A revisit on Daredevil which is widely regarded as the ‘The Dark Knight trilogy’ of superhero TV shows
Last Updated: 03.45 PM, Dec 22, 2021
Marvel Cinematic Universe boss Kevin Fiege recently confirmed that Charlie Cox would be reprising his role as Matt Murdock/Daredevil aka the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. And with Daredevil’s arch-nemesis Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) confirmed as the main villain in the ongoing Disney+ original show Hawkeye, it is likely that Marvel Studios is bringing back its characters to the fold from Netflix. It could also explain why Netflix abruptly cancelled all five of its Marvel shows within the space of a year. Fans of the character will be delighted that Daredevil will be returning to screens with Charlie Cox still attached to the project. But there still remains scepticism as Disney and Marvel Studios have a poor track record when it comes to writing grounded and gritty stories, and grounded and gritty is what made Daredevil so popular over the years.
The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen didn’t always enjoy success as a live-action adaptation. The 2003 film, Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, and Michael Clark Duncan, was bombed by the critics upon release. The film was criticised for being bland as it offered very little to the genre. The obvious comparisons were with Sami Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) starring Tobey Maguire, and Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) with Hugh Jackman in the lead. These two films were praised for revitalising the superhero genre with its character development and layered storytelling. Daredevil (2003), lacked the ‘it’ factor that distinguished it from the other contemporary superhero films of the time. The poorly made spin-off film Elektra, with Jennifer Garner reprising and playing the titular role, put the nail in the coffin for the franchise.
The character would get a renaissance through the Netflix TV series in 2015. Even though it worked primarily as a standalone self-contained story separate from the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Marvel Studios and Netflix confirmed that the series is set in MCU. The decision was likely Marvel Studios’ contingency plan in case the character and its Intellectual Properties (IP) was to be brought back from Netflix. In hindsight, it appears to have worked like a charm with the launch of Disney+ and Marvel severing its ties with Netflix. But the character Disney has inherited is one that is widely popular and one that is revered as the magnum opus of superhero TV shows.
Daredevil (2015) endeared it to its viewers by staying true to the source material and improving on it. The said source material is Frank Miller’s revival run of the comics series in the 80s. In fact, Frank Miller has also been influential in reviving the Batman mythos, giving it the current darker aesthetic to the Batman lore. It is one of the reasons why there are some striking similarities between Batman and Daredevil’s modus operandi - the dark brooding orphan who beats criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, working outside the conventional laws of the land.
Of course, being similar to Batman is not a prerequisite or a guarantee that a show or film will be a success, something Joel Schumacher, director of the infamous Batman films, can attest to. The Netflix adaptation was successful because the effort and craft the creators undertook are evident to see. Unlike several of the campy and ‘family friendly’ MCU films, Daredevil offered a grounded and gritty take on the character. Charlie Cox’s performance, the captivating cinematography, absorbing screenplay, exhilarating action sequences, and the careful use of symbolism, tells a tale woven with socio-political relevance.
The biblical references, especially in season 2, paying homage to Michaelangelo’s The Last Judgment and Rubén’s Saint Sebastian’s are integral parts of the narrative focusing on Daredevil’s alter ego Matthew Murdock’s Catholicism. However, the central theme of the narrative is justice. It poses several philosophical questions on justice and free will and the relation between the two. The morally grey characters make the arguments more compelling and force the audience to rethink several moral and ethical conundrums. It is also a factor as to why Vincent D'Onofrio’s brutal yet sympathetic villain, Wilson Fisk, is arguably one of the best, if not the best villain, of the MCU.
The series was unexpectedly cancelled by Netflix after three successful seasons, along with its spin-off shows, Jessica Jones, The Defenders, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. The move coincided with the launch of Disney+. So it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that Disney intended to bring these characters back to Marvel Studios under Kevin Feige. The new MCU film Spider-Man: No Way Home and the Disney+ original show Hawkeye has all but confirmed that D'Onofrio’s Fisk aka Kingpin and Charlie Cox’s blind vigilante Daredevil will be reprising their roles. Whether Disney will risk abandoning their ‘MCU formula’ for Daredevil remains to be seen. Regardless, fans of the character can rest easy that Daredevil has a riveting three-season TV series akin to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.