Hell’s Kitchen, New York

Yes, I know.  I’m way behind on this topic, but the fact of the matter is that I only recently subscribed to Netflix.  Life has a way of preventing us from doing things that we really want to do, so I had to wait a bit before taking the Netflix dive.

Oh, and since it’s been out for a couple of years now, just know that spoilers are ahead.

While Marvel has definitely figured out the formula for cranking out hit films, their foray into television is more hit and miss.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while entertaining, has consistently lost viewership over its four (soon to be five) seasons.  I quit watching the show regularly about two thirds of the way in on season one, and the few episodes that I’ve managed to watch since that time haven’t impressed me at all.  Agent Carter only managed to last for two seasons before it finally gave up the ghost.


Despite Marvel’s mediocre foray into network television, I figured that having fewer restraints on their Netflix programming might actually work in their favor.  In my opinion, it did.  Daredevil has turned out to be a much grittier, more realistic look into some of Marvel’s “B Squad” heroes.

Growing up, I was first introduced to Daredevil in 1979’s The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Issue 190, Something Evil This Way Comes.  I still own a copy of the issue (although it’s in bad shape).  I loved how a blind hero was working the streets with just as much success as big league heroes like Captain America.  In fact, I’ve always seen Daredevil as an A-lister in the Marvel universe.


The Netflix series begins with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and his best friend, Foggy Nelson (the highly underrated Elden Henson) opening up their own law firm with zero clients, zero prospects, and zero money.  Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) becomes their first real client and they hire her on as an office assistant in order to pay for their services.


This trio is really the heart of the series.  Henson provides some much needed comic relief (this series is darker in a vein similar to DC’s cinematic universe) but is also a brilliant lawyer who gains confidence with each case and social interaction.  He’s not just a bumbling sidekick, but a man loves his work.  Without Foggy to keep him grounded, Matt Murdock would probably lose control of himself.


Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page is a much more mysterious character.  Early on in the series it is hinted that she’s hiding something from Matt and Foggy.  She often goes out looking for information despite the wishes of her lawyer friends.  This means she gets into trouble once in awhile but she somehow manages to make it out of every bad situation with just a few scratches.  A romance develops between her and Matt that I really enjoyed, but it gets derailed by a character introduced in season two that I’ll get to later.


Charlie Cox does an excellent job as Matt Murdock/Daredevil.  He gets his tail handed to him regularly.  He bleeds, gets bruises and cuts, almost dies a few times, and often relies on others to help him out in certain situations.  It’s these things about the character that I love.  He makes mistakes (in the real world and superhero land) and suffers the consequences for them.  His relationships grow strong, unravel, or are reduced to a level of toleration.  In many cases, especially when it comes to the law firm, he plays second fiddle to other characters.


As the series played out, our first real look at a villain comes in the form of James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore).  He is the go between for the true villain of season one and said villain’s associates, which happen to be numerous gangs throughout New York.  Wesley made an immediate impact with me, and I couldn’t wait to see him turn up in each episode.  He was cold, calculating, and never flinched when dealing with characters like Leland Owlsley (the brilliant Bob Gunton) and the secretive and sinister Madame Gao (portrayed by Wai Ching Ho).  Madame Gao happens to be one of my favorite characters on the show as well.


Wesley is also our introduction to the many solid supporting cast members that keep Daredevil interesting.  Leland and Madame Gao were excellent, as were characters like Nobu (Peter Shinkoda), Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer), and Claire (portrayed by the lovely and wonderful Rosario Dawson).  There are other characters that move in and out of the narrative, and they are just as wonderful as the recurring members of the cast, especially Scott Glenn as Stick, Matt’s mentor.



Of course, every superhero needs an arch enemy, and Vincent D’Onofrio knocked it out of the park as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin.  Despite not making a physical appearance until a few episodes in, Wilson Fisk’s shadow loomed large over the entire Daredevil story.  Someone was manipulating criminals, police, politicians, lawyers, and just about everyone else in Hell’s Kitchen, but no one would mention his name.  All we knew was that when his representative, James Wesley, showed up, things were about to be shaken up.

D’Onofrio brought heart to the character and for just a few minutes, I sort of felt bad for the guy.  When we finally see him unleash his full fury on one of the Russian gang leaders, though, there’s no doubt about how cruel and powerful Fisk can be.  His childhood haunts him, and he puts himself on a mission to “clean up” Hell’s Kitchen.  Simply put, D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is the most interesting villain ever cranked out by Marvel on the small screen and he’s second only to Loki in the MCU.


Season Two of Daredevil brings with it new dangers and new characters.  One new character, The Punisher, declares war on the gangs of Hell’s Kitchen.  He brutally murders any and every criminal that gets in his way.  He’s referred to as a one man army on many occasions (and rightfully so), and he initially gives Daredevil (and Nelson and Murdock) a lot of headaches.


The Punisher/Frank Castle is portrayed by Jon Bernthal.  Being a huge fan of The Walking Dead and having met Bernthal in person, I expected quite a bit from him in this role.  He didn’t disappoint.  In fact, Castle’s story is the highlight of the second season.  The bond he forms with Karen works perfectly, and his uneasy truce and clashing vision of justice with Daredevil moves the story along at an excellent clip.  Heck, his interaction with Kingpin in prison is wonderful as well.

The only miscue in the second season, at least in my opinion, is the addition of Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung).  Listen, I have absolutely nothing against Elodie Yung.  I honestly believe that she played Elektra to the best of her abilities.  However, I feel like the character was sort of dumped on the series because the writers felt that they needed her to shake up the show.  She wasn’t needed.  The Punisher, the Blacksmith, Kingpin, Madame Gao, Stick, and Nobu were very capable of stirring the pot.  I really wish that they would have held off on introducing Elektra in either season three of Daredevil or in The Defenders.

daredevil elektra netflix

Elektra’s story was too rushed and unnecessary.  There were enough stories needing to be told in season two already.  But, the past cannot be changed and the character has arrived.  Hopefully the writers will do better with the character in future installments.

I really enjoyed watching Daredevil.  While the MCU dances around in technicolored madness and minimal bloodletting that earns a soft PG-13 rating, Daredevil is in the trenches getting bloodied, banged up, and scraped off of the cement.  It’s funny that so many people complain about how dark the DCEU films are but seem to love Daredevil for being almost as dark.  I hope that Netflix and Marvel continue to use their lesser known characters in this fashion.  It will open up people to a whole new (to them) batch of characters that are just as interesting as the likes of Spider-Man and Thor.

Next up on my Netflix Catch Up Marathon is Jessica Jones.  I’m three episodes in and, as of right now, I’m not that impressed.  Krysten Ritter hasn’t had a lot to work with story wise so far, and I’ve found myself wanting to seek out different entertainment choices.  Hopefully things will pick up now that Kilgrave (David Tennant) is finally showing his face.  I hope that Tennant chews this show all to pieces.


As always, thanks for reading.  I’ll be giving my review of Jessica Jones soon enough.  From there I’ll hit Luke Cage and Iron Fist.  By the time I’m done with them, The Defenders should be almost available.


The Gang’s All Here

The Funny End Of The MCU Spectrum

While everyone seems to be caught up in all of the wonder that is the upcoming Wonder Woman film (I can’t wait to see it myself!), I’m still over here in Louisiana trying to play catch up with everything from Netflix to the MCU.  Marvel’s latest entry on the big screen, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, was highly anticipated and rightfully so.

Marvel has released a seemingly unstoppable string of successful films that range from great (Captain America:  The Winter Soldier) to middling (Thor) to downright terrible (Iron Man 3).  Phase Two of the MCU introduced stand alone films for characters that aren’t as familiar outside of comic book pages with names like Ant-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy.


The first Guardians film was a hit.  It was full of humor, action, and featured a likeable cast.  As with almost every other MCU film, though, it featured a rather dull villain (Ronan) and despite being extremely cool and fun to watch, it didn’t have much depth to it in the long run.

GOTG, Vol. 2 makes up for the villain this time around, but comes across as being even more shallow than its predecessor.



Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) Ph: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2017

The film reunites Chris Pratt (Star Lord) and company for another galaxy saving adventure.  The Guardians are hired by the Sovereign race and their leader, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), to stop a creature that is trying to take batteries (the very powerful, very valuable variety of batteries) from their supply.  After successfully taking out the creature, they receive payment in the form of Nebula (Karen Gillan).  Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) liberates some of the batteries for himself as well, and when the Sovereign find out, they send out an attack force of drones to stop the Guardians.


Luckily for the Guardians, Ego (Kurt Russell) shows up and wipes out all of the drones (but not before the Sovereign do some heavy damage to the Milano).  He then takes Star Lord, Drax (Dave Bautista), and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to his home planet (which happens to be HIM) in order to show his son what he’s been missing over the years.  Along for the ride is Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empath who helps Ego sleep at night because of the difficulties of being a powerful Celestial.   Rocket and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) stay with the ship to repair it and keep an eye on Nebula.


Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 L to R: Rocket (Voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel) Ph: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2017

Rocket and Groot run into problems with a group of ravagers lead by Yondu (Michael Rooker), who has been hired by Ayesha to capture the Guardians.  After successfully capturing Rocket and Groot, Yondu’s men turn on him when he decides to look the other way when Star Lord is brought up.  This leads to mutiny, and Yondu finds himself imprisoned with Groot.


Nebula sets out to find Gamora and have her revenge, but they find the bodies of Ego’s other children that he hoped to combine powers with in order to trigger his “seedlings” that he planted in his travels that would literally take over other worlds and spread his singularity across the galaxy.  None of these children had the power of the Celestials like Star Lord and were terminated by Ego.

This is where Yondu really comes into play in the story.  Michael Rooker chewed up the scenery in the first GOTG film, and does even more of that this time around.  It’s revealed during the movie that Ego hired Yondu to collect and bring the children to Ego’s planet.  When Yondu finds out that Ego murders the children whenever they don’t stack up to his expectations, he takes the child he currently has in tow, Peter Quill, and protects him from the slaughtering Ego.  When other Ravagers find out that Yondu has been trafficking children (a big no-no), he and his men are shunned.


Mantis, who has become fast friends with Drax, reveals Ego’s plan to him.  They join up with Gamora, Nebula, Yondu, Rocket, and Groot in order to convince Star Lord that what Ego is doing is evil and they prevent the duo from joining forces to completely take over the galaxy.  This angers Ego, and he attacks the group as a planet and Star Lord as the human Ego.

An epic battle ensues that includes multiple 80’s references, Baby Groot detonating a bomb that destroys a planet,  and Star Lord realizes that while Ego might be his father, Yondu is truly his daddy.


Of course, no epic battle occurs without sacrifices, and Yondu gives his own life in order to save Star Lord.  I have a major problem with this moment in the film, but I’ll address that later.  Once Ego is destroyed and balance is restored to the galaxy, a funeral is held for Yondu.  During the funeral, the Ravagers that shunned him and his men earlier show up and give him a proper send off.  They realize that Yondu is much more honorable than they ever believed him to be.

Then the credits roll.  We see a teen-aged Groot doing teen-aged things, there’s dancing in the credits, Sly Stallone (who portrays Ravager Stakar in the film) joins up with some old pals, and we see a cocoon holding Ayesha’s newest weapon against the Guardians.  She calls it “Adam,” which is an obvious reference to Adam Warlock.  Hopefully we’ll see him in the already announced Volume 3.


Sure, the film was fun to watch, but it seemed like director/writer James Gunn didn’t really know what to do with most of the characters this time around.  Drax, while still a powerful warrior, was basically reduced to comic relief.  Everything that he did in the film was used for laughs.  The same could be said for Rocket and Groot.  Gamora was still  fighting her sister (and Karen Gillan definitely improved her performance this time around), but other than the pair deciding to join up together to help fight Ego, there was no real character development.  Heck, even Star Lord remained basically the same.

The only character that had any real development was Yondu, and he was killed off in the final minutes of the movie, which brings me to my biggest gripe about this film:

Why did Yondu have to die?????

Peter Quill was fresh from a fight with his Celestial father who just showed him how to use his powers.  Quill literally created a giant Pac-Man out of nothing to battle Ego, yet he couldn’t scrounge up enough juice to make a space suit for his “daddy” to slip on until the rest of the Guardians caught up to them????  You could argue that he was tired from the battle, but he could have at least whipped up a breathing mask for Yondu.

In Summary

Like I said, the film was very enjoyable to watch, but it’s basically more of the same from the first film but with a better villain (Kurt Russell was born to play a character named Ego).  It’s definitely not one of my favorite MCU flicks, but it’s still better than Captain America:  Civil War and Avengers:  Age of Ultron.  The special effects were excellent and the fight sequences were pretty cool overall.

I’ll buy it on Blu-ray when it hits the shelves like I always do and watch it for the laughs, but this film could have been much better.

As always, thanks for reading.  I know that a few people probably disagree with me about this film, so let me know why you disagree with me in the comments.