The 13 episodes of “Daredevil’s” first season — which are also the first in Marvel’s four-series deal with Netflix — won’t hit the streaming service until April 10, but the first reviews have surfaced, and they sound awfully promising.
“Daredevil,” which stars Charlie Cox as blind lawyer and secret crimefighter Matt Murdock, takes a harder-edged approach than “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” or “Agent Carter,” or even many of Marvel’s movies, which is not surprising given that its showrunner is “Spartacus'” Steven S. DeKnight. Vincent D’Onofrio gets high marks for his performance as Wilson Fisk. aka The Kingpin, whose relationship with wife Ayelet Zurer takes the character beyond mere villainy. As you’d expect at this early stage, the reviews, based only on the first five episodes, are light on spoilers or specific details, beyond suggesting that Matt’s law practice plays a significant role in the show and that it builds out a compelling vision of the comic book’s iconic (if now anachronistic) Hell’s Kitchen on a par with — or even surpassing — its kindred spirit “Arrow’s” Starling City. We’ll doubtless hear more as Netflix’s drop date approaches, but for now, it sounds like Marvel’s transition from big screen to small screen to streaming service is off to a promising start.
Reviews of Netflix’s “Daredevil”
Matt Patches, Esquire
“Daredevil,” created by “Lost” veteran Drew Goddard and overseen by “Spartacus” creator Steven DeKnight, is only a “Marvel Cinematic Universe” fixture at its core. The show’s exterior recasts the high fructose, splash page aesthetic of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America with neo-noir attitude. Goddard and DeKnight drench “Daredevil” in shadows and blood. The latter comes as a bit of a shock. Flinch and one mistakes “Daredevil” for a TV spinoff of Christopher Nolan’s Batfilms, morose and willing to break a few bones. That doesn’t happen in the MCU. At worst, Tony Stark spits a little blood after a Hulk-sized punch. “Daredevil” is Marvel After Dark, violent, morally hazy, and peppered with cusses — closer to HBO’s animated “Spawn” series than anything that’s come before it. The show forsakes the Walt Disney Pictures logo for a reason.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, ScreenCrush
At least several dramatic visuals afforded by Netflix’s relaxed standards would never, ever make it into Marvel’s Disney-fied PG-13 cash cows. “Daredevil” marks a much darker corner of the Marvel cinematic universe, that while entirely its own entity as a crime drama, still works in enough odd references to familiar events (and with far less thud than “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) to feel comfortably familiar in a superhero’s world.
Most refreshingly of all, “Daredevil’s” specificity feels much more intimate and nuanced than its big-screen counterparts, as both Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and Eldon Henson’s Foggy Nelson feel perfectly lived-in with their Hell’s Kitchen surroundings, aware enough of their neighbors’ plights to keep their battle for the city personal.
Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
In its first episodes, “Daredevil” doesn’t dare get into some of the character’s crazier aspects: his ninja training or his flagpole-leaping. He only once handles anything resembling a billy club, and his heightened senses are handled with smart simplicity: He concentrates in close-up, and the sound designers let us know what he hears, or he tells us what he smells. What’s most encouraging is that the show’s sometimes punishing seriousness seems to rise from a love of the character’s hard-to-swallow aspects rather than a fear of them: Goddard and company seem to be building up to them rather than taking them as a given. I look forward to seeing what their Daredevil’s like when they get him there.
Brian Lowry, Variety
The pulpy style and brutality (torture is one of Daredevil’s tools) clearly seek a higher sense of realism, which must be balanced against the notion of a blind superhero who can shimmy up walls and whose spectacularly hearing lets him to function, among other things, as a human lie detector. Helpfully, Cox brings the necessary mix of grit and Marvel-esque self-doubts to the dual role.
Compared to Marvel’s experience with “Agents of SHIELD” for ABC, operating in Netflix’s pay-to-view world is clearly liberating, in much the way animated direct-to-DVD titles enable the comics companies to cater to knowledgeable fans without needing to worry too much about luring the uninitiated into the tent. And the binge prospect should be helpful in getting people hooked on the overarching adventure, complete with Russian mobsters and feuding crime factions building toward the inevitable Daredevil-Kingpin showdown.
Victoria McNally, MTV
No CGI here, folks: not only are all the fight sequences performed by actual humans, but they’re also filmed beautifully and often in agonizingly intense tracking shots. If the rest of the series is as riveting as these first few episodes, you’re going to be on the edge of your seat the entire time.