Saturday, April 11, 2015

Marvel's Dardevil Review, "Into the Ring"

First thing I noticed is that the new series is rated TV-MA. Evidently, that lends it some cred for a Netflix series. House of Cards is similarly rated. This breaks ground for Marvel, which has been PG-13 all the way. I'd be surprised if Marvel's Agents of Shield is more than TV-14.

The danger for comic character shows is always that they'll be cheesy or campy. Up to this point, Marvel has shown that it can keep things somewhat light, hit on some deeper issues (such as youthful arrogance and submission to authority, the dangers of a powerful, central government and the unintended consequences of good intentions). Now, it appears they're taking their characters to the street level, away from those larger themes. I was skeptical if it would translate better than the Ben Afleck film from a few years ago (which was horrible, all around. Better luck for the new Batman?).

The opening scene explains the accident that took Matt Murdock/Daredevil's sight. The show gets knocked a bit for what follows: a cliche scene of "confession" to a priest that serves as back-story for his father's life as a boxer. The scene escapes cheesy by a bit. It felt like the whole thing was contrived to tell about his father, throw in some reference to "devil" and then have him "confess" what he was "about to do." At that point, I was hoping the show would get better.

Good news, it did! We don't slog through a transformation story where he decides to become some masked crusader. Rather, he's just there, taking out human trafficking punks. The fight scenes are very well done. They don't make him super-strong and he takes some hard hits. It's still TV fantasy, but it's done well.

To my surprise, the non-Daredevil story was very compelling and well-thought-out. The story felt like a Law & Order episode, more or less. The viewer gets an idea that Matt's senses are keenly attuned, but this isn't over-done during the show.

One gripe, though, was the choice to have their client, a young, blond woman, change shirts in front of Matt. Ha, ha, we get it, he's blind. But the TV nudity is demeaning to women and makes the character become a sex object rather than a complex character that might be more interesting. Of course, this same complaint goes for pretty much all TV and movies out there. Everything gets the sleaze treatment to some extent. I'm sure there's a market survey somewhere that shows viewers like this. I'll gladly be in the minority there.

The first episode ended well. The "big secret" got out, they drew blood for the mysterious bad guy, but evil strikes back and the city is a dangerous place where even the police are on the take. We also get a glimpse of Matt Murdock's super-power hearing, which recalled a scene from Superman Returns (unfortunately). Matt's on a rooftop and he hears all these voices around him, including the voice of a young boy who we watched get kidnapped in the previous montage.

That edged out the "confession" scene for cheese. So, he's got highly attuned hearing, but that doesn't mean he can hear all these voices all over the city! How does he string a sentence together if he walks around hearing all the voices all the time? Or is this something he can turn on and off? Those are the things that push a comic show into cheese and camp territory, no matter how much blood, nudity and swearing (not in this episode) there might be.

We'll see where this goes.

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