Daredevil (Season 1 Review)

This ain’t your, uh, slightly older brother’s Daredevil. Or something. 

In March 2014, I went with some friends of mine to take in what would eventually become one of my favourite movies of the year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Like the rest of the world, I loved it, but I was kind of surprised by just how dark that movie was. Fools were getting assassinated, people’s necks were getting broken, others were getting shot in the face, and a post-9/11 allegory was violently drilling its way into the audience’s skull.


 Being a bloodthirsty sociopath, I was a fan, but some of the parents who brought younger kids expecting a bright, colourful Avengers-style movie probably weren’t as enthusiastic about the grittiness as I was. Hell, I heard some kids break out in tears. In a movie where the protagonist wears an American flag, no less. After that experience, I was pretty sure the Marvel Cinematic Universe would get much darker.

Boy was I completely and utterly wrong.


Created by: Drew Goddard

Directed by: Phil Abraham, Adam Kane, Ken Girotti, Farren Blackburn, Guy Ferland, Brad Turner, Stephen Surjik, Nelson McCormick, Nick Gomez, Euros Lyn, Steven S. DeKnight

Producer: Kati Johnson

Written by: Drew Goddard, Marco Ramirez, Joe Pokaski, Luke Kalteux, Douglas Petrie, Steven S. DeKnight, Christos Gage, Ruth Fletcher Gage

Based on: Daredevil by Stan Lee and Bill Everett

Genres: Superhero, crime drama

Starring: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Scott Glenn

Music by: John Paesano

Plot: After the events of The Avengers, much of the real estate in the unfortunately named Hell’s Kitchen district of New York City was crushed by alien invaders (Which nobody seems to be dwelling on. Weird.). Already a fairly decrepit, crime-ridden neighbourhood, Hell’s Kitchen is now even more of a crap hole.

Have no fear though, because Matthew Murdock & Foggy Nelson, attorneys at law, are on the scene! Well, actually, maybe have a little bit of fear, because they’re pretty small-time, having turned down a well-paying corporate job since, y’know, they have souls.

1x17 Justice is Blind (08)

Barry Zuckerkorn is more high profile than them. 

Interestingly enough, Matt (Charlie Cox), along with being a kick-ass lawyer, is also completely blind… Mostly.

Bullshit comic book science coming up!!!

See, when Matt was but a wee boy, he was walking down the streets of Hell’s Kitchen when he saw a man about to get creamed by a truck. Being the upstanding citizen that he is, little Matt pushed the old man out of harm’s way, taking the hit for hi. While Matt survived, the truck’s cargo, some kind of chemical something-or-other got into his eyes, blinding him.

And then the chemical shit leaked into the sewers, and that’s how the Ninja Turtles were born. The end.

However, when he lost his sight, his other senses were enhanced to superhuman levels to make up for his lack of sight.

Bullshit, I know. But it’s cool, so whatever.

Matt doesn’t sit idly by with his, uh, we’ll call it a gift, I suppose. A lawyer by day, he dons a kickass all-black outfit at night and goes out to beat the shit out of those who would prey on the innocent as a vigilante known as… Nothing.

Y’know, because that would be silly.

Matt is only human though, and he struggles to reconcile his secret life with his job and his relationship with his friends, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). It doesn’t exactly help matters that a new criminal element has taken over every nook and cranny of Hell’s Kitchen, uniting the Bratva, Triads, Yakuza, and the shithead warden from The Shawshank Redemption into a dangerous cabal, led by the enigmatic Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).

It helps matters even less when you consider that Fisk is goddamn terrifying.

Daredevil is a well-respected Marvel property, but he hasn’t ever been done justice in movies or TV. While a fairly major character in the comics, he’s hardly an A-lister, though he was an Avenger for like, 3 seconds. He finally got a movie in 2003, but, long story short, that movie’s the reason why some people were so pissy about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, even though they had no real call to be that way.

While that movie had a dark, brooding atmosphere in the vein of the comics, it was pretty inconsistent (See: Murdock fighting Elektra in the middle of a fucking playground. During DAYTIME). This show, on the other hand, feels completely justified in it’s dark environments and bleakness. You FEEL the specter of doom and gloom looming over this version of Hell’s Kitchen rearing it’s ugly head, ready to swallow every and anybody in its way. It actually feels a lot like Batman Begin‘s Gotham City, which makes sense considering the two protagonists are so similar.

In every respect except wallet size.

Speaking of the protagonist, Charlie Cox plays Daredevil very, very well, and the character of Matt Murdock is handled ably by Cox and the writers (Who, I should mention, also provide the best justification for a no-kill policy that I’ve ever heard. From a religious perspective too. I didn’t expect that.). While the movie Daredevil just came off as a smarmy jackass (Insert outdated Ben Affleck joke here), Cox comes off as a little more grounded and disturbed. Sure, he’s witty and intelligent (Par for the course for Marvel heroes, admittedly), but he also has a dark side that refuses to go away even though he fights on the side of the angels. He frequently contemplates murder, he’s an extremely brutal, even possibly sadistic, fighter, he’s emotionally unavailable to his friends and he’s kind of a masochist.

This has nothing to do with anything, but this costume is pretty damn awesome.

The supporting characters are well-written and performed, if probably too much of a focus at some points of the season. Foggy starts off kind of grating, but he gets to be a necessity, nicely contrasting the show’s relentless cruelty with his offbeat sense of humour. Karen Page, while not terribly interesting, is a fine character as well. The only supporting hero that I feel was wasted is Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), who, although portrayed super well, doesn’t appear all that much, and the scenes where he teams up with Karen are kind of the weak point of the season. Not that they’re bad, they’re just the scenes that made me miss Daredevil smashing the shit out of the Russian mob.

The other villains are fine as well, but the standout is Wilson Fisk’s faithful attendant, Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore), who is already the frontrunner for “Most punchable character of 2015”.

No Bullseye, though. Thank god for season 2, I guess.

“But Kenny, nobody gives a shit about these people! What about Kingpin!? WHAT ABOUT KINGPIN?!?!?!”

Alright, let’s talk about Wilson Fisk.

As enjoyable as the MCU continues to be, its villains have been surprisingly weak. Aside from Loki, Red Skull, Winter Soldier and almost certainly Ultron, we’ve mostly been stuck with mediocrity like Whiplash, Malekith and Ronan. Unlike these guys though, Fisk is more grounded a bad guy than the other schmucks, being neither an alien nor a superhero. Just a socially awkward behemoth with a god complex.

I fucking love him. You can keep Loki, this is the best MCU villain to date.

Don’t ever change, you beautiful boy.

In the comics (As well as the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon that was/is my life) Kingpin was a very tall, corpulent man who was highly intelligent, manipulative and collected. However, the backstory and portrayal of Fisk in Daredevil paint a much more deep, disturbing picture of a truly fucked-up, shy child trapped inside the imposing body of a very threatening man. Yes, he’s intelligent, manipulative and collected, but he’s liable to let his unstable emotions get the better of him, and he won’t think twice about beating you to death if you step out of line. D’Onofrio plays him perfectly (Albeit oddly) and I can’t take my eyes off the screen whenever he’s doing his thing.

It also bears mentioning that Ayelet Zurer is terrific as Wilson Fisk’s love interest, Vanessa. Yeah, you heard me right, a fully developed romantic story arc for the villain (And not the hero!), you don’t see that very often, do you?

As you might expect (Because I straight-up told you), Daredevil is much darker than the other MCU stuff, which makes sense, considering the source material is very dark (In fact, grit-meister Frank Miller wrote the comic for a while, and also wrote some great, dark Batman stories as well as some cartoonishly bad dark Batman stories).

Send your angry fanboy rant to pleasekillthemessenger@gmail.com.

In terms of dark visuals, this show can’t be beat. It’s fucking beautiful. Not since Tim Burton’s Batman movies has there been a stylistically dark superhero story this, I dunno, appealingly flashy, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I dunno, just watch the damn show, you’ll see what I mean.

If you’re a fan of good action (Aren’t we all?), this show’s for you, being both well-shot and really, REALLY brutal, with folks getting heads crushed, impaled and/or otherwise maimed throughout the duration. This is the first MCU property to really say “screw the kids.” It’s beautiful, really.

The only real problem that I have with the show is that it can get kind of slow at times throughout the middle of the season, leading me to believe that it would’ve worked better with a couple less episodes. A minor complaint, but my only one.

Overall: Dark, ultraviolent, stylish and well-acted, Daredevil ranks among the better projects from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s not exactly faint praise.

Rating: 9/10

Seriously though, if Bullseye isn’t in the next season, we riot.

The Maze Runner (Movie Review)

So…Whose bright idea was it to send up a lone girl into a primitive society of young men, some of whom haven’t seen a woman in three years? Seems like something that probably should have been thought out better.

It’s kind of a rough time for the young adult sci-fi/fantasy book adaptation film genre these days. Since the Harry Potter series ended its reign as the dominant force in teen movies (And the highest grossing film franchise, period), the only  books that have really gotten both critical and commercial success through adaptations have been The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire.  Otherwise, though, it’s mostly been movies that have gotten critical success even if they sucked from a technical level (the Twilight series, the brand-spanking-new Divergent series) or movies that have downright sucked from both a critical and financial perspective.

“Vampires, shitty humour, and an annoyingly grating protagonist that is obviously ripping off Ellen Page as Juno? How could this possibly go wrong?!”- The Weinstein Company, apparently.

The latest development in Hollywood’s hopeless churning out of these movies is The Maze Runner, based on a popular book by James Dashner, and judging by the trailer, it looked a little bit more promising than some of the other dreck. The cast looked good, the atmosphere looked very gritty, the special effects looked fabulous, and it had a notable absence of fantastic beasts for emotionless teenage girls to fall in love with. In fact, there was no real romance at all!

So, do we have another young adult classic on our hands?


The Maze Runner

Directed by: Wes Ball

Produced by: Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, Lee Stollman

Screenplay by: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S. Nowlin

Based on: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genres: Thriller, science fiction, action

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki-hong Lee, Will Poulter, Blake Cooper, Kaya Scodelario

Music by: John Paesano



Plot: Our protagonist, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in a creaky elevator with no recollection of who he is, and with no EZ-Listening music to comfort him on the distressing lift. How rude of the people who put him there!…. Whoever they may be. Yes, in addition to not remembering a damn thing about his own backstory, Thomas also cannot remember why he is in the elevator or who put him there.

Yes, yes, I thought so too at first, but give it a minute, it’s less creepy than that.

The elevator ride eventually comes to an end, and he is helped out of it by a group of other boys and young men, who also came out of the same elevator shaft as much as three years ago. These boys, led by Alby (Aml Ameen), live in a peaceful wooded area known to them as the Glade, where they have formed a Lord of the Flies-sque society, except without the infighting and murder (So yeah, not really like Lord of the Flies, I guess).  The glade is surrounded by an enormous wall, much too high to climb over, There is an opening, but unfortunately, it leads right into an enormous maze, which appointed runners, led by Minho (Ki-hong Lee) try to map in order to maybe escape from wherever the hell they are. Unfortunately, if the runners happen to be caught outside at night, as there are giant scorpion monsters known as Grievers that murder anything that steps foot in the maze.

Thomas is very anxious to figure out what the hell lies beyond the wall, which causes some tension between him and Gally (Will Poulter), one of the older kids. Things are even further complicated when a girl named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the first girl ever is sent up by the boys’ captors. Despite the fact that it takes a whole day for the boys to actually remember their names after they’re brought up from the elevator, Teresa remembers her name right after she wakes up. Why? Fuck if I know.

See, this movie kind of reminds me of Lost, in that the premise is very interesting and it builds up very nicely, but the payoff is very disappointing. I guess it hurt more in Lost, if only because six years led up to mostly bullshit, but this movie’s ending is also pretty shitty. I’m fine with cliffhanger endings, but come on! Off the top of my head, I can think of the following questions that the movie left unanswered (Spoilers Ahead):

  1. Like I said, how did Teresa remember her name so soon after her arrival? And why were there no girls before her?
  2. Why does Griever poison bring back memories of life before the Glade for the boys?
  3. Why did the scientists need to fake their own deaths?
  4. Why is Chuck so much younger than the others?
  5. Why are Thomas and Teresa the favourites of WCKD? And if they were the favourites, why  did they get sent up to live amongst the other gladers?

Spoilers End

So, yeah, as you might be able to tell, this movie has some pretty damn serious problems. That said, I like it quite a bit more than I thought I would. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I almost loved it! Why is that? Well, apart from the great action and the good special effects in the maze scenes (Even if some of them were very obviously CG) I really, really liked the characters. The lead is played by Dylan O’Brien (Of Teen Wolf fame. The MTV show, not the Michael J. Fox movie), and he’s likable enough. The character of Thomas doesn’t, admittedly, distinguish himself from many other movie heroes (Brave, curious, sense of humour, big fucking whoop)but he’s likable enough, he’s charismatic, and he’s a nice enough vessel for the audience to experience the movie through. It doesn’t hurt that O’Brien is actually a good actor, either.

The supporting cast is really good too, when you consider that it’s mostly a cast of young actors, who can really be hit or miss. Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays Newt and, while it was a little hard for me to look at him and not think “Oh, hey it’s that kid from the worst storyline in Game of Thrones” he does a really, really good job.

He’s also the voice of Ferb. The more you know.

Will Poulter is good as Gally too, and succeeds at making him a very likable character, who has his relatively safe, familiar world destroyed by change and opposing ideals and simply can’t bring himself to adapt as well as the others. Hell, I even like the little kid who plated Chuck (Blake Cooper), and I never like little kids!

Unless they’re murderous, costumed vigilantes, then they’re cool. Oh hey, Deadpool!!!

Kaya Scodelario (Teresa) also turns in a fine performance (Which is good, because her resemblance to Kristen Stewart was causing me irrational fear) even if she doesn’t really do all that much after she sets off a sequence of events, but meh. I’m just happy they didn’t give her a forced love story with Thomas. I guess there’ll be tie for that in the sequels though. Oh, joy.

One last thing I’d like to point out about this movie is that it is dark. Like, super dark. I know that Hunger Games isn’t exactly a damn Care Bears cartoon, and the last few Harry Potter movies made me cry like a pussy, but…You know what, watch the movie until the end. You’ll see what I mean.

Overall: If you’re expecting the next Hunger Games….Don’t. But hey, if you really need to get out to the movie theatre after a dreadful month of August (Guardians of the Galaxy notwithstanding), or if you’re a fan of the genre, you could do a whole lot worse than The Maze Runner.

Rating: 7/10

I’m not crazy, right? Does she look like Kristen Stewart to anybody else?