Posts Tagged ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

 

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daredevil-posterFull disclosure this was not supposed to be my introductory piece to the Maniacal Geek. No, actually when I reached out to Sam a week ago and told her that I was itching to write something again I had pitched two completely different ideas. The first a wonderful piece about Flash and its importance to the DC television universe, and second a prediction on the fate of the Jedi Order sans George Lucas. I may very well end up finishing those two stories but something happened in the last few days that changed the game and I feel compelled to write about.

When Marvel and Netflix announced their partnership I admittedly did not think much of it. I have read Daredevil comics, and I know of all the other characters and parts that were suggested, but to be honest I have never been much of a fan and I feared that budgetary and production limitations would make these properties as second class to the MCU as they have often found themselves in the comics. So when Friday rolled around, and I sat working from home, I found that my excitement to watch Daredevil had more to do with the lack of anything compelling on Hulu than a real need to see how it turned out. Bottom line if you stop reading now know this… Daredevil is 13 compelling episodes of cinema with a grit and reality that hide its flaws and highlights the fact that film and TV can now match the world building of comic books. I will not give you a play by play of the series, for that you will need to watch yourself, but here are my reasons why Daredevil just moved to the top of my “television” superhero properties.

1. Cinema Not Television

The first thing I realized as I started to watch Daredevil is that my concerns about budget and production where needless. Daredevil and Hell’s Kitchen are as real and as well defined as any television series about a guy with superpowers has ever come close to being. Showrunner Stephen S. DeKnight has been on record as calling the Wire a source of influence and Wilson Fisk himself Vincent D’Onofrio said that it felt like making a movie, well they are both right. Daredevil exhibits a focus in its storytelling and character development that I would expect from a 2 hour film rather than a 13 episode series. Additionally the fight sequences are beautifully done not only highlighting the individual styles and attitudes of the characters, but walking a line of violence that puts my parent radar on alert while keeping me on the edge of my seat. MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

While I have binged watched shows before, I have never begun one that was intended to be binged watched. You feel it with Daredevil and it works. The story is meant to be told in large chunks and even the progression of time in the episodes reflects this approach. Events are compacted to help you feel like you are living the predicament of the characters and this is reinforced with the acting. The pacing for some of the B stories is not always perfect, but tell me one film where they always are? Most importantly, even with its radically different tone and storytelling, it still belongs in the MCU. Daredevil never feels misguided or second class and its characters are as compelling as everything we have seen in phase 1 and 2 so far.

2. Genuine Not Gritty

As a DC fan I hate when I hear that they are trying to be more “gritty.” That word makes my skin crawl as I feel it has become synonymous with overacting and gratuitous violence. Daredevil has neither, in fact it has a genuine feel to it that had me thinking more about Breaking Bad than Arrow. Both hero and villain find themselves fighting for the same thing, and walking similar lines. The faint difference that puts them on opposite sides is their willingness to kill another human being. Note that this is important as one finds his willingness forced upon him as a child while the other faces an active choice that he is constantly on the edge of making. This compiled with what I feel is an Emmy worthy performance by D’Onofrio, makes Fisk often the most compelling character on screen. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock does a great job, though he suffers by comparison to the powerful acting around him. Murdock’s often thin relationship with his faith and questions of his own sanity and worth easily run the risk of being too much and too direct with the “Devil” aspect. But Cox’s conversations with Peter McRobbie’s Father Lantom are well written and well performed, and that is where Cox really shines. Matt_and_Father_Lantom

Along with D’Onofrio, every time Vondie Curtis-Hall (Ben Urich) is on screen I am immediately drawn in. Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple a.k.a. Night Nurse) and Toby Leonard Moore (James Wesley) are limited by either screen time or role respectively, but you do not notice it. Both of their performances are spot on and Wesley’s one liners are timely and well delivered. I can go on and on about the cast but I will wrap it up with the three show regulars: Charlie Cox is a compelling Matt Murdock, though his Daredevil persona suffers from the lack of personality that comes from a darker story. That is not to say it is good, but while Daredevil holds up to most of the other parts of the MCU, this is the one place where a moodier story makes for a slightly less dynamic hero. Deborah Ann Woll has already proven to make the most out of a limited role with her time on True Blood, but her take on the innocent victim with a dark past of Karen Page is not only well executed, but actually has me excited to watch her fall from grace as the story continues. Lastly, I will admit I was concerned about how Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson would do. Would his natural ease and nerdy charm stand up to the dark undertones and rest of the grizzled cast. Not only does he have his own serious moments, but he somehow finds a way to maintain his likeability while never becoming the comic relief.

3. World Building

Daredevil is not the Avengers and it is certainly not Guardians of the Galaxy. It does not have time for any of that light hearted fair or banter. Its characters can rarely be described as heroes, and are more what we would deem heroic everyday folks. Hell it is not even remotely recognizable to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but in all of that the MCU just become so much richer than it has been until this point. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved the MCU so far (I think I have seen Guardian’s going on 15 times), but nothing has described the impact and everyday lives of the people in this world like Daredevil does. Daredevil reminds us that when Hulk throws someone into a building there are repercussions. There are people and children that have now grown up in this MCU and heroes and villains are just a fact of life. How would that change how we function as a society? What would our lives look like in this new era?Matt _Murdock

Most importantly even though it brings color to the MCU picture, it also holds its own. Being the gateway to an entire new world of storytelling that the Netflix productions will be charged with. Sure there is a part of me that now wants to see the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen throw it down with Spider-Man and Captain America, but if it never happens I will be completely OK. Daredevil does not need it nor does the rest of the MCU. Daredevil’s sole responsibility to the MCU is to open the door for characters and heroes that are not the Avengers. That do not play whims to galactic trans-dimensional villains, or to alien hoards, or super science. It is to show that even in a world where a guy with a hammer can call lightning at will and SHIELD spends money like it’s going out of style, people still have to struggle to keep the lights on and have clean running water. I only hope that as we get into the more super-natural story telling of Iron Fist, and ultimately the Defenders, that the realism and grounded nature of Daredevil does not get lost. If Marvel has earned anything so far it is my confidence that it will be just fine.

Marvel and Netflix have yet to confirm a second season, but I have no fear (see what I did there) that it will happen. I expect these Netflix series will be a little more Doctor Who in frequency than most shows, but that is   . Mainly because if they keep being this good, I will just watch them over and over again until the new stuff finally hits the internet.

Let me know your thoughts and predictions below and as always thanks for reading. JP

With shooting due to start sometime this year, we’re finally getting some news regarding who will fill the roster for TNT’s foray into the superhero genre with Titans. Based on the Teen Titans from DC Comics as well as New Teen Titans, and just simply Titans if you’ve followed the team up until the New 52 reboot, Titans, according to the leaked script, will feature Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Barbara Gordon/Oracle?, Hank Hall/Hawk, Dawn Granger/Dove, with Titansappearances towards the end of the pilot by Rachel Roth/Raven and Koriand’r/Starfire. The late appearance of the final two is most likely due to not wanting viewers overwhelmed by so many characters, or the pilot is a two-parter so as to give the characters room to breathe. Fingers crossed.

It’s definitely an interesting mishmash and not a lineup I was expecting at all. It’s essentially a combination of Teen Titans and Birds of Prey since Barbara will be in a wheelchair and acting as Oracle, though her hacker identity isn’t featured in the script. The exclusion of Cyborg and Beast Boy, based on the popular lineup for the Teen Titans cartoon, is probably because Beast Boy’s ability to change into any animal would be too costly for the show’s budget and Cyborg has been deemed hands off because of the up-coming Justice League movies and his solo film. If that’s the case with Cyborg, it’s still odd considering he’s so well-known for being in the Titans and Warner Bros. doesn’t seem to have a problem with two guys playing the Flash in the movie and television universes. Of course, that doesn’t mean the characters won’t birdsofprey12658appear in the show, but it may be in the form of supporting cast or guest appearances. However, with the exclusion of Starfire, the cast could use a person of color because it’s not looking all that diverse; the exception being the 4:2 ratio of female to male cast members.

Believe me, it’s very rare for a superhero cast to have more women on the team than men unless the book or show is specifically an all-female team. If you were to take a look at the casts currently on television, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the most balanced cast of about 4 female regular leads and 5 male regular leads; Arrow comes in next with 3:4, The Flash with 2:5, Agent Carter with 2:5, and Constantine with 1:3. Gotham would be the equivalent of Agents of SHIELD with the addition of Morena Baccarin putting the cast at 6:8, but the ensemble usually favors the male regulars since the cases revolve around Jim Gordon, meaning characters like Selina Kyle, Ivy Pepper (sigh), or Renee Montoya end up taking a backseat for several episodes. So it’s worth noting that Gotham has more female characters than any of the other shows but doesn’t use them as often. tumblr_nezyn6sS9v1t7nmyno1_500

My biggest worry about the inclusion of Barbara Gordon is the love triangle that seems inevitable between her, Nightwing, and Starfire. In the comics, Babs was never part of the Teen Titans. After getting shot by the Joker and ending up paralyzed from the waist down, she created the Oracle persona in order to continue fighting crime by being the eyes and ears of practically the entire DC Universe. Eventually this led to becoming leader of the Birds of Prey, an all-female team that occasionally had some men on the roster. In lieu of Cyborg’s usual role as tech expert on the team, Barbara makes sense to replace him, but if the intention is to have her there so the show can tease will-they-or-won’t-they between her and Dick or Dick and Starfire, then that’s gonna get old real quick. Babs, Dick, and Kori are all great characters in their own right and they deserve good writing and character development. I’m not saying there can’t be tension – the comics have been teasing both couples for so long it’s not out Nightwing-and-Starfire-dc-comics-14486473-300-455of the question – but it has to be more than Babs and Kori fighting for Dick’s affections or Dick waffling between the two. There’s history between all of them, which can make for great stories that don’t have to have a romantic bent. But this is only speculation based on cast lineup, so the show could very well prove me wrong.

Also worth noting is Titans will be the first live action debuts for Nightwing and Oracle. Granted, this will be true for all of the Titans, but Nightwing and Oracle are fairly special cases because of the fanbase and the characters’ history in media. Because of the longevity of the character, more people associate Dick Grayson with being Robin because they read the Golden and Silver Age comics or watched the Batman TV show from the 60s. The cartoons often default to Dick as Robin too, utilizing the contrasting personalities of Dick and Bruce to form the Dynamic Duo. It wasn’t until Batman: The Animated Series was revamped as The New Batman Adventures in the late 90s that we saw the first appearance of an animated Nightwing. Since then, almost every cartoon with Dick Grayson features either a glimpse of Nightwing or a progression from sidekick to solo hero. The movies, thus far…oh there’s not much to talk about.

Oracle has been featured even less. As far as iconography goes, Babs has always been Batgirl outside of the comics and any chance of her going through the violent circumstances that make her Oracle are either sidestepped or Nightwing-Titans-Togethermissing entirely. Aside from the Birds of Prey TV show from 2002, only The Batman in the episode “Artifacts” has featured Barbara as Oracle. It’s a step in the right direction to feature a handicapped superhero because, right now, representation and visibility are paramount. DC Comics got a lot of flack for making Barbara Batgirl again, so perhaps Titans can offer us a kickass Babs who just happens to be in a wheelchair.

Despite some of the misgivings I have, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Titans when it premieres. There are a lot of heroes and heroines in the DCU that need some time and attention and hopefully this show will do right by a few more. And with this particular roster, there’s room for a lot of characters to show up.

Also, was this the role Steven R. McQueen was hinting at?