by Jessica Andrewartha
(This post originally appeared on: Nerd Academy)
You guys. I’m so sick of darkness. This trend of super dark stories about loathsome, irredeemable, broody characters has gone on too long. I’m declaring it over. Attention media: I would like a character I can root for, fiction that doesn’t make me want to crawl under a blanket fort, and to actually be able to SEE what’s happening on my television! Shoot a scene in daylight goddamnit! So I’ll acknowledge now that this review is biased by me being fed up with overly violent and gloomy media, but I really didn’t dig Marvel’s much-hyped Daredevil.
The story follows blind lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock as he protects Hell’s Kitchen from truly nasty mob boss William Fisk. I was excited about the show because it promised a more realistic comic book story without all the superpowers. Matt Murdock has no spider bite, no super serum, no backing from SHIELD; he’s just a guy trying to do what’s right. I came for some realism, but was disappointed. Hell, of all the comic book media I’ve consumed, this might be the least realistic.
All comic books have some element of magic in them. What really matters is that we know and accept what kind of magic it is. Kree powers gave you the ability to shapeshift? I need to know the limits on that. I mean, can you just get bigger or smaller? Or can you turn into a rock or a hippo or a duplicate of the president? In that spirit, the rules in Daredevil are maddeningly unclear. Daredevil is blind, but his senses are seriously heightened. Ok. He can do things like know if people are lying by hearing their heart beat. Ok. He’s a good fighter because he can hear the air resistance around your fist. Ok. But he can backflip over low walls? How does he know how tall the wall is? He can sense the number of road flairs in a tool box across the room from him? How?? Can he hear the flair’s heart beat???
And on top of the sheer nonsense of it all, there’s also inconsistency in the narrative itself. Not only does blind Matt Murdock have super senses, he’s maybe not blind? He gives his friend Foggy this strange explanation of being able to see a world on fire. What does that mean? I’m all for suspension of disbelief, but you have to give me some sort of internal logic to hold onto.
I mentioned Foggy, Murdock’s friend and partner-at-law. Let’s talk about Foggy and the people around Murdock. Clichés. Just so many clichés everywhere. The show hit bascally every superhero cliché. The best friend who doesn’t know, then finds out and feels upset and betrayed. The assistant who doesn’t want to stand by and watch the hero kill themselves. The uncomfortable brush with the villain while under an alias. Daredevilnails them all without adding anything terribly interesting or unusual to the mix.
Even the characters themselves seem like clichés. There’s the dopy best friend who’s a little jealous of the hero’s charisma. There’s two women characters who are friends with the hero. Go ahead and guess their professions. Guess. That’s right, we’ve got a secretary and a nurse. How cheap, simplistic, and insultingly unoriginal can you be?
The show wasn’t without redeeming qualities. Charlie Cox is an adorably lovely man who does a nice job with what he’s given. But frankly I can see more of both his face and his charm by re-watching Stardust. Vincent D’Onofrio gives a compelling performance as baddie Fisk. In fact, he’s the most compelling thing about the show and everyone knows it. The show purposefully puts him center, and it’s a good choice. The sympathy for the devil angle has been played before, but D’Onofrio is compelling enough to make it work. Also, his stone cold lady-love Vanessa is as close to a truly original character as the show gets.
Overall the show left me cold at the wrong times and laughing at the wrong times. I had a hard time getting over the lack of consistent logic, a hard time getting over boringly sexist female characters, and a hard time getting over darkness for the sake of darkness. By the end I just wanted to throw a rainbow and say things like: