Saturday, April 18, 2015

Streaming: Netflix's version of Marvel's DAREDEVIL proves noirish, nifty stuff

After the big-nothing that comprised the earlier version of twelve years ago, the new DAREDEVIL that debuted last week via the Netflix streaming service provides just about everything that the former dud lacked -- from the noirish and dank cityscape, in which bad things keep happening to good people, to the dark, monochromatic outfit our hero wears to hide his identity, to the wonderfully indeterminate time frame in which this story seems to exist.  (Is all this taking place it now, in the recent past, or maybe the near future? We can't really tell nor does it much matter. The place exists as a kind of ever-current depiction of the "big, scary, hugely corrupted city.")

TrustMovies is only now into the fourth episode of the thirteen that incorporate Daredevil's first season, each one coming in between 48 and 59 minutes. The tale -- of a boy, blinded in an accident in which he saved the life of an old man, now grown into a young man who has honed his other senses to their keenest levels so that he has become a lawyer by day (above, left, with his partner, played by Elden Henson) and vigilante by night, working out of Hell's Kitchen in the kind of uber-corrupt city that New York is always threatening to become -- seems a fine one for the episodic-yet-connected sort of series that Daredevil appears to be, at least at this point in its unfurling.

Bingers will probably do the entire first season in a day or weekend. It will most likely take me at least one week, given my episode-or-two-per-day approach. But I'm already hooked -- especially by the casting of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, a great "everyman" hero whose open, welcoming face and more-than-fit body makes him seem surprisingly real, but just a little more handsome and sexy (and a lot more alert) than your everyday "everyman." This is a the kind of character, coupled to a performance by the actor, that audiences will root for -- big-time.

Created by Drew Goddard (shown at right), the series makes clear from the outset that we will be fed Matt's backstory, in which his father figures most prominently, in bits and pieces, as is appropriate. The action scenes, of which there are plenty, are done extremely well -- cleverly straddling the line between real and just a little more than that -- while the casting of the female leads, Deborah Ann Wohl (below, right) and Rosario Dawson (at bottom, right) in the initial episodes, provides strength, smarts and pulchritude.

Best of all, perhaps, there are almost none of the increasingly leaden and over-used "special effects" that have rendered the Iron Man and Captain America franchises, for any vaguely intelligent audience, more and more difficult to sit through. Dardevil instead counts on smart plot mechanics, great action, and a top cast of professionals to hold us fast.

The writing (those first two episodes are by Mr. Goddard) is fine for this kind of show -- sharp and intelligent but in a quiet, economical, almost underhanded manner. And the direction of the first two episodes by Phil Abraham (Mad Men and The Sopranos) provides everything we need to become immediately involved and very well entertained.

There is simply so much of what they now call "content" available to view these days, that having the opportunity to see yet another series from yet another provider may not seem like anything special. If Daredevil adheres to the interest, pace and style of these first few episodes, I'd call it a keeper, for sure.

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