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TV series review: Daredevil

Now I absolutely realize I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but I binge watched this series in two days and am already suffering serious withdrawals having to wait almost a year for the next season, so without further ado here are my thoughts on Daredevil!

Note: I’ve tried to keep this as spoiler free as possible!

daredevil-poster

A usual fan of all things Marvel and DC, I have to admit I was feeling a little burned out on superheroes. I tried Gotham, and had really high hopes for the show but gave up after only maybe 5 episodes. I was addicted to the first couple of seasons of Arrow but this latest season left me underwhelmed. I gave up after 6 episodes. I similarly had very high expectations for The Flash and was, again, disappointed. Perhaps I was simply burned out on the CW with the last two shows. I watch a bunch of series on that channel and, to be honest, they all start to look and feel the same. It doesn’t help that they recycle actors, so familiar faces keep popping up. Stephen Amell will always be the sulky werewolf from Vampire Diaries for me, not Oliver Queen. The CW shows are all very pretty with very pretty cast members and all that saturated color and prettiness gets boring after a while. The CW is also a ‘family’ channel and storylines, even dialogue, are somewhat constrained by that PG requirement. Suffice it to say, when I saw teasers for Daredevil, I rolled my eyes and watched Game of Thrones and Penny Dreadful instead. Until now…

Last weekend I was husband-less and feeling lonely without anything new to watch. Since I’d heard people chatting about Daredevil, I decided to look it up and holy crap – that’s Charlie Cox! Charlie was the adorable, if somewhat bumbling, love interest in Stardust and I adored him. I couldn’t imagine that teddy bear playing the badass Matt Murdock. I was intrigued. Then I continued reading the cast list and well, yeah, I just had to watch. Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain people!

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With much trepidation, I started watching and I couldn’t freaking stop! First off, no voice over! No ‘my name is…’ – just good story! Also, Instead of pretty, well-coiffed cast members in ridiculous designer clothes running around in high heels and pumped up cleavages, I got gritty and bloody. Even the cinematography turns monochromatic in some places, adding to the overall bleakness of the show. Sure, it has its moments of shiny, upper echelon sparkles, but most of it is spent in a decrepit Hell’s Kitchen among the less affluent. How refreshing that the hero isn’t a billionaire. He isn’t exactly poor either, but he’s no Bruce Wayne or Oliver Queen (before certain events dented Ollie’s bank account). Matt Murdock comes from the same background as the people he’s fighting for. His superhero motivation comes from seeing how rough people in his quarter of New York have it and wanting to make their lives better – not some selfish idea of avenging dead parents. I love that! It’s so much more real and so much easier to empathise with the guy.

Matt Murdock is blind – although, granted, some comic-book license has been taken with this disability to make it more help than hindrance, it does lend him a certain vulnerability. It definitely makes him more human, showing he’s susceptible to injury, to pain, and death. Murdock’s, and likewise Daredevil’s, fragility is reiterated throughout the series as he repeatedly takes a beating (he dishes out plenty too), but this is a guy who gets tired, who takes days to recover from injury and who bleeds buckets for what he believes in. The show doesn’t shy away from showing his weaknesses – and what hubris will get you – and that’s refreshing too.

Matt Murdock is Catholic and the opening scene sets up the internal conflict for this character brilliantly. It’s the first (only?) time I’ve seen a religious superhero on TV. It adds another dimension to his character, again making him more real by showing that his moral quandary goes beyond the letters of the law and that he’s trying to act within a powerful if ethereal moral code. It makes him not wanting to kill people a lot more understandable, even when it means he has to take twice the beating before putting down the bad guys. The fight scenes are very realistic too – this is a guy who gets tired and shows he’s hurting.

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Matt Murdock is a lawyer. He’s smart, he worked hard for what he has (no wealthy daddy handed him the keys to a company on a silver platter), and has to work every day to keep food on the table. As such, he is so much more relatable than these billionaire playboy superheroes with a chip on their shoulder. Okay, enough about the awesomeness that is Matt, who is played perfectly by Charlie Cox by the way!

The villain, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, is one of the best I’ve encountered. He is so heart-achingly human. Disturbed, misguided, morally dubious sure, but he’s human. He’s damaged, he’s vulnerable, he needs a hug! And that makes the struggle between Matt and Fisk all the more real and despairing because they’ve both struggled, they’ve both come from tough backgrounds and had to fight to get where they are. They both believe they’re doing the right thing and doing it for the right reasons even though their approaches couldn’t be more different. It’s a very odd thing to feel empathy for the villain in this way. It makes for some seriously nail-biting episodes because there are times I find myself almost rooting for the other side (sorry Matt!). Vincent D’Onofrio is, of course, spectacular in his role as Fisk and commandeers every scene he’s in, demanding your undivided attention.

The show isn’t perfect though. The stereotyping of Asians is rather atrocious and I hope the show does something about that in season 2. The role of women in the show could also be better. At the moment they’re relegated to playing damsels in distress or the love interests (sometimes both). The exception here is Karen (played by Deborah Ann Woll who was my fav vamp in True Blood). Her character is stronger and darker than she first seems and they’ve only just begun to expose the various layers of her character. I hope they make more of her in the next season and give her room to shine alongside the boys. Rosario Dawson plays Matt’s love interest, Claire, and could also be doing a lot more if the script allowed her to. As of yet, there are no LGBT+ characters and only minor black characters 😦 (Ben Urich is perhaps the exception here but is the only PoC with a substantial storyline that isn’t a racial stereotype) I guess I’ll reserve judgement until season 2 and hope the writers move in the right direction, embracing the diversity of their setting. I do like that fact that Matt and Karen both speak Spanish in a part of NY where there is a large Latin community. And we don’t only get two words of the ‘foreign’ language (looking at you Arrow!), we get entire scenes with characters speaking Spanish – and Chinese – which pleases me because it means the producers at least acknowledge the fact that their audience can read subtitles and doesn’t need to be pandered to.

Thank goodness Daredevil is on Netflix. I don’t think the show could do what it’s doing were it on a channel like the CW. This show is dark and gritty, full of conflict, bloody and badass, and my new favourite addiction! I am definitely going to have to rewatch this series before the next season comes out. Actually, I might have to start rewatching today… 5/5 ink splats for a fabulous show!

5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Reviews

 

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Film Review: X-Men Days of Future Past

The X-Men. These are some seriously awesome comics featuring a diverse range of characters – I was particularly ecstatic to see the inclusion of LGBT characters in the series and in such an un-apologetically romantic light too. But those are the comics, and film adaptations often don’t do the source material justice. While there wasn’t the same amount of diversity in the original trilogy, I’ve got to admit I really enjoyed the films. I enjoyed the Wolverine Origins film even more, which had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Taylor Kitsch as Gambit – nope, not at all – and I adored the First Class film, which of course had absolutely nothing to do with James McAvoy. (I’m going to pretend that the abomination that is The Wolverine just doesn’t exist and never happened to this otherwise kickass franchise). After the trilogy and wicked-cool origin movies, it was with mingling excitement and trepidation that I sat down to watch Days of Future Past.

*Spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned*

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Firstly, I adored First Class. The story was epic, the music was epic, Jennifer Lawrence in body paint was epic, James McAvoy even without the beard was epic – there wasn’t much I didn’t love about the movie. I can’t quite believe I’m going to say it, but I think Days of Future Past might’ve actually been a little bit more epic, although that’s not to say it didn’t have any flaws.

Sadly, the film opened with voice-over exposition, which is my pet peeve, and that did not bode well. However, the narration was short lived and the film kicked off with some intense action sequences. While I’m not entirely sure of the timeline and how the future turned so bleak so quickly – it seems to have happened over night since Bobby looks as baby-faced as ever – it was the sort of cyberpunkish dystopia I love. Couple that with new characters like Warpath (Booboo Stewart sure grew up) and the portal girl (coolest power ever although how does this power come from a genetic mutation, pray tell?) who deserves a far more kickass name than Blink, and I was in serious fangirl territory. Then Ellen Page rocked up and I just couldn’t even any more. Things were off to a good start!

I like Wolverine, I do, but to be honest, I’m little sick of him. I really wish they could’ve given the spotlight to another mutant in this film. The reason why it’s Logan is apparently because few other X-Men were around in 1973 and even fewer could survive being constantly ripped about by the various forces exerted on the time traveler, so Logan it is. But then James McAvoy enters the mix and steals the show, so I actually can’t complain too much about Wolverine’s presence. Right, so the basic premise is that the future has gone to s**t and Logan is sent back fifty years to delightfully retro 1973 to get Xavier and Magneto to work things out so that Mystique doesn’t chart a course toward the apocalypse. This is a great premise with one major, giant, toe-curling problem. If their plan succeeds, it completely nullifies the original trilogy and basically pokes a huge whole in the canon. Let’s ignore that for now and return to the awesomeness that is James McAvoy’s beard…

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As I said before, James McAvoy steals the show and delivers a great performance as the mentally unstable, possibly PTSD-suffering Xavier. I wish the film had spent more time on his psychological development but there were giant robots to fight and special effects to exploit so, sadly, we got less character development and more CGI. The best new addition to the cast was undoubtedly Quicksilver played by Evan Peters. I can’t really look at this actor without seeing deranged Tate from American Horror Story, but Peters was wonderful as Quicksilver, lending some levity to a rather dark storyline. That said, it was an absolute sin of the director/producers to only have Quicksilver on screen for a handful of minutes. I want to see more of this character and would love to see his origin film because he’s witty and fun and seems a lot less broken than many of the other tortured hero types proliferating the X-Men universe.

The rest of the film unfolded as expected with no twists to the plot whatsoever except that according to the new timeline, the first trilogy could never have happened. This brings me to the biggest flaw in this film: the whole concept of time travel and changing history. Very few sci-fi films get time travel right because it is a notoriously complex concept – ask your local quantum physicist to explain – and any attempt to change the past immediately obliterates the future unless you’re in a separate time stream (as attempted by the short lived series Terra Nova). But ‘because science’ Logan goes back in time and achieves the impossible by giving the middle finger to physics and I’m mildly okay with that because the film was extremely entertaining and, to be fair, comic books in general have a tenuous relationship with the laws of physics.

Like all Marvel movies there’s a final scene that comes after the credits. Like all Marvel movies this final scene is almost completely meaningless except to those uber geeks au fait with the franchise. The final scene was creepy cool but I didn’t understand the relevance until I googled it. Now I understand the title of the next X-Men movie – X-Men: Apocalypse.

So Days of Future Past presented dubious science and destroyed their own canon, but they did so with kickass awesomeness and I loved every minute of this film. Days of Future Past scores 4.5/5 ink splats for me. It lost half a splat because of that unnecessary voice over at the beginning and for under-utilizing Quicksilver.

4.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Reviews

 

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Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Firstly, I apologize for the lack of Tuesday reviews the past couple of weeks. I was busy packing for the move, then moving, then unpacking and sorting out my new life in Sweden hence the lack of posts. And this leads me to today’s review. Given that I spent most of December 24th unpacking the last of the boxes, Christmas Eve – which arrived with a delightful flurry of snow – was spent with a bowl of chicken soup in front of the PC watching Guardians of the Galaxy.

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To be honest, I haven’t read that many actual comics and my childhood was spent devouring Tolkien-esque epic fantasy not pages by Marvel and DC. That said, since discovering the wonder of the graphic novel as a slightly older young adult, I’ve been fully committed to watching everything Marvel has to offer. (I’ve been less ecstatic about DC offerings thus far) so of course Guardians of the Galaxy (from now referred to GoftG) was a film I knew I was going to watch regardless what the reviewers said.

Turns out, this film got rave reviews and that left me a little skeptical. I tried going into this film having no to low expectations and I think that certainly helped me enjoy this film a lot more than I might have otherwise. Humour is a bit of a hit and miss with me. Much of what passes as comedy with general movie-goers falls flat with me and I tend to outright avoid comedies because of my… let’s call it ‘quirky’ sense of humour, so after reading reviews calling GoftG ‘hysterical’ and ‘laugh out loud’ funny, it was with much trepidation that I settled down to watch.

With baited breath I awaited the accursed voice-over giving me a run down of the world and how space politics came to be yadda yadda and surprise surprise, it never happened! Kudos GoftG for not pandering to your audience with narration! Five stars awarded in the first three minutes! But what wasn’t explained to the audience with clunky narration was sneaked into expository dialogue that made my eyes twitch a little. Still, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been so I’ll forgive these moments of exposition because I was definitely being entertained.

While others criticized films like Battleship and John Carter, I found both extremely entertaining and really funny. GoftG joins these two on my shelf of ‘highly entertaining when you don’t really want to engage your brain.’ For two hours, I found myself snickering at the jokes – particularly those by Rocket – and rooting for the unlikely bunch of misfit heroes. Yes, cliches abound and much of the movie could be seen as a patchwork borrow/steal from just about every other science fantasy film ever made, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It’s good old-fashioned swash-buckling space adventure with a lovable, if hardly smart, bunch of underdog heroes and a creepy villain who is also less than competent most of the time. I did, however, feel that Lee Pace was under utilized here. He took my breath away in The Fall and is pitch perfect in The Hobbit so I would’ve loved more from him here as the villain.

With a two hour running time, I was afraid this movie would feel long the way certain X-Men films have, but GoftG managed to keep up the pacing and keep me enthralled until the very last scene at the end of the credits. While some of the other Marvel films have taken a turn toward darker themes, GoftG keeps things light and frivolous with blood conspicuous by its absence despite a fair bit of violence, jokes mostly clean – sadly, I think some more ribald humour for the adult audience ala Shrek would’ve worked well given the characterisation of Starlord – and the general ambiance of the film one of feel-good adventure. I’m not sure how the tone of this film will fit into the greater Marvel picture given the bleak undercurrent in the Captain America films, the darker characterisation of Tony Stark, and the corrupt – and awesome – villainy of the likes of Loki, but it definitely feels like a much needed breath of fresh air given the sometimes overbearing canon into which it fits – well, sort of fits.

Overall, GoftG didn’t impress me, but it definitely didn’t disappoint and was exactly the sort of brain-vacation entertainment I wanted. This scores 3.5/5 ink splats from me and I’ll probably – definitely – be watching the sequel.

3.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in Reviews

 

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