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‘Daredevil’ avoids the excesses of its genre

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Like superheroes? Well, it’s a good thing because over the next few months we’ll be seeing ...

(Take a deep breath)

Ant-Man, Thor, The Human Torch, Hawkeye, The Thing, The Hulk, Mr. Fantastic, Black Widow, Iron Man, Invisible Woman, Captain America, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and something called The Vision.

And, sight unseen, it’s a good bet all of them could learn from the fellow who popped up on Netflix last Friday with 13 instant episodes: “Daredevil.”

Chances are all the aforementioned heroes will arrive in brightly colored, tight-fitting outfits that show off their muscle-bound physiques. They’ll come flying in on super-duper invisible sky fortresses or some such nonsense. They’ll trade comic quips in the face of mortal danger and they’ll engage in city-crumbling mega-battles against mega-super-ultra villains.

They will inevitably do this to Save The World From Annihilation.

All of this may even be well done and kind of fun to watch. For a while. But the high-pitched shrieking tone of superhero movies — and yes, we’re looking at you, Marvel, although recent Superman and Batman movies were just as relentless — has become something of a repetitive, numbing cumulative cultural exercise in bone-rattling overkill.

Enter “Daredevil,” a timely argument for less is more.

First off, he’s basically just a guy. Thanks to a freak accident in his youth, he’s blind, but has a sort of radar sense and heightened hearing, etc. He’s a highly trained fighter, but he regularly takes his lumps. Shoot him and he will bleed.

For most of the first season he doesn’t even have an outfit. He just dresses in black, with a scarf pulled down over his face. Talk about low budget.

Then there’s his body. He’s in good shape. But he doesn’t sport some steroid-induced gym bunny physique that looks like it needs to be inflated by a bicycle pump every morning. He’s just in good shape.

And who does he do battle with? Criminal aliens from the Liptor galaxy who want to enslave mankind? Gargantuan robots from another dimension who want all our water? A demented genius who’s discovered how to turn breakfast cereals into tiny nuclear bombs?

Uh, no. His sworn enemy is a bad guy. A thoroughly twisted bad guy, played deliciously by Vincent D’Onofrio, but pretty much your basic successful mobster. Again, shoot him and he bleeds.

As played by Charlie Cox, Daredevil is unavoidably human. He gets beat up. He’s not completely sure of what he’s doing. He’s a street-level superhero, basically akin to your old-fashioned white-hat cowboy in a western.

And as such he’s more than a bit of a relief.

“Daredevil” is hardly transcendent television. It adheres closely to its comic book roots, both visually and dramatically. It’s very well done, but not groundbreaking.

But it pulls the superhero genre back from the cliffs-of-insanity special effects brinkmanship wars that seem to have taken over. It shows things can be toned down a bit and actually be more effective, more human.

Ultimately, it makes you wish more superheroes were less super and more heroic.