What Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ Is Getting Right That The Movie Got Wrong

Senior Contributor
04.08.15 51 Comments
Daredevil

Marvel Television

We’re hugely excited for Daredevil, the Netflix series debuting Friday starring the Man Without Fear. And that’s not least because Marvel learned from Fox’s misfire more than a decade ago, and is making a point to address what went wrong. For example…

Marvel Is Actually Involved

This is to some degree unfair to complain about. Daredevil, the movie, has a long and strange production history that largely started because of Marvel’s financial struggles; the rights were sold in 1997 and the project bounced from studio to studio, with no way for Marvel to take control. Ultimately it was produced by a company that used Fox as a hired gun to distribute. Kevin Feige mostly had to stand aside and hope they didn’t screw it up.

The series, however, has Marvel’s full involvement, and if nothing else, Marvel knows how to adapt its characters. So it’s already got a leg up on the movie; Marvel cares about its characters.

It’s Got An Expert Running The Show

Mark Steven Johnson, the director of Daredevil, had exactly one movie credit to his name as a director; the critically reviled John Irving adaptation Simon Birch. Before that, he wrote the Grumpy Old Men movies. Seriously.

Daredevil, the series, is being overseen by Steven S. DeKnight, whose previous credits include Angel, Smallville, Dollhouse, and most relevantly to our purposes, Spartacus. So he knows his way around both a serious plot and an action sequence, and he’s not afraid to go over-the-top where he needs to.

The Action Will Be Much, Much Better

There’s no way around this: The movie had awful action sequences, poorly shot and poorly edited. Just look at this mess!

The capture software only enhances the stopping and starting, the quick cuts, and the general clumsiness of the fight choreography. Basically, we never get a chance to see Daredevil actually fight. Now, the Netflix series, even just the little bits we get already look a lot better:

It helps that Scott Glenn has said it’s the most stunt-heavy TV series he’s ever been involved in, comparing it to Hong Kong action movies. That’s really what you want out of Daredevil.

It’s Got The Time It Needs

The movie is not just about Daredevil fighting Bullseye; he’s romancing Elektra, he’s got an origin story, he solves his father’s murder, and in the director’s cut he also frees Coolio. And all that happens in three hours. Johnson tried to fit everything that makes Daredevil amazing in a movie, and it was a mess.

The series has scaled things back: It’s all about Daredevil and the Kingpin, this time, and it’s spread out across thirteen episodes. We’ll be able to fully appreciate the Kingpin as more than a bad guy, Matt Murdock as more than a superhero, and have the space to enjoy the show.

And Finally, It Has Fewer Restrictions

In 2003, if you were putting out a superhero movie, it was PG-13. And to be honest, this is something even Marvel can’t get around. As I’ve noted elsewhere, there’s a hard limit to how edgy Marvel’s movies can be. They’ve got to be PG-13; there’s too much money at risk.

By putting Daredevil on Netflix, though, Disney has freed up its gritty characters to actually be gritty; the series isn’t beholden to merchandising or making sure we all go see Doctor Strange. It doesn’t have to deliver ratings for ABC. It just has to be a show we want to watch, and it’s got the freedom to do what it needs to and create a series we want to see.

In other words, Marvel is free to create the Daredevil on film that we’ve always wanted. And we’ll finally see it Friday.

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