Friday, April 17, 2015

Netflix and Marvel are onto something big


Ah, the joys of going on a binge of your favorite television show, web series, or series of films. It's become quite the enjoyable misuse of our time--whether you re-watch a series you loved or are, like me, trying to get out from under the rock you lived for a period of time (I missed out on The Wire and Breaking Bad while they were running, but have since become a huge fan of both), there's going to be something out there for you...and it keeps getting better.

With the recent release of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix, the comic book giant has taken the success of their film franchises and turned out an incredibly good product that is clearly going to be the future of television in general, and the future of comic book characters specifically.

The obvious difference between a feature film and a web series is the amount of time that can be taken to tell a story. Although a typical story arc is about three movies in length, it comes out to only about six hours worth of time, and each film needs to tell an origin story quickly and move on. Marvel's foray into Netflix means we're going to get twice as much story in one season than we would in a series of films. Of course, I'm talking about the individual franchises and not what Marvel has done with their Cinematic Universe leading into The Avengers and being able to take them as a whole.

The thirteen hours of Daredevil are not slow, boring, or tedious. Each minute of the series is intriguing and engaging, even if you are not familiar with the character. Yet, even if you are familiar with Matt Murdock/Daredevil, you'll still be engaged and ready to see just how they handle "The Man Without Fear." Marvel has done a great job of balancing a slow burn and action to not lose the viewer. Remember how Smallville took ten years to get anything going and then fizzled out? That's not happening with Daredevil. You won't have to wait forever for him to kiss the girl or don the costume, but there won't be instant gratification, either.

It's a well-cast show, headlined by Charlie Cox as Daredevil, but Vincent D'Onofrio's turn at Wilson Fisk/Kingpin is every bit as important. And if there's one thing that D'Onofrio can do well, it's play an imposing man with deceptive speed and strength, while Cox does well as the compassionate lawyer-yet-vigilante. As is often the case, the good guy and bad guy are more alike than either would care to admit--the rage that Fisk and Murdock/Daredevil uses for the good of Hell's Kitchen is interestingly juxtaposed. Both men love their city, act outside of the law, and will use violence to create the "ideal" society in Hell's Kitchen. Oh, the things we do for love.

Marvel and Netflix have also announced future series that will focus on Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and the Defenders. After seeing just one season of Daredevil, it is clear that the team-up of Marvel and Netflix is onto something big.

Although Daredevil could--perhaps should--be brought back to the big screen, he fits in well on the small screen, too. Characters like Luke Cage and Iron Fist may not do well at the box office if released in theaters as stand-alones, but with Marvel having the opportunity to use these characters in the MCU, they can still hit the big screen without needing their own feature films. By appearing, or even just being referenced, in both venues, this is truly going to feel like the real-life version of the universe created by Stan Lee and every other legend at Marvel Comics.

With Daredevil already in hand, and the others mentioned above, Marvel also has other characters that could prove to be more successful as web series than in theaters. The Punisher is the first that comes to mind. It's been through a few iterations, none of them have been very good, and it's hard to believe that they would take another crack at another theatrical release. However, he is a character that would fit in pretty well with the rest of the gang in Hell's Kitchen. Dark, violent-yet-noble, and he's often been at odds with Daredevil even though both are fighting Kingpin. I can feel the cross-over already.

The bottom line is that the comic book genre isn't leaving theaters any time soon, and it's just starting to heat up on our televisions. With Netflix and a show like House of Cards already at the forefront of webivision, get ready for them to make an even bigger splash with Marvel. And for nerds like me, this is going to be one hell of a ride.

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