Mathew R Johnstone
By the end of The Avengers, New York City has been crippled. The faceless aliens may have been killed and Loki sent packing, but the damage has been done. Thousands killed, entire city blocks of homes and workplaces destroyed and the government facing a repair bill bigger than Tony Stark’s ego. Everything’s fine, however, because Iron Man and his gang go for a takeaway and the credits roll. The slow, painful recovery of a city’s infrastructure isn’t suitable for a summer blockbuster. Fortunately, the Marvel Universe is always expanding, and the rehabilitation of New York serves as the backdrop for Daredevil, the new 13-part collaboration with Netflix. The action takes place in areas we don’t often see in comic book films: instead of flying around Manhattan and the colossal Stark Tower, we are in the back alleys and drug dens of Hell’s Kitchen. The villains are not from space but from Wall Street – investors, accountants and stock exchangers making a profit from rebuilding, and exploiting the residents of the city’s least gentrified district. This type of crime is normally ignored by Hollywood in favour of hunting Nazis or smashing robots, but in Daredevil it’s front and centre. The man fighting these bad guys doesn’t have a ‘shiny suit or a magic hammer’ but a law degree and a cheap black mask. And superpowers, of course. This isn’t The Wire.
Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdoch may be Marvel’s most relatable and likeable kick-ass superhero to date. Blind, but with his other senses heightened so he can hear a heart beat or a watch tick from a block away, he struggles with his Catholic guilt to rescue the city he loves from the forces of evil. Charming and handsome when defending citizens in court, Daredevil gets punched almost as much as he punches (almost every episode seems to have a scene where he’s wincing in pain while getting stitched up by Rosario Dawson). He’s endearing because no matter how many times he gets stabbed or kicked or strangled, he always gets up.
And he needs to when he’s up against Wilson Fisk, the billionaire crime lord intent on purifying/destroying Hell’s Kitchen. Played with fantastic awkwardness and menace by a perfectly-cast Vincent D’Onofrio, Fisk is the ideal baddie for this dark corner of the Marvel Universe. Instead of superpowers he has an offshore bank account and a personal assistant. His goal is redevelopment rather than world domination. Giving Daredevil a more realistic, tangible opponent helps heighten the stakes. Not that Fisk is opposed to getting his hands dirty – in moments of rage he’ll happily decapitate Russian mobsters with a car door. But it’s his quiet, fanatic ambitions for the city that make him a terrifying Kingpin.
It’s these characters, along with Elden Henson as hapless but loveable fellow lawyer Foggy, that make Daredevil so watchable. The 13 hours fly by, leaving enough questions and engaging characters to make you want the next episode to start automatically. There’s plenty more bankers, dark cervices of New York and henchmen to punch Charlie Cox in the face for another season.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’).appendChild(s);