After months of waiting and time spent worrying that Marvel and Netflix wouldn’t be able to pull together a decent Daredevil adaptation we finally have our answer. A dark, brooding and violent interpretation of decades of material and stories, probably the best comic adaptation ever done on television and possibly better than any movie adaptation. I am fairly confident I can say this even after only four episodes. Even Christopher Nolan has some lessons to be learned here.
Many of you may not know Daredevil or know him well. Philip Kollar over at Polygon does an amazing job of running down the major comic milestones and familiarizing you with the character here, but you can easily go into this show cold and enjoy it just as much, you will only miss the geeky moments like “Night Nurse, IS THAT ACTUALLY NIGHT NURSE?!?” like I had over the weekend. I get excited about some pretty esoteric comic moments, so your mileage may vary.
As comic to television and film adaptions slowly became popular I felt a lot of frustration as there was always a disconnect. I think a lot of writers and producers felt the material had to be adjusted for the general public to accept. This adjustment almost always meant a watered down product, one that hinted at greatness but never quite got there. As comic fans we were happy to have anything, but there were thousands of story arcs to choose from with our favorite franchises and properties, why not just adopt that material instead of doing something new by someone who doesn’t understand the medium.
When you boil comics down to their essence the capes and the underwear on the outside of the costume don’t really amount to much. They are like novel covers, drawing you in but not really holding you there. If the story is lousy or boring you will end up dropping the character. The fans understood they were experiencing great literature and because that literature was hidden within the confines of what others considered immature they were the few that got to experience it.
These comic fans are adults now and they are running the industry. You don’t have adapt a comic property verbatim to please the fans, you just have to put together a good story that holds true to the spirit of the character. This is where Daredevil succeeds. Regardless of the minor changes in characterization, setting and costumer this is the Matt Murdock that so many people love. A tortured, driven man who wants to help but is hindered by his own rage and depression. The type of hero that people can see themselves in, comic fan or not. This is what made comics such an experience, these are great stories, not just great comic stories.
Fair warning, Daredevil is clearly a dark, violent show that is not suitable for children. Crime ridden Hell’s Kitchen is a dangerous place and both the heroes and villains are not exactly ‘nice’. Daredevil doesn’t kill people, but he is not shy about putting people in comas and he is the nicest guy in the bunch.
Daredevil is clearly the best comic inspired television right now, but it also may be one of the best crime drama shows as well. The Frank Miller inspired film noir setting and lessons from modern crime television are put together expertly in a thirteen episode package that was released on Netflix in a single day ala House of Cards. It is the first of five planned Marvel television shows that culminate with a team up movie in the style of the Avengers. If we can continue to expect this kind of quality then we are in for a treat, both comic fans and regular folks.