I find myself in a bit of an odd space right now. For 1978 I’m looking at Superman, a film that, although not an original property, is a game changer in the worlds of both film and comics. I knew I couldn’t write about this movie without asking my good friend, Don Sparrow, who lives and breathes Superman to imput his 2 cents (stay tuned I will post his following this one). I also knew, that nothing I had to say wouldn’t compare to what Don had to say or be something that hasn’t been said a thousand times. On the other hand, just like many other fans, just spent my weekend binge watching Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. I wanted to right about that, but again, Di not want to tread over the same ground every other treader is treading over. So, I had a thought. Why not compare the two, and speak about what connects me to the characters, the storytelling, and how both are shining examples of what I love from the books. Maybe I’ll do something unique. Warning spoilers ahead.
Now, in many ways Superman and Daredevil could not be more different properties. One shows his face, flying through the sky, fighting in broad daylight, the other sticks to the veil of night, fighting his foes in alleyways, with a mask and shadows hiding his face. But in other ways, they both believe the same thing, and fight the same fight. Hoping that the innocent will be safe and free, and that the wicked and criminal will find justice. The mediums are quite different too. Superman is a 2 hour movie from the 70’s quite limited in the time they had to tell a story, and limited in the technology they had to make it seem real. Daredevil is a tv show that had 13 hours to tell its story, and a slew of people watching it from the comfort of their own home. But both hit it right on the mark. Great storytelling, great characters, great actors. In Superman, “You will believe a man can fly”. In Daredevil, you will believe a blind man can see you and kick the crap out of you for everything you did wrong.
Superman is the original superhero. He was the first on the scene, and deserved to be the first on film. But could it be done right. Could Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve take a character that had only been seen in mediums aimed at children and make the world take him seriously? It was a difficult task, but they came through. Reeve perfectly embodies both sides of a character that I love. When I first see him as Clark Kent, I wonder how he can convince me that he is Superman. When he is Superman, I am wondering how he convinced me he was Clark Kent. Most importantly, he makes me believe that he can make others believe the deception. And he is pure good. That is not something that I believe in anyone, but something I believe here.
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock does the same thing. Not quite as powerfully as Reeve, but still quite well. Like Superman’s real identity IS Clark Kent, Daredevil’s real identity IS Matt Murdock. And that’s where the focus is, on the Matt side. But unlike Superman, Matt struggles a lot more with what he believes he needs to do to right the wrongs of others. But Charlie Cox makes me believe this too. He makes me question the same things he is questioning. And I feel for him as receives the beating that Superman never receives. I care for his well-being, I care for his relationships, and, just like the end of Superman, I wonder how our hero can possibly save the day. Big difference, and spoiler, Daredevil isn’t able to fly around the world and change time. I really feel the deaths in both features, but only in Superman do I find that the characters I am saying “can’t be dead, they can’t be dead. No… They CAN’T be dead!!!” being saved. In DD, deaths stick, and death sucks.
Karen Paige and Lois Lane are both intelligent, strong and intrepid woman. I would not to want to be on the bad side of either of these women. They are forces to be reckoned with. Both have their lives saved by the hero, and work with their mild-mannered counterparts. Karen works for a large part of the show alongside Ben Urich, and shows that she definitly has what it takes to become a very successful investigative reporter/thorn in Fisk’s side. Big difference, Karen has a long way to go before she is Lois Lane. While, both woman. She makes mistakes and crosses lines that Lois never would. Daredevil had a much darker tone than Superman, and in it we see some darker deeds by the villains and even more brutal tactics by Daredevil, but Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen has a desperatly in her that forces her to do things that Margot Kidder’s Lois never would, or would at least be smarter about handling. Despite their strength and determination, there is also a believable joyfulness. In Lois, I see this on the rooftop with Superman. In Karen, I see this as she gets to know Foggy Nelson. This is something that is sometimes lost in strong women, such as Agent Carter or The Black Widow from the other marvel shows. It is nice to see our heroes and heroines have a fun side.
Foggy is a huge part of DD that doesn’t really have a counterpart in Superman. Some might jump up and say, “umm, what about Jimmy Olsen” but no, they are not the same. We see Elden Hensen play Foggy in what may be the first time we see Foggy in a prominent (and hilarious) role in a DD story, not as a just a friend or just a partner, but as an equal. We see them get to know each other and start to build a practice. And when Matt is off in the dark, or in bed healing, Foggy is hard at work fighting the good fight in his own way. Jimmy will never be Superman’s equal. A great character, but never his equal especially in the film. If one thing were to be changed about Superman, it would be to give Jimmy a larger role.
Last but certainly not least we have the villians. Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. Both have riches but came from rags, both killed their fathers, and both would have gotten away with their schemes if it hadn’t been for those meddling Do-gooders. I have to say that Gene Hackman portrays a great Lex Luthor. Maniacal, mischievous, conniving. And he was what Luthor was in the comics at the time. But I am glad that times have changed. The villain we see in Wilson Fisk may be one of the most convincing portrayals I have ever seen. I am haunted by him. Hours after watching, scenes of his rage juxtapose scenes of his nervousness over a women in my head on repeat. It is a rare treat to see someone so convincing in a role. But that is the advantage that tv has over film. Although, I find most tv these days, with some exception, is three or four great hours of tv and 18 of filler. I think this could have been equally great had Lex Luthor been the character in question, but instead it was Wilson Fisk.
I don’t want to get into much detail so soon after it has been released, so all I can say is this. Daredevil hits every stride solidly. In my opinion it is the best thing that marvel has done. Now that I’ve seen it done right I wonder, how did I ever think some of that other stuff was good before this. Unlike Superman, where I watch it and wonder, how have we not achieved better. With 40 years of technological advancement, technical achievement and more inspiration from the books, how did they get it so good the first time.
I think the answers lie in how we ask the question. Should we be aiming to make something better? Or, like Daredevil, should we be trying to make something different. Better in some ways, less so in others. Should we be attempting to one up the last thing we do, or should we be trying new things, looking at different avenues of storytelling. Both Superman and Daredevil are great pieces of work. Examples of excellence, in casting and acting(I didn’t even get to Marlon Brando) or choreography (the fighting in DD is exquisite) and simply great storytelling. But both are different beasts and while it is easy to ask which is better, a bear or a gorilla, we shouldn’t have to, we should just be thankful we live in a world that has both and recognize each for their beauty.
Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t yet, go check out Daredevil!
Images from https://pmctvline2.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/daredevil-poster.jpg?w=620&h=954, http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130811045210/injusticegodsamongus/images/b/b1/Superman_(Christopher_Reeve).jpg, https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/350_blf104-08020r.jpg?w=670, https://dreager1.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/cmsupdd.jpg, http://reelwest.com/sites/default/files/uploads/margot-kidder-lois-lane.jpg