14 April 2015

Daredevil, or as I call it, A Terrible Law & Order Starring Batman but He's Poor and Blind

I want to wade some tricky waters here, because I really think that exporting Daredevil to Netflix was a great move for just about everyone involved except for, apparently, me directly. That is because I really really hated this fucking show. At the same time it's great for Marvel to continue expanding their Universe into the street-level heroes, and shining a light on Marvel Knights is basically as huge of a jump at this point as it was introducing the cosmic sections of the Universe with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).
And yes, this is pretty cool.

It's also a great movie for Netflix. It's a confident assertion that they will continue to be an outlet for shows that are unsuitable for broadcast television, which is also kind of bizarre because I'm sure that's the same conversation show producers were having when edgy or niche shows started bolting Network TV for Cable twenty-five years ago. The credibility is still there, though, and although Daredevil could have easily worked on F/X or something, and probably would have succeeded more as a 42-minute show than a 56-minute one, I love all original streaming content mostly for the fact that it exists and is thoroughly shaking up stodgy industry paradigms which is lovely.

People seem to generally like Daredevil as well, for reasons that completely escape me. It's been well-received critically and made a decent impact in our pop culture splash. Take a gander of the gamut, mostly praising the show for its "grittiness" in contrast to the typical splash 'n' flash of Marvel's Cinematic Fare. While watching this, though, I was struck by one thing in particular that knocks this down the middle - Daredevil totally feels like a DC Movie. And The Flash totally feels like a Marvel movie. What the hell is going on.

I have never understood why Warner Bros can't get their act together around a shared DC Movie Universe. Their animated universe went strong for fourteen years, ending with Justice League Unlimited in 2006. There have been other shared animated universes since then, and a loose movie continuity, but it's all greatly surpassed anything Marvel has attempted. Moving more on TV, the interweave between Arrow and The Flash has been nearly seamless. Why do they screw movies up so badly?

For some reason, DC prides its films as "serious art" or something, which is really just a painful relic from Nolan's Batman films, which were too damn good and made too much money for Warner Bros to ever try something different. I may chalk up the relative goofiness inherent to The Flash as being its timeshare on the CW, which makes it constantly feel like a weird mix of teen drama, superhero show, and police procedural. It has recently really started plunging off the deep end with its time travel, speed force, and all that crap, but it only got there by first grounding its characters in a sustainable reality that more often favored rationalizing these goons instead of camping them up. It was a successful measure for a show that's turned as wacky as The Flash.

The Flash isn't afraid to crack a joke, though. Daredevil is. Seriously, Daredevil (2003) was funnier with Ben Affleck at the helm. I like to speak at length why certain big movies fail over others, but one thing I don't quite understand is how Dardevil (Affleck) has been so derided over the years. I really think there is just this total hatred of Ben Affleck, especially 2003 Ben Affleck. Lately the son of a bitch has had a bit of a McConaughey thing going on, in the sense that he's transformed from this douchey, airhead, romantic comedy/trite action hero persona into this lauded, Academy Award-winning guy. And isn't it odd that Affleck has won two Academy Awards but none for acting? I'm curious how people will receive his Batman, which isn't all that much of a leap from Daredevil in the first place.

But people hate, HATE Affleck Daredevil. I remember really digging it in theaters, but I do think that had something to do more with me being a 16-year old who thought it was a slick picture than it being really worthwhile of any merit. I do still like Colin Farrell in that movie (which I know, is something a crazy person would write) and Michael Clarke Duncan is a way better Kingpin than Vincent D'Onofrio. The film had a lot of really "gritty" parts, though, even if a lot of it was melodrama and director, Mark Steven Johnson doesn't really have a clear voice or sense of what he wanted the movie to be.

So here I am, in 2015 arguing against the Daredevil TV show and for the Daredevil movie. Hell yeah. And I should clarify, because I don't think that movie is really good in the sense that it is a life-changing movie or anything, and above all else it serves as a relic to an age where we didn't know what a superhero movie could be (which, if you look at something like The Winter Soldier [2014] or Guardians, the answer is, a superhero movie can be any genre of movie). The TV show is just bad, though.

As I'm watching this thing I'm constantly feeling the budget restrictions, and not really in good ways. There are plenty of excellent shows and films on shoestring budgets, and oftentimes that serves to push creativity but in the case of Daredevil it pins its characters in a room talking about law instead of out there serving it. Daredevil pours on the law heavily, but it's never in a particularly interesting or compromising way, and it always feels like it's detracting from the more interesting scenes of Daredevil kicking ass. And why is Daredevil kicking ass? His motivation other than being a dude seeking vague justice is never totally clear. It doesn't help that Hell's Kitchen has been pretty gentrified since Frank Miller's 80s days.
This is not.

Also to be clear, I don't have a problem with a superhero show being a law show. Hell, let's get a tight Jennifer Walters show going. I also don't really have a problem with maudlin, gritty superheroes, even if that concept has been totally overblown since the success of Nolan's Batman and the idea that these people are out there fighting crime as vigilantes in tights and the whole thing should be taken really seriously and to the letter is nuts. Again, The Dark Knight (2008) actually tackled this idea - one of the many reasons why it's a good flick. But the self-seriousness isn't even that huge of a problem and it's certainly not Daredevil's problem.

Daredevil just isn't interesting. It is completely incapable of holding my attention. Nothing seems to happen after lengthy expository discussions, and barring a few moments of genuine shock (which favors gore over surprise anyway), the proceedings are just so damn boring. So much of it feels like people talking and plotting, which isn't by itself a bad thing, but nothing really happens from all the talk. There should be some subtext, interesting plot progression, irony, or character work going on. All this is absent from Daredevil.

So, what do you think? Are you on Team Hate Daredevil with me? Do you wish for at least one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference? Or do you love this show? If so, please refute me, because I'd really like to join you.

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