actually given time to get to know Wilson Fisk and by the end of the season you feel like you understand him just as much as you do Foggy and Matt. With Marvel’s current roster of paper thin villains (Loki aside and possibly Ultron, I haven’t seen it yet) it’s a refreshing change. You might not like Fisk, but when you learn about him you can understand why he does what he does. Elsewhere, the different setting means they are finally able to leave the big battle over a major city ending behind.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a fair few punch ups here and in fact, Daredevil has some of the most brutal fights scenes Marvel have ever done. Unlike their cinematic releases, the Netflix model has enabled Marvel to show the damage these scenes cause and it is fair to say this would not get a 12A. The people also fight like real people. Sure, Daredevil flips and spins his way through confrontations, but he also gets hit, a lot, and by the end of fights he is often stumbling to his feet, swinging wildly in the direction of his opponents. This is the first Marvel release where the punches feel like real punches and you get the impression that those involved were beat to hell by the end of filming.
With Daredevil, Marvel have moved away from their tried and tested formula and delivered something genuinely great. It’s twelve fast paced episodes of intense, violent and ultimately dark comic book action and it stands out because of it. Somewhere the guy who decided that DC needed to stick to the Christopher Nolan style superhero movies is watching this series and worrying, because Marvel have proven that they can play DC at their own game and unless Batman vs Superman is a hell of a lot better than Man of Steel, they are doing it better as well.