Daredevil Review

 

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Forget Ben Affleck. Netflix’s foray into a comic book franchise is a home run. Daredevil is a completely bad ass crime drama (That just happens to be about a superhero).

Ok, wow… I was honestly just going to not watch it. I read a few of the Daredevil comics back in my Marvel glory days, but I was mostly a Spiderman/X-Men kinda kid, so I could tell you that he’s a blind ninja with super hearing and no fear, but I couldn’t tell you how many of his girlfriends have died over the decades (It’s all of them I think). With my 8 year-old’s recent obsession with CW’s The Flash (unwatchable as far as I’m concerned), and that damn horrible Ben Affleck movie I sat through 10 years ago… I was less than enthused when I saw a reboot of DD was out.

But it’s Netflix, so when my brilliant wife suggested it, I said “sure, why not?” I figured what else am I gonna do on an Friday night? Watch Dateline?

Well, needless to say it was great. That Guy From Boardwalk Empire (Charlie Cox, minus the Irish accent) does a bang up job of capturing a uniquely complicated character, and coming across as both a likable lawyer and a fierce crime-fighting ninja at the same time. His smirk and his sunglasses are exactly what I remember from the late 80s Marvel era. It’s kind of a Law and Order: Superhero. dbfc67b8554757a0d65bd5c1e2215b94f4f99c12During the day we get cops, crooks, and everything in between… And at night we get non-caped crusading at its bloody best. Daredevil’s fighting style is vicious. It’s exciting to watch, like something exploding… A mix of boxing and what looks like jujitsu make for very hard-hitting, Bane-esque moves.

The show takes place in post-Avengers New York, specifically Hells Kitchen, and so far there have been more than a few tie-ins… But this is not Agent Carter, or even Agents of SHIELD… This is a bloody, and brutal window on the Marvel universe. The son of a boxer, Matt Murdock and partner/lawyer Foggy Nelson are fledgling local boys turned defense attorneys, and in the first episode they stumble across a murder case involving True Blood‘s Deborah Ann Woll and a local mob front she happens to work for. The dialogue is witty and the characters are well realized… And Cox shines as the troubled vigilante who can’t outrun the choices he has made.

daredevil-netflixDaredevil is Marvels answer to Batman, and creator Drew Goddard (Lost, Alias) capitalizes on this. It practically screams The Dark Knight with its long shadows, tall buildings, and nameless henchmen. The story is good, the characters fleshed out and funny, but what really sets Daredevil apart from any other Super Show around is the choreography of the fights. I haven’t seen hand to hand combat like this outside of a movie screen ever. There’s a particularly cool hallway fight in the second episode that looks like it was peeled straight out of The Raid, 1 or 2.

One of the things that bothers me the most about PG-13 “comic book movie” violence is that way it glamorizes that violence. From lone super heroes taking on armies of computer generated bad guys with all manner of destruction and yet no blood or death. It teaches kids a completely unrealistic, and frankly dangerous view of violence: that it’s safe. IMG_2575In Daredevil the violence is disturbing… As it should be. Daredevil gets beat, stabbed, and thrown around A LOT, and these aren’t safe fights by any means. Instead, it’s as if we’re really watching two (or more) men pound the shit out of each other… They get tired, they bleed, they collapse, they die. How very anti-Disney of Disney…

Anyway, I’m impressed… And I’m totally in. It’s about time we had an action show worth it’s salt. Plus the opening credits are the coolest thing I have ever seen.

 

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Why Iron Man 3 is the Perfect Post-Avengers Blockbuster

imax_iron_man_3_posterI’m not an Iron Man comic fan by any right, but I am a huge fan of the film franchise and Robert Downey Jr. So any hang ups people have with the storyline regarding The Mandarin and the 10 Rings, I don’t care… The villain in Iron Man 3 is one of the best Marvel baddies yet… And Guy Pearce absolutely kills it as well. In a nutshell: Tony Stark is an addict, and now he’s addicted to the power he gets from his Iron Man suit, and even more so the hero he gets to be inside of it. He is also in love for the first time with live-in girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Therefore he is faced with the eternal Batman-esque struggle, how can he simultaneously be a savior of mankind beset by evil alien forces and magical beings from other dimensions, and keep those he loves from getting caught in the crossfire? He knows he can save the world, but has no idea what to buy his girlfriend for Christmas. How can he find balance between the man and the Iron Man? And even just a little deeper: think of the symbolism of the Iron Man suit itself… I’m talking chrysalis and metamorphosis, building walls and coming out of our shells and all of that.

The script, the dialogue, and Downey… They all work brilliantly here. Ex-Hollywood pariah Shane Black, one of the best screenwriters around, knocks it out of the park with razor-sharp wit and a breakneck pace. I’m giving away my old age when I say I had Lethal Weapon flashbacks through the entire movie. a_560x375Iron Man 3 is truly a triumph for Shane Black, and I give him props for fighting back from the brink and coming through looking good! The plot is swift, complicated, and just when it doesn’t always seem like there is one, you realize it’s only because Black is playing it so close to the chest.

Tony Stark can’t sleep in the wake of The Avengers, and he’s having trouble coming to grips with his most selfless act at the end of that movie. Basically, he’s a selfish guy, we love him for it… And yet here he has gone and given his life to save humanity (it was pretty much a fluke he survived, so I’m giving him props too for going all the way with it). You’d be pretty messed up too if you were a super-rich playboy one day, a introspective entrepreneur the next, and then nearly killed by sacrificing yourself to save Earth the next.

im3-2Story-wise, the plot concerns a new super-terrorist in town, The Mandarin (played with scene-stealing glory by Ben Kingsley) who is bombing civilians and hijacking the airwaves with some silly and yet creepy terror-tapes and Noam Chomsky speeches of the Evil America. At the beginning of the film, these tapes seem rather contrived… But come the end it all makes perfect sense. When one of The Mandarin’s attacks puts Tony’s closest loved ones in danger, he sets out on a cross-country mission to stop the mad man from destabilizing the country. I won’t give any spoilers, but it’s a seamless three-act play here. The first act is Tony in California dealing with his post-Avengers PTSD and watching the bad guys put their chess pieces in place. Then act two finds Tony alone and suit-less in the Tennessee snow, just as Captain America said in the Avengers… Which is what this whole film is about… Whether the hero that was born inside the Iron Man suit can survive without it. Tony is forced to truly stare into the abyss he has been circling since New York.

iron-man-3-don-cheadle-robert-downey-jr-tm-2012-marvelAct three grabs all of the threads and ties them up into a funny buddy-cop movie bow with Don Cheadle’s Iron Patriot (aka War Machine) helping Tony finally take down the bad guys. There are a few big reveals, some hilarious twists, some awesome special effects, and some seriously awesome high-flying daredevilry. Suffice it to say the Air Force One scene alone is worth the price of admission.

This movie is all about personal demons. Tony tells us so from the start, using narration to book end the story. From the first frame Tony is fighting his demons, and since life has a funny way of knowing when you’re struggling, events begin to unfold that have him questioning his very existence as Iron Man. Can he save the world and protect the woman he loves? Can he be a selfless protector and an OCD hermit crab at the same time? Can he move away from a past full of trampling over others to get to where he wants to be? I realize these are pretty big themes for a summer blockbuster, but Iron Man 3 isn’t your every-day actioner. This isn’t The Avengers. This is an intensely personal film that finalizes the 3-movie-arc of Tony Stark’s transformation from what he was, into what he will be. For a solid hour in the middle of the movie he’s not even in the suit. He’s out solving a mystery, chasing leads, and chumming it up with a surrogate inner child in Tennessee. Throw in a maniacal terrorist, a power-hungry industrialist, and an army of T1000-looking Extremis soldiers, and you’ve got yourself a summer movie!

iron-man-3-tony-stark-robert-downey-jrAlmost every single decision the filmmakers’ had to do the same old thing, they chose something different. Just when you think cliché is about to happen, Black spins it. It’s really fun to watch. It all comes together a little too well in the end, but audiences want the happy ending. Plus like I said before, if you’re a Lethal Weapon/Shane Black fan, you’ll love this flick. There’s a Christmas theme, snappy one-liners, a buddy-cop-flick feel, and even an Xmas tree lot! Come on, how can I be the only one catching this?? The finale even takes place on a BOAT! (I realize that’s Lethal Weapon 2, but you’re getting my drift here right?) There are so many Easter Eggs in this movie you’ll have a hard time following the fast-paced dialogue when you’re too busy pointing out Joss Whedon crouching behind a car during an attack, or Stan Lee judging a bikini contest, or the blatant Christmas tree lot scene… And despite the fact that there are a solid 10-15 minutes of credits, stay for the stinger… It’s worth it. Iron Man 3 is a brilliant movie, don’t believe any negative hype. It’s smartly made, smartly written, and doesn’t get bogged down at all.

I went back to see it in 3D, something I do from time to time to see how the technology is advancing from season to season, and thankfully Iron Man 3-D is one of the good 3D movies. There isn’t any crap flying out of the screen or gimmickry going on here, instead the 3-dimension accents the story… It makes it more immersive, more tangible and real… As much as I hate the fad-happy post-production use of RealD 3D, filmmakers are  beginning to learn how to use it wisely.

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After cleaning up overseas for the last week, the film is quickly on its way to a billion dollars worldwide. Iron Man 3 opened to a whopping $170 million at the US box office this weekend, second only to… you guessed it… The Avengers.

Go summer 2013 movie season!