TV Series Review: Daredevil

Daredevilby David Norris3/28/16
Daredevil  –  Superhero for a progressive audience?  Throughout this series the elite are occasionally glimpsed at high end parties, untouched by the unpleasantness of the street, where a diverse and multi-cultural cast reside in the second season of this Marvel series.

Though there are some redeeming features to this program, and even though I am a bit of a comic book nerd, I have to give this show a thumbs down.  It is time to admit that the work of the social engineers in the television industry has gotten to me, and that much of the visual ‘food’ they are producing for consumption is unhealthy.

I think I’ve reached my fill of the ‘moral relativism’ themes in many of these shows; you know, where the villains aren’t really bad, just misunderstood, and the heroes need to dial back their prejudices and intolerances, and be more understanding.  Watching shows like this becomes an exercise in frustration, because after a while I just become numb and ambivalent about the characters and the story.

When I first heard about this show I was told, “Oh you’re really going to like this, it’s not like a lot of superhero shows…it’s ‘dark’.”  What is that supposed to mean?  Risque,  salacious, psychologically deranged or debased?  What is our society’s fascination with dark about anyway?

Let’s get on with the good, the bad and the ugly of it all.

The good:     Like many of the Marvel characters brought to life in recent years, the series does a commendable job of capturing that comic-book universe .   The dialog and the combat choreography are above average.  The cast is decent  with some great supporting roles by Vincent D’Onofrio as criminal king pin Wilson Fisk,  Jon Bernthal (of Walking Dead fame) as Frank Castle an ex-soldier who snaps after his family is murdered by criminals and he in turn becomes a vigilante, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple a nurse who puts Matt Murdoch (Daredevil) back together after he has the stuffing beat out of him.

Charlie Cox, the Brit who plays Matt Murdoch and his alter ego daredevil, is rather bland and non-descript in the role.  Matt was injured in a freak accident as a boy, which blinded him but at the same time gave him special powers that increased the abilities of his other senses; for example, now he can ‘see’ using his hearing much like a bat does.  After Matt’s father, a professional boxer, is killed by the mob for not taking a dive in a fight, he is left homeless and is discovered by the mysterious  ‘Stick’, a blind martial artist, played by Scott Glenn, who takes Matt under his wing and trains him to fight.

The bad: One of the more aggravating elements of this show to me is that the Daredevil continuously fights some really bad, violent, homicidal dudes, yet won’t kill them, even when that is exactly what the circumstances call for.  He holds on to some sort of utopian idealism (which by the way is the opposite of what Stick tried to instill in him) that everyone has a drop of goodness in them, and if you just give them a chance.  A chance…for what, to surrender and turn themselves in?  More often than not they wind up giving daredevil a serious beat-down before he is able to subdue them (knocking them out).  This happens time and time again, and is painful to watch.  He even acknowledges at one point that the justice system is broken and can’t keep a lot of these guys incarcerated for long before they are back out on the street committing more crimes and murders.

To me this is beyond a ‘flawed’ hero, but is more like a character that has a serious disconnect with reality.  Where did he get these ideas from one wonders?  Could it possibly be related to the fact that Matt was educated in the ivy league towers of Columbia law school (he is a lawyer by day)?  As the series progresses, and the more Daredevil is pushed to the edge, he still won’t cross the line to do what needs to be done.  It becomes more than a bit absurd.

I keep looking for someone to root for in this series.  The three main characters; Matt, and his friends Foggy and Karen, are the most neurotic, stubborn, insecure and whiney leads ever.   The local police force, judiciary, and politicians are rife with corruption.

Matt is constantly giving others advice that he won’t follow himself.  He doesn’t listen very well either, especially when Claire calls him on his nonsense and tells him the truth that he really needs to hear…it’s in one ear and out the other.  He is so obsessed with ‘saving’ people that he won’t take care of his own health first;  consequently he winds up fighting at a diminished capacity and unexpectedly hurts those around him because of his hard headedness.  So much for friends.

The ugly:  Again I find myself with more empathy for and interest in the mass-murdering (he kills criminal gangs) ex-soldier Frank Castle, and the mountainous crime king pin Wilson Fisk  because they seem more real and they ‘get the job done’.  What does that say about me?

For the most part the Daredevil experience left me cold with that same icky-afterwards feeling that I’ve experienced with so many of these popular binge-watched television series.  Which leads me to the following admission, one that I’ve avoided making for years… the television is not our friend.  More on that another time. • (1056 views)

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15 Responses to TV Series Review: Daredevil

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It is time to admit that the work of the social engineers in the television industry has gotten to me, and that much of the visual ‘food’ they are producing for consumption is unhealthy.

    I have a friend who keeps telling me how great this series is. But I, too, am so tired of this “exercise in frustration” of trying to sit down and enjoy this crap. I may still try watching a couple episodes. But I will also likely “become numb and ambivalent about the characters and the story.” It gets tiring beating your head against the wall.

    Juvenile tastes are attracted to juvenile forms of art. I think that’s about all I can say on the subject. Stupid has become mainstream.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Juvenile tastes are attracted to juvenile forms of art. I think that’s about all I can say on the subject. Stupid has become mainstream.

      Below is a link to an article in today’s Telegraph which touches on the whole subject of comic book movies. The writer pretty much agrees with you the denizens of ST.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think he got to the heart of the problem with many of these comic book movies:

        Films which are too dark for kids the comics were originally written for, yet too dumb for any thinking adult.

        There have been a few successful ones (in terms of content, not box office dollars).

        This is another great bit of analysis:

        The trouble is the source material. In the case of Batman and Superman, this was originally written for ten-year-old boys. A man who can fly with lasers in his eyes. A man who dresses as a bat dispensing justice to bad guys. It’s fun but it’s fundamentally very silly stuff; it has pre-teen built into its DNA.

        Hugh Jackman, and a more mature script, brought something watchable to 2009’s “Wolverine.” He was also good as a character in what were often adolescent X-Men movies. I’m watching a series right now that has this same dualistic trait. It’s a lawyer series called “Suits.” And you could break this down into the mind-numbingly stupid scenes involving the yutes and the more adult portions that features adults. It’s truly amazing in its schizophrenia. Hugh Jackman always seemed like the one adult in a series that otherwise was juvenilely stupid.

        I think the comic book movies are popular because people don’t want to think, or even really to be entertained. Instead, they want their conceits to be flattered. This is what the comic book movies are all about. Your “stupid” (similar to Trump, I suppose) can be honored as smart. After all, these are big-budget feature-film movies. This very fact gives legitimacy to what are, in effect, rather stupid and dull stories.

        Still, I will defend the clever “Hell Boy” movies, the “Wolverine” movie, and the first two-thirds of “Batman Begins,” which otherwise degenerated into a very stupid action flick at the end. The original “Superman” with Christopher Reeve” was a fun little movie. The first “Thor” movie was good for what it was. The Blade trilogy was surprisingly watchable. Many movies, such as “Constantine,” I didn’t know where based on comic books, but enjoyed them all the same.

        But the beginning of the end came with the “Spider-man” series, which culminated in one of the worst movies ever in its third incarnation. The “Transformer” movies, minus Megan Fox, were of no interest to anything but a juvenile mind wherein “good” is a factor of how many things are moving on the screen at one time, not story and character development. “The Dark Knight” was perhaps the final nail in the coffin of the vapidity of comic book movies being crowned “The Emperor with No Clothes.” Everyone thought it was just great. It had to be. It was Batman. But I saw it. It can only be appealing to a rather undeveloped mind. There are still people secretly (or unconsciously) hoping that someone finally puts out a good Iron Man movie. Hasn’t happened yet.

        That’s not to say that comic book movies must be Shakespeare. There is nothing wrong with a simple good-vs-evil story, super heroes, super powers, and all that. They can, and have been, done well. But more often than not, they are done so poorly that you wonder when the juveniles will start to puke from their overindulgence in cotton candy.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    When I was young I mostly read the DC superheroes, but occasionally Marvel as well (especially Fantastic Four and Spiderman). Daredevil first appeared, as far as I could tell, in an issue of Spiderman which I read, but that was my only familiarity with the character. I’ve seen a smattering of superhero tales since I grew up, including the first 2 Superman movies (with Christopher Reeve), the original Batman movie (with Michael Keaton), the first Spiderman movie, and some episodes of the late 1980s Flash series. But we don’t get out to the movies these days, and I haven’t been watching series TV either over the past 20 years or so.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I like light reading (and viewing) occasionally. And I make the distinction between light-and-smart and light-and-dumb. The subject matter, no matter how juvenile, can be done smartly (Mel Brooks: Blazing Saddles) or the bazillion ways today that juvenile is done dumb, tasteless, pointless, and free from that thing called “creativity.”

      People are now finding entertainment in things today that we used to self-evidently see as vacant not that long ago.

  3. David Norris says:

    There is something essential to the idea of needing heroes in a society and for ones self. I was raised on heroes Hercules, Jason, spider man, Washington, Johnny Appleseed, Mark Twain, Jacques Cousteau, Neil Armstrong, etc.

    So when we grow up do we stop believing in heroes? Are we supposed to become the heroes in our own life stories? Something is definitely missing, and I think that is more than an infantile sentimentalism.

    I also know this; movie stars, celebrities, pop stars, and politicians…they aint heroes.
    In my opinion.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, I agree. We need heroes. In particular, we need well-written heroes. If they want to take a comic book character and put it to the silver screen, then fine. But not all scripts are created equal. And there has been a lot of junk produced.

      And no one says that heroes can’t be a little complicated. But this current smug and self-satisfied crop of pseudo-sophisticates has come to believe that endless nuances of darkness and moral ambivalence are the cat’s meow. But much like reliance on special effects, this meme is over-used.

  4. David Norris says:

    I agree Brad.

    Another piece of what is bothering me about Daredevil, which is one more aspect of the social engineering program, is the plethora of superhero TV shows and movies as mentioned in other comments.

    I suspect some marketing geniuses in Hollyweird recognized the fact that the American people have been down in the dumps for a while, and yearning for someone to look up to. So these geniuses go back to our childhoods to tap into these comic book archetypes as a way to assuage us. They have flooded the market over the past 15 years or so giving us an artificial product.

    It is simply marketing, and so we go for the fast food ‘happy meal’ instead of a steak with potatoes, vegetables, salad and wine, and say “thank you Hollyweird, can I have another?”

    I think we need more than that. I think we deserve better.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I think comic book movies also point to the fact (and this is an apparent fact) that movies are now marketed to 13-year-old juveniles….which is a net that I think easily catches those in their 30’s and 40’s.

      I suppose it just is what it is. In a culture in which men were men and women were women, we got Bogie and Bacall. Romance. Danger. Betrayal. Style. Class. Atmosphere. Tension.

      You get where I’m going with this. Movies are a reflection who who we are or who we want to be. I want to be Rick Blaine doing the noble thing at the end of Casablanca. Or John Wayne saving the innocent and conquering the villain. Or Jimmy Stewart, everyone’s decent American, who overcomes corruption and does the right thing, no matter how hard.

      Now we have comic book movies which are juvenile, spouting moronic lines that might have been funny when we were eleven (if that). There’s no vision of life that is noble, even interesting. It’s all pretty low-brow brainless action with a gazillion dollars worth of special effects seducing the numbed mind that he is seeing something far more substantive than it is.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The main audience for movies tends to be adolescents, probably because they have more time available for it. On the other hand, Stephen King pointed out in Danse Macabre that the most successful movies break through to the adult audience. (There are also movies that appeal mainly to adults — he cited The Amityville Horror, suggesting that it frightened adults because they could imagine how they would have to deal with all that mess and the resultant bills.)

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          The original, “The Haunting” scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. There was nothing graphic in it. Everything that was frightening took place in one’s imagination.

          Although I did not see all of the new version. from what I did see, the original was better.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Having seen the original (and read the book it’s based on, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson), I would see no reason for a remake. King noted that it was, in effect, a radio movie precisely because you never really see anything — and unlike the slasher movies, not a drop of blood. “No one lives any closer than town. No one will come any closer than that. In the night, in the dark.”

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Clearly, it takes more thought and effort to write and direct a movie which does not use cheap special effects than most of the rubbish one sees in today’s horror films.

            • David Norris says:

              Tim – That movie, the original version, scared the ‘bejeezils’ out of me as a kid, and still does to this day. What restraint, and brilliance to make a movie that was so effectively horrifying without blood and guts. It allowed ones imagination to do much of the work of filling in the blanks.

              Maybe that is why they had greater restrictions on film content back in the day…to protect people from too much exposure to gore.

              Now, anything and everything goes.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Apparently Robert Wise was of the opinion that Jackson’s novel could be interpreted as entirely the psychological breakdown of Eleanor Vance (Lance in the movie), and wrote to her about it. She disagreed; the house was definitely haunted. But no doubt this affected how he did the movie (and her response is reflected in the ending, when Eleanor’s voice repeats the description of Hill House, adding “We who walk here walk alone”).

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