I can’t really say I’m looking forward to Netflix’s Daredevil TV miniseries, but I have a certain ghoulish anticipation for it. Or maybe I should say I had a ghoulish anticipation for it because after watching the trailer above, I’m realizing how dreary the show promises to be. In that way, although Daredevil (the Netflix show) reminds me of Daredevil (the movie) and Daredevil (The Incredible Hulk stealth pilot with Rex Smith)—and even Daredevil (the comic book)—it mostly reminds me of Showgirls (the motion picture), which I saw in the theater on first release. Showgirls taught me some very important lessons about the nature of camp, one of which is I’m apparently neither cruel enough or masochistic enough to appreciate it in its modern incarnation: turns out it’s just as hard for me to laugh with filmmakers with a cruel sense of humor as it is for me to laugh at filmmakers with no sense of humor at all.
And hoo boy, does Netdevil appear to fall into the latter category. In its first eleven seconds, the trailer jams in three cliched images—the anonymous waterfront meeting, the rain-slickened streets, and the confession in church—of which the only innovation is the blind man’s cane wavering over those aforementioned rain-slickened streets. Before the ninety seconds are through, we get diseased urban landscapes a la David Fincher, some pretty unconvincing wirework, a bunch of explosions, somebody stabbed a lot, stealth appearances by Stick and The Kingpin, concerned looking white people with bad haircuts (Karen and Foggy?), and a shot of Daredevil lifting himself from a puddle with blood drooling out his mouth. It’s enough to make a guy nostalgic for an atrocious playground flirt/fight.
Look, I was enamored of Joe Carnahan’s sizzle reel as anyone (the NC-17 version of which is below):
but part of what makes it so exciting and smart is that it very specifically positions itself as a period piece. I adore Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil—both runs, the miniseries, the graphic novels, that single issue drawn by John Buscema, all of it—but part of what makes it work so well is how he saw New York as a location barely a half step up from hell. (Miller grew up drawing crime comics, but coming to New York City and getting mugged was one of the best things to happen to his career.)
And it’s not a New York that exists in that way anymore: judging from its trailer, Netdevil is filmed in modern-day New York, a city that might as well be its anemic twin, Vancouver: these days, Daredevil would be busting up the thugs at Josie’s Hot Yoga, tossing Turk and Grotto through the window of The Apple Store.
But I doubt he will be. Instead, he’ll be struggling with his violent nature in stock situations at stock locations, a black pair of tights pulled over his head so that we can all sit in front of our monitors exasperated that the criminals can’t figure out his secret superpower.
After watching the trailer I tweeted:
Wow, that Daredevil trailer worked for me. That montage of him beating up crooks and bouncing off flagpoles while “I’m A Believer” plays?
— Jeff Lester (@Lazybastid) February 4, 2015
which I’m sure those who know Graeme’s musical taste will recognize as my blatant attempt to get him to talk to me on Twitter about it. It didn’t work—poor guy was probably busy having to turn his thoughts into three different think pieces at the same time—but I did get a few other replies which took my idea and made it even better
— Chewie Crowe (@jason1749) February 4, 2015
Part of this may just be us olds having a laugh, but it did make me wonder. In the wake of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s colossal success, why not make something a little more candy-colored and fun than what we’re getting?
Not only does Marvel have arguably very little to lose in this whole TV deal, it actually has even less to lose with material be co-funded and shown on Netflix. Unlike Agents of SHIELD, there’s no need to spin lukewarm or cooling ratings. They have the freedom to make the material a little more offbeat than what one might expect from a superhero crime show. Some of Marvel’s fans are quick to compare every move of the company to DC and Warner Brothers such that the latter always looks bad compared to the former: what would be a bigger tweak to DC’s nose than making a show much closer to Batman ’66 as DC grumbles and rumbles on about Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice?
Doing so would also give Marvel someplace to go with Daredevil, in that a second season could then start to make things darker, closer to Miller’s run. And by the time you get to Season Three or Four, you can move toward something like “Born Again”…or you’re well positioned to do something like Ann Nocenti’s run, where the darkness and the absurdity freely intermingled. Or both. And maybe one of the other characters in Netflix’s The Defenders will be the trickster character, the one who gets the laugh lines…but hearing them from the blind guy might’ve worked.
Miller brought Daredevil to some very, very dark places, but part of what made it all the darker for me was how colorful and dumb previous issues of the book had been and how much they could move back to that place. It made Daredevil the genuine undiagnosed bipolar superhero, upbeat and joking in one run, curled in a gutter in the next…and the extent to which that went untreated, undiagnosed, and unaddressed was to me far more haunting and meaningful than “I like to beat people up because I’m the child of a boxer and a nun.”
But we’ll see. Ninety seconds do not a thirteen episode series make, right? But, as always—and in some ways, now more than ever—I’m glad we had the comics before the world got the movie… and the stealth pilot… and the TV show.