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April 13, 2015

Daredevil Review: Sad

I binge-watched Daredevil this weekend. I started out a little bored, but was still psyched enough about Daredevil being on TV I got through five or six episodes before becoming firm in my opinion:

The show is terrible. Okay, perhaps not terrible -- but poor to mediocre. There are fleeting moments in the 11+ hours of the origin story (and yes, it is basically an origin story, padded to the rafters, told tediously over 11+ hours) of interest, but most of it is a long, hard, tedious slog.

By the last five episodes I was fast forwarding though most episodes. Anything involving Foggy -- instant FF. He's a very annoying actor and he's been written in the most annoying way possible. Every single of of his lines is a Bro Joke that's supposed to be funny (in-universe, it's funny, because people smile and laugh -- or pretend to, maybe).

Anything involving Owsley -- fast forward. Another very cheesy performance.

I should have been fast forwarding any interactions between Fisk and and his criminal associates. They're all cheesy and tedious. Every scene is basically the same: A criminal associate complains that Fisk doesn't have his shit together, and Fisk, get this, takes it, often promising to do better.

Do they not realize that every time Wilson Fisk lowers himself to appease a criminal associate the alleged power of the man diminishes?

Why not just have the Kingpin of Crime get down on his knees and bawl for forgiveness like Jon Turturro in Miller's Crossing?

And that brings me to the biggest fast-forward of them all: I began fast-forwarding Wilson Fisk himself, because the character, as presented here, is not interesting. He is a weak man, given to self-pity and romantic neediness. His explosions of rage are, admittedly, well-done and fairly realistic (criminals have low impulse control, after all, and a need to dominate violently), but the Fisk presented here, the alleged archvilliain, has been so humanized, softened, and filled with flaws he's simply not a worthy nemesis for any A or B list hero.

The only guy who's consistently good in this is Daredevil himself, Charlie Cox, and he's mostly good because, damn, he looks good in a tight shirt. The one thing Daredevil managed for me was to get me exercising again. I started weightlifting, telling myself: "I gotta get into Daredevil shape."

Rosario Dawson was also good, and the only thing in this dreary show I'd call a breath of fresh fun air. But she's only in like three episodes.

The series is very low budget, and it shows. Fights tend to be one-on-one, conveniently in an alley, warehouse, or room, where it's cheap to stage them.

They show Daredevil's "Radar Vision" once. Once, over 11+ hours. You never see it in a fight. You don't see it in the climax, where the "World on Fire" view of the world (a clever conceit for a character named Daredevil, I think) should certainly have been featured, but wasn't, I guess because of budget.

I expected the final fight to involve Daredevil sneaking into Fisk's heavily-guarded estate and taking out thirty ninjas before having his final fight with Fisk himself. Nope. I would bet you any amount of money that this was what was conceived, but due to budget, we get Daredevil taking out a single armed guard, then fighting Fisk.

In an alley, naturally.

The worst part of the show is how pointless and time-wasting the dialogue is. The cheapest sort of filmmaking is just filming two people talking. That's an old rule. But Daredevil takes this to the edge of acceptability. Two people talking can be both the cheapest and most interesting filmmaking -- if the characters are saying something interesting.

They rarely say anything interesting at all in Daredevil. Not only do they not say interesting things, but far too many dialogues are barely-reworked repetitions from previous dialogues. We have to hear multiple times that Fisk, and his associate Mrs. Gau, both speak each other's tongues, but have been hiding that fact, because they're Smart.

We have to hear twice some minor bit of "character development" of Foggy's -- we hear early on he took the language Punjabi just to mack on a girl. Later on, when the show shows us Matt's and Foggy's first meeting, we have to again hear about this same character business -- apparently the only interesting thing about Foggy they know is that he once took a 4 credit class in Punjabi.

Does it seem repetitive that they use Foreign Language ability as a method of developing five characters (Fisk- - Japanese and Chinese; Gau: "all languages;" Foggy: Punjabi; Karen and Matt: Fluent Spanish)?

Well, that's where this show lives: constant repetition.

The other thing the show does is show that it's "mature" and "serious" by having characters deliver their dialogue in a low-key, sleepwalking sort of way.

Plus, little-to-no music. Music can add energy and drama to a scene. The filmmakers want to avoid that and go with a naturalistic feel, plus, I think, they want to save money on music costs. So they play most scenes with no music.

Unfortunately, that means they rely exclusively on the natural power of the words being delivered by the actors.

That means they fail.

A low budget show can exceed itself by offering up high-impact imaginings. Escape from New York was a low budget movie -- but this film (and so many of Carpenter's other films) offered Gee-Whiz ideas that made you think the movies were a lot "bigger" than they were.

Daredevil has a decided lack of imagination. There's just nothing interesting going on, no comic book Aw Cool! moments -- except for one, which I'll mention in a moment. Even the structure is obvious: In the beginning, five criminal gangs are presented in a meaning. The basics of the show's "arc," if you can call it that, is that he fights one gang after another, finishing each fight with a boss show down.

The one thing -- The only thing -- that kept me watching this turd was the Cool Idea presented in, I think, episode 7, "Stick." I'm not going to tell you what the "Black Sky" is, because I don't know what it is. And I don't want to spoil this one great moment of imagining from the show.

The Black Sky MacGuffin got my mind thinking and spinning. I only continued watching the show to find out what the Black Sky was.

If you did the same: You lose. Black Sky never appears again, and is never explained, and is not present in the tedious finale. (And did I mention that the big finale is just a fit guy and a fat guy punching each other in an alley?)

Only now do I realize what Black Sky was: the Black Sky was the Tesseract from the Marvel movies. It is the MacGuffin that will link the next three series, and finally be used as the Big Bad in the team-up movie, The Defenders, which will feature Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and whoever Jessica Jones is.

Well, okay: Admittedly, this was interesting, and could be an interesting linking device.

Alas, the one thing I actually was interested in these 11+ hours turned out to be merely a teaser for a plotline that won't be resolved for four more years. (Netfilx plans to produce one of these series a year.)

Is the Black Sky that interesting? Oh, I doubt it. Let's face it, I made two guesses as to what Black Sky was -- the two most obvious things -- and I'm sure one of them is right. So while the Black Sky is interesting enough for a show or two, I don't know if I'm going to be so crazy about it after being teased about it for four years.

And seriously I'm pretty sure I know what it is. "Black Sky," it's from Japan. Think about what it could be. Think about what would be a Big Threat for NYC. Think about a very weird mutation.

I's kind of sad when you have an 11+ hour Daredevil show and he fights exactly one (1) ninja.

One ninja? Jeeze Louise. Come on man, at least give me some Ninja beatdowns.

The other thing I kept watching for was the reveal of Daredevil's official Marvel Cinematic Universe Costume at the end. Surprise, it's also terrible. Ben Affleck's was better -- and Daredevil's makeshift Man in Black costume was much better. (Though the Man in Black costume looks a lot like the Man in Black from Princess Bride -- but that's fine. Let's face it, all of these characters, from Batman to Daredevil to the Man in Black, are just Zorro without mustaches.)

I think Daredevil was required to lose this Man in Black costume because Iron Fist actually wears the bandana-mask that he does. Maybe we'll have That Moment in the Iron Fist show where Daredevil gives him one of his old bandana-masks and says, "Wear this. It looks cool as shit and I wish Marvel would still let me wear it, instead of the nightmare in black and plum I'm wearing now."

One last thing: the show is graphically, gratuitously violent. I don't mind a little graphic violence, but it doesn't belong here. This isn't the Punisher. Several deaths are R-rated violent, including a grisly decapitation by repeatedly slamming someone's neck in a car door, a blood-splattering head-crushing by repeated blows with bowling ball, and a suicide by impaling one's head through the eye with an iron spike.

I couldn't help but think: "Kids are watching this. WTF?"

I also couldn't help noticing these moments were filmed in a Horror-Movie way, a leering, lurid way, rather than an action movie way.

That's the other thing about low-budget works: When you don't have much money, you can get an impact with graphic violence, which is cheap (ish) to film.

Also throw in some partial nudity. (They did -- some good sideboob. But again, Kids?)

This Onion review is mostly right.

Really disappointing. I really would like to see Luke Cage and Iron Fist, but I don't even know if this project is going to continue after this.

As seventeen bazillion characters said to Wilson Fisk:

Marvel, get your house in order.

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posted by Ace at 02:25 PM

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