by ALEX CARNEVALE
creator Drew Goddard
Matthew Murdock (Charlie Cox) has a long list of things he is not. He is not funny. He is not tall. He is not particularly eloquent, he is not brusque. He is not overly angry. He does not fly. He can't shoot lasers from his eyes. He's not strong. He can't see.
The actor playing him, who famously ended up in a box on Boardwalk Empire, is some of these things. The one element he most certainly possesses is the ability to see. About half the conversations in Netflix's adaptation of the Daredevil story concern Murdock's blindness, as if the lady doth protest too much. Before the first episode is even over we are sick of it. OK, you are blind, Matt. Why accentuate it with a mask that covers your eyes, so as to alert your enemies of your handicap? Why talk about it all day?
Wilson Fisk (a spirited Vincent D'Onofrio) first learns of Murdock's existence when he frees some women Fisk was planning on selling into slavery of some kind. He immediately admires Murdock, and for the vast majority of Daredevil, he never tries to kill his opposite number, preferring to set Matt against his own adversaries. Despite being extremely large, Fisk never sweats.
D'Onofrio is a little small to play Kingpin, but he throws himself into this most thankless of roles with aplomb. Drew Goddard has the good sense to give him a spirited love story, since as a proper villain he is relatively dull. This is a theme in the cast of Daredevil, until Rosario Dawson singlehandedly saves the entire series by exuding a sexuality so divine it is profane. Murdock is the only one who can even talk to her, by virtue of not knowing exactly what she looks like.
The other major female on the show is Murdock's secretary Karen Paige (Deborah Ann Woll). The show is a bit hampered by the fact that Woll is at her best playing opposite alpha males who try (and fail) to dominate her. Murdock is too fey for this, and his partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) comes across as borderline gay. Woll runs all over them both, along with her reporter friend Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis Hall). Ultimately Woll is miscast as Karen, since she struggles to convincingly convey humor or fear together. She can only focus on one at a time.
Murdock looks absolutely tiny in his lengthy fight sequences, a fact Daredevil attempts to obscure by amping up the violence to an impregnable level. Matt never uses any guns, and like his caricature of a father, he is known for his ability to take a beating. Daredevil can't decide whether to be overly broad or completely serious, a recurring challenge for the character. Going dead serious produced dreck like Elektra, whereas Affleck's turn as the blind martial artist was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
Netflix's Daredevil is a lot better when it takes itself seriously, but this results in very long scenes. Some conversations in Daredevil can last six minutes or more, even when the information involved barely advances the story in any way. There is a lot of talk about how these people can save Hell's Kitchen, although what exactly is wrong with the place remains unclear. I guess between the amazing number of lawyers and crooks in the area, we should have some idea.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
"The Book Of Dorothy" - Paula Cole (mp3)
"New York City" - Paula Cole (mp3)