There’s something delightfully nostalgic about watching a gratuitous fight scene to Bonnie Tyler’s 1984 hit ‘Holding out for a Hero‘ or a tense dance off between two groups of super humans to Kenny Loggins’s foot-tapping ‘Footloose‘ (both coincidentally recorded for the soundtrack to the film Footloose). The 1980s blessed pop culture with a colourful variety of both music and film, and aside from the fashion and various Pepsi and Coke ads, this vibrant synergy of music and film has become synonymous with the decade. Ever since films such as Footloose, cinema has continued to pepper soundtracks with the most popular 80s hits. But why has this tradition continued for so long in cinema? And why have films always gone back to 80s music rather than use the most popular contemporary music? The answers to these questions can be gained from a delightful excursion through the history of pop music in film.
The pop musical energy of the 1980s is most often captured in fun, fast-paced flicks which don’t take themselves too seriously. A prime example that has excelled at using a retro soundtrack to capture this energy is the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Granted, not all of the songs in those films are of the ‘80s, but it seems overlaying a tense fight scene with some retro beats was the perfect way to capture the comical, vivacious energy of happy-go-lucky superhero characters. Even more mature superhero content such as The Boys and The Umbrella Academy series has used ‘80s pop music in some scenes to capture it’s hyper violent and sexual energy. What better way to capture this energy with music from a time where the world was more carefree and fun loving? ‘80s rock has trickled its way into Romcoms, coming-of-age films, and even horror. From 1999’s 10 Things I hate about You using Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation to incite title character Kat’s rebellious nature, to comedy horror Zombieland opening with a montage of zombie antics to Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, ‘80s rock seems to boost a film’s sense of chaotic fun. It ensures an audience knows a film doesn’t take itself too seriously in all the right ways.
Why do films use ‘80s music specifically? Pop music from the 60s and 70s is also often used in film, but they don’t quite capture the same vibe. 60s music in film tends to be used for more pure, cathartic energy with that raw guitar-bass-drum sound. Ironically one of the best examples is The Beatles’ Twist and Shout in the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which Ferris gets a whole parade dancing to the sound of Paul, John, George and Ringo. The energetic yet edgy rock of the 70s however tends to be used to make gratuitous scenes more enjoyable. Take Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1973 rock song Free Bird in 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, which perfectly captures the slick yet violent energy of Colin Firth murdering a group of brainwashed Church goers. The increasing use of synthesisers and electrical experimentation with classic rock instruments in the 80s provided film soundtracks with the foot-tapping, cathartic energy of the 60s, but also the enjoyable edginess of the 70s. It seems therefore that 80s music effectively merges these two vibes together. Even the vast diversity of 90s music means it tends to capture different vibes in film. Known best for its cheesy Britney Spears, edgy Nirvana rock, or hard-hitting gangster rap, all of which have their own unique effect in film, but don’t quite match the colourful vibrancy of the 80s. As for the modern day, it’s difficult to imagine the music of Drake, Beyoncé or the Weekend to have the same colourfully nostalgic effect as Kenny Loggins, TOTO or Bon Jovi.
Thanks to modern day film and TV, the 1980s have come to be appreciated by a younger audience who aren’t quite old enough to have experienced the decade first hand. Given the huge revival in popularity of songs such as Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill thanks to Stranger Things (which saw a staggering 9,900% streaming boost on Spotify) and Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine thanks to Thor: Love and Thunder, love of the ‘80s shows no signs of stopping. Who would have thought a decade could invoke such a unique sense of nostalgia for those that hadn’t even experienced it first time around? The ‘80s were a wonderfully simpler time with the coolest gadgets, cheesiest special effects, no internet spoilers, and enough funky synth tunes to keep Kevin Bacon dancing for decades to come.
With the news that Marvel have all but officially confirmed that a new series of Daredevil is on the way, I am nothing short of thrilled, not at all surprised, and only a little bit wary. According to Variety.com, NBC drama writers Matt Corman and Chris Ord are set to write and executive produce a new Daredevil series for Disney plus. Reps for Marvel and both Corman and Ord have yet to comment, making this news an ‘unofficial’ announcement. However, with the previous news that a Daredevil reboot was listed as an upcoming project in Production Weekly, and given the appearances of Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in mainstream MCU projects, the news comes as little surprise.
Given the grand, cinematic finale to 10 years of films that was Avengers: Endgame, it seems Marvel are going in new directions as they attempt to keep their golden MCU goose afloat. For the most part, these new directions have paid off. The more visceral, psychological tone of the Moon Knight series, and the darker, much more violent nature of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been something which I and other fans alike have substantially appreciated. Topped with the fact all of Marvel’s darker, grittier Netflixshows have moved over to Disney plus, there is indication that Marvel is looking to focus on some more gritty, street-level stories and characters. Creating a new Daredevil series would certainly benefit the MCU in this way. Amongst Marvel’s street-level vigilantes, Daredevilcertainly ranks as one of their most popular. It would be interesting to see some real vigilantism and crime occurring in the MCU, which would provide refreshing respite from all the cosmic multiverse madness. This would help to ground the MCU in reality much more, and give it an edge which many argue it has been lacking in recent years.
Netflix’s Daredevil series is possibly one of the best things Marvel has produced in recent years, and it wasn’t even truly acknowledged by the wider MCU until recently. As previously mentioned, the biggest allusion to more Daredevilcontent was the appearance of its two key players in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Hawkeye, but the second biggest was Marvel’s announcement of an Echo Disney plus series. Echo/Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) appeared in Hawkeye as an antagonist; the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia, overseen by D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. Echo made her first comic book appearance in David Mack’s Daredevil: Parts of a Hole in which her alter ego, Maya, falls in love with Matt Murdock, but Echo has a blood lust for Daredevil. Much of the plot involving Echo and Kingpin in Hawkeye was directly inspired by this storyline, from their uneasy father-daughter relationship to the ambiguous ending of the Kingpin’s fate at Echo’s hand. The fact that much of Hawkeye was inspired by a Daredevilcomic, introducing two key players in Daredevil’s world, it wouldn’t surprise me if Charlie Cox made his first official MCU appearance as the Man Without Fear in the Echo series. Perhaps this would lead on to explore his relationship with Echo in the series, or in any future Daredevil content. Furthermore, given that in Parts of a Hole Kingpin survives the assassination attempt on his life at Echo’s hand, I can only hope they follow they same route in future MCU projects and give us the portentous reunion between Daredevil and Kingpin.
As excited as I am at the potential for more content of my favourite Marvel character, I can’t help but be wary of how Marvel will go about producing said content. Whilst I have thoroughly enjoyed Marvel’s recent exploration into darker tones, I still feel as if they are clinging on to that comical, light-hearted MCU formula which is what has kept general audiences coming back. For example, I appreciated Moon Knight‘s acknowledgement of darker themes such as mental disorders, childhood trauma and abuse, as well as an ominous-themed vigilante who isn’t afraid to get his hands bloody. However, this was constantly counter-balanced with light-heartedness and humour, giving me the impression Marvel were afraid to go all out, dark, ‘Netflix-level’ of grit with it’s story. Now, I am not saying this is bad thing – I loved Moon Knight’s bumbling, British alter ego Steven Grant, and generally the MCU’s trademark humour always brings some enjoyment. However, what made Netflix’s Daredevil series so good was the fact it was able to fully embrace the darker, bloodier tone of its comic book roots. It wasn’t afraid to show us how far Daredevil or Wilson Fisk are willing to go to ‘protect’ their city from each other. So, given that this potential new Daredevil series will be officially part of the MCU, the concern lies in the fact Marvel may make it too light-hearted for it’s own good. There is essentially no humour at all in the Netflix series, and if Marvel decide to coat it’s new Daredevil series in the MCU’s trademark light-heartedness and humour, fans won’t be too pleased.
One thing I would like to see from an official MCU-connected Daredevil series is how the events of the films have affected the lives of the characters. Perhaps Kingpin regained his power in New York as a result of the blip? Perhaps even where the characters were when Thanos’ infamous snap happens. I’ve always pictured Matt, Karen and Foggy together; Foggy and Karen disappear and because Matt is blind he cannot comprehend what has just happened. He doesn’t hear any heartbeat or breathing, just nothing. This would provide us with yet another scene of characters getting dusted, which would interconnect the MCU even more to show that even the Netflix characters couldn’t escape the snap. The Netflix series left the potential for a fourth season with antagonist Poindexter (aka Bullseye) awakening from surgery after being paralysed by Fisk. I would love to see Wilson Bethel reprise his role as one of Daredevil’s most recurring antagonists, but knowing the MCU, they’d probably recreate Bullseye’s iconic blue and white suit from the comics. This would be interesting if they provided appropriate context rather than making it a way of forcing representation from the comics (like Colin Farrell’s corny tattoo of a bullseye on his forehead in the 2003 Daredevil movie!). Somehow I find it unlikely a new Daredevil series will quite match the level of violence and grit of the Netflix series, but I have faith Marvel will respect the character’s comic book roots and provide us with a new story to sink our teeth into. At the very least, this new series will hopefully have a darker tone than most of the wider MCU. Here’s to the MCU’s dark and violent future!
When I first heard Sam Raimi would be directing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, my first thought was – yes, he is exactly what the MCU needs. I knew we would be in for something substantially different to anything we’ve experienced so far in the MCU. Raimi’s history in both the superhero and horror genres made him more than qualified to helm what is quite possibly the MCU’s darkest and maddest film yet. His ability to maintain the integrity and grandeur of superheroism in his golden Spider-Man trilogy whilst incorporating elements of his horror roots set expectations for Multiverse of Madness to be one of the least MCU-esque films in all the right ways. Taking the reins on a story about one of Marvel’s most unique and mystical characters somehow seemed fit for the director, not to mention how the comic source material pushes the physical boundaries of the Marvel universe. So, was Multiverse of Madness the rollercoaster ride through the Marvel universe(s) it was expected to be? Let’s just say the rollercoaster took an ominous detour through the haunted house.
In Multiverse of Madness, Benedict Cumberbatch reprises his role as the (ex) Sorcerer Supreme for what seems like the umpteenth time, yet this being only his second solo outing. Cumberbatch maintains the appealing charisma of Stephen Strange, yet shows despite all his power how much of a flawed character he is. He always seems one finger lift away from causing diabolical consequences in the name of the greater good. To me, this has always has made Cumberbatch to Strange what Robert Downey Junior was to Iron Man, and something that Marvel always excels at; giving us flawed but likeable characters. Strange crosses paths with America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager with the ability to punch holes through the multiverse, and attempts to protect her from demonic forces looking to steal her power. MCU regulars Benedict Wong and Elizabeth Olsen also join the cast as Wong and Wanda/Scarlett Witch respectively, in addition to some returning faces we haven’t seen since the first Doctor Strange.
Strange’s relationship with Chavez is somewhere between friendship and mentor-mentee, providing a majority of the quippy MCU humour in the film we’ve become so accustomed to. They also bring some heart in the right moments, and their backstories are unexpectedly similar in interesting ways. Wong maintains his status as an underrated Marvel favourite of mine, his chemistry with Strange proving yet again to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film. It was also nice to see Rachel McAdams back as Strange’s periodic love interest Christine. The film provides us with a little more depth into their relationship and shows us how much Christine still means to Strange despite his new life as the world’s most powerful wizard. However, the real highlight of the cast in Multiverse of Madness was Olsen’s performance as the Scarlett Witch. Whilst providing us with a sympathetic plight, she delivers a new, edgy side to the character we have so far only had hints at. Without revealing the details of said plight, she shows us how far someone is willing to go in the name of love.
One of the main attractions of this rollercoaster ride is the visuals. Multiverse of Madness is possibly one of the most visually experimental films of the MCU. The visual atmosphere sells the otherworldly feel very effectively, reminiscent of Steve Ditko’s original illustrations of Strange’s world in the comics. The film plunges you through the multiverse with a plethora of colours and textures disassembled and assembled in different combinations; illustrating that when it comes to the multiverse, anything is possible. The visuals also display how truly powerful Strange and Wanda are, showing the full extent of what kind of house-of-mirrors tricks they have up their sleeves. I often see a lot of complaints about Marvel films being overly reliant on CGI. Whilst I can understand not everyone is keen on a substantial amount of CGI in films, to me, Marvel films have boasted some of the most impressive visual effects in the last decade, and Multiverse of Madness is no exception. The only effective way to stay true to the colourful, visual story-telling of the comics is to utilise modern technology. Make the most of CGI to express the scale of these stories as if they were real, and create an other-worldly feeling of escapism which is exactly what made the comics so popular in the first place.
As if the unique visuals weren’t enough, Multiverse of Madness also has one of the darkest atmospheres in the MCU’s history. As previously mentioned, the film illustrates how truly powerful Strange and Wanda are, and the film stretches its 12A rating to show us how far they’re willing to divulge in darker magic. The film is undoubtedly the closest thing we’ve had to a Marvel horror film since the Blade movies of the late 90s and early 2000s (except perhaps the recent Morbius). As the film progresses, you can see more and more of Sam Raimi’s sprinkles of horror and the supernatural. From unique cinematography to striking visuals, the film boasts some genuinely unsettling sequences in all the right ways. Be forewarned, the violence in the film is almost akin to fully adult-rated superhero content like Amazon Prime’s The Boys or Invincible. Anything in the superhero genre which isn’t afraid to go all out with the level of violence is something I always appreciate. It shows us how powerful the characters truly are beyond their conventional family friendly settings. The dark atmosphere of the film is only elevated by Danny Elfman’s hair-raising musical score, and I don’t think anyone else could’ve possibly been a better fit to score the film. Elfman’s signature supernatural style is very prominent here, using strings and choir to show of the film’s comic book grandeur whilst maintaining it’s frightening atmosphere. I was particularly impressed by some of the musical cues, with some high-pitched string sound effects elevating jump scares (yes, this film has jump scares) which almost reminded me of the Insidious films. If I’m comparing an MCU film to quite possibly one of the scariest horror movie franchises in recent years, you know you’re in for something special.
Whilst Multiverse of Madness was a thoroughly enjoyable film, I will acknowledge that it won’t be for everyone. Being the first MCU film after the cameo-filled phenomenon that was Spider-Man: No Way Home, I think Multiverse of Madness has become a victim of overhype. During the months leading up to its release, the internet was bubbling with fan-theories and rumours about the film’s cast and plot, and many came to believe it would top No Way Home with it’s level of cameos and crossovers. Whilst the film has it’s fair share of surprises, I couldn’t help but feel like it certainly would’ve left many fans wanting more. Personally, the fact that it may have been a little overhyped didn’t affect my enjoyment. It deconstructs the superhero genre and shows how much Sam Raimi excels as a director. It shows us that the multiverse isn’t about breathtaking cameos and plot twists, it plays with the idea that somewhere, somehow, there is a universe where we’re ‘happier’. Perhaps somewhere where things have worked out for the better, somewhere where we’re living out our ideal lives. So, the film asks; at what cost? This fundamental question gave the film a level of depth I was pleasantly surprised by.
The dark themes of Multiverse of Madness gave me the impression Marvel are experimenting with different genres; testing the waters to see how audiences react to a horror-themed MCU film. This is undoubtedly a good thing, as I’ve also seen complaints about the MCU becoming rather formulaic and substantially reliant on it’s humour. Multiverse of Madness has very little humour. It is a dark film which takes the MCU to places it hasn’t ventured before, and whilst it may not be the cameo-filled phenomenon that fans hoped it to be, it proves that after so many years Marvel are still willing to keep their franchise fresh and find new ways to make it appealing.
Vampires have always been one of the most intriguing aspects of supernatural fiction. Ever since Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, vampires have been one of the foremost aspects of the horror genre. With the rise of superhero comics in the 1960s and 70s, it wasn’t long before the wizards at Marvel created a character which crossed the superhero and vampiric genres together. Enter Morbius: The Living Vampire, who made his first appearance as a Spider-man villain in 1971’s The Amazing Spider-Man #101. The idea of a scientist turning himself into a monster in an attempt to better himself isn’t unfamiliar in fiction, but the character of Michael Morbius places an interesting twist on this. To have Dr Michael Morbius turn himself into a vampiric superhuman attempting to cure a rare blood disease creates an ironic twist which blends the superhero genre with the supernatural. The new Morbius film directed by Daniel Espinosa retells the story of this tragic anti-hero, and whilst it may be not be perfect, it is a unique addition to the plethora of comic book films.
Morbius follows Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a Nobel prize-winning scientist with a seemingly incurable blood disease which is slowly killing him. In a ditch effort to find a cure, he experiments with bat DNA which leads him to turn himself into a vampiric monster who cannot function without consuming blood. What I enjoyed most about the film was it’s dark, supernatural flavour, which sets it apart from any other Marvel film. In a world where we have a Marvel Cinematic Universe made up of big-budget, family friendly flicks, it was nice to see Marvel do something a little different. From what I’ve read of the original comics, it seems the film was relatively close to the source material in terms of the character’s origins. Michael’s first transformation happens on a ship, as in the comics. He becomes the monster and hunts a group pf unsuspecting mercenaries in what is almost a tense, horror-esque action sequence. Whilst the slow-mo moments in the action sequences were rather slick, the action was generally very shaky and too fast paced to the point where you can’t tell what’s going on. In fact, this almost made me think they only added slow-mo moments so you could tell what was going on!
In terms of its story, Morbius has both pros and cons. In the film, he is a sympathetic figure; you understand why he goes to the lengths to save himself, and you can tell he is a genuinely good man trying to do right by himself and others. He doesn’t want this vampiric curse because of the harm it could cause others, yet he struggles to fight the need to consume human blood. This is exactly what Morbius is about; the classic battle between morality and animalistic nature. That said, it would’ve been good to see more of this conflict between man and beast. As I said, the film makes it clear Michael is a good man, but not much else. We don’t see him kill anyone he wasn’t supposed to, or cause any harm to any loved ones. In fact, he seems to gain control over his condition relatively quickly. In the comics, he is constantly battling the urge to consume human blood, even from those he cares about. Whenever he does, he is in anguish at his actions, condemning himself as a dirty, corrupt soul. Unfortunately we don’t see much of this in the film, as the story focuses more on his conflict with his surrogate brother Milo (Matt Smith). It almost seems that they translated the man/beast conflict between Morbius and Milo, rather than have it be within Morbius himself. Milo is afflicted with the same blood disease as Michael, and when Milo uses the same treatment as Michael, he embraces his lust for blood and new-found superpowers after a life of disability. Matt Smith’s performance as Milo was possibly the most enjoyable aspect of the film, giving a convincingly sympathetic performance as the villain who, unlike Morbius, embraces his vampiric side. Other supporting characters include Michael’s girlfriend Martine, portrayed by Adria Arjona, who provides Michael with the ‘moral compass’ throughout the film, and Jared Harris Dr. Emil Nicholas, Michael and Milo’s father figure. Martine and Dr. Emil aren’t the most memorable of side characters, but they provide us with external observers of Michael and Milo’s predicament, and remind us of the moral ambiguity of their actions.
Morbius is far from a perfect film. The action sequences are choppy, the characters aren’t quite developed as they should be, and the post credit scenes feel like Sony attempting to grasp at straws to connect Morbius with the wider Marvel universe. However, as a stand-alone Marvel film about a character with a sympathetic predicament and supernatural abilities, there is still some enjoyment to be had. This is quite possibly the first Marvel film to verge on the supernatural since the Blade trilogy of the late 90s and early 2000s. This is what sets it apart from other Marvel films. It’s dark, gritty atmosphere and unique supernatural twist on the superhero genre provides a refreshing change to the typical superhero formula we are all too familiar with. The character has had a rough ride through comic history, going through many changes of writers and some periods where it seemed the character was left to lie dormant. As such, it was nice to see such an intriguing character have a shot at a live action feature film, even if it wasn’t quite what fans had hoped for. Hopefully, Sony will listen more to the wishes of fans in future, and give us more of the character’s anti-heroic nature which made him so iconic in the comics.
It’s the early 1960s. The Marvel comics industry has already produced a colourful variety of iconic characters such as Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and Spider-Man, still within the first few years of their creation. Then one day, comic legends Stan Lee, Bill Everett and Jack Kirby decide – “Hey, what if we created a disabled superhero?”. This superhero’s disability would be that he is blind, but his big compensation for this is the fact that his four other senses are heightened to super-human level. Not only that, but his every day alter-ego is a lawyer named Matthew Murdock who fights crime using the legal system. This is juxtaposed to the fact he is a vigilante at night who catches criminals who slip their way through the legal system; because sometimes the law just isn’t enough. This is a man who pushes away his loved ones as he attempts to balance these two lifestyles, a man whose religious faith is ironically reflected by the fact he beats up criminals dressed as the devil. A man with the heroism of Spider-man and the emotional complexity and darkness of Batman. A man who attempts to lift Hell’s Kitchen from its criminal damnation by working both sides of the law. A man who faces loss, abandonment, trauma, and constantly struggles with his identity whilst still defending his city. A man, without fear.
To me, all these things are what make ‘Daredevil‘ one of the most unique and intriguing characters in the Marvel universe. The character resonates with me in a way that not many other characters do. The very concept of a blind superhero was enough to interest me, but his abilities and emotional complexity is what put him on my personal pedestal. Matthew Murdock lost his sight at a very young age when a radioactive substance splashed into his eyes, whilst attempting to save an old man from the truck carrying said substance. Initially, you’d think being blinded is quite possibly one of the most nightmarish experiences a person could go through, considering how much humans rely on their sight. But Matt made it his mission to transform his disability into a strength. A strength that he could later use to commit more acts of heroism like the one that cost him his sight. Not only did he lose his sight, but Matt also lost his boxer father, Jack ‘the devil’ Murdock, who refused to intentionally lose a fight for a mobster. Jack used to encourage Matt to not become a fighter like him, but instead study to become a lawyer or doctor to make the world a better place. Like so many other superheroes have shown, loss is a powerful motivator, and Matt was then motivated to support his father’s wish, but also to bring the criminals who murdered his father to justice. This led to the dual lifestyle that Matt leads as lawyer-by-day and vigilante-by-night. This bipartite personality reflects the different ways of how we choose what the ‘right’ thing to do is. We like to keep our loved ones close as they inspire us to be our best selves, using our knowledge and rationality to defend others and resolve injustices. This is the Matt Murdock in all of us. On the other hand, it is only human to give into our emotional impulses, and resolve injustices by whatever means necessary, even if it sometimes means pushing away our loved ones. In other words, sometimes we simply need to ‘let the devil out‘. This is the Daredevil in all of us.
The world of Daredevil and Matt Murdock is perfectly encapsulated in Netflix’s Daredevil series. This is the series which first absorbed me into the character and his world. The series opens with its protagonist sitting in a confession box admitting he needs to ‘let the devil out’, setting up for something which will blur the line between right and wrong. What separates this series from other Marvel TV shows and movies is its perceptiveness and grit. It isn’t afraid to explore deeper themes and make flawed characters likeable. Its reliance on dark, grainy cinematography to encapsulate a much darker comic book story rather than overusing CGI makes it much more grounded and real than most other Marvel properties. Season 1 isn’t just a superhero show – it’s a 13-episode character drama about how far protagonists and antagonists are willing to push the moral boundaries to do what they believe is ‘right’. Charlie Cox’s performance as Matt Murdock is possibly my favourite portrayal of a comic book character; he is to Daredevil what Robert Downey Jr was to Iron Man. He brings likability and emotional complexity to a flawed character, similarly to the antagonist of the series, Wilson Fisk, portrayed by Vincent D’Onofrio. Fisk does unspeakable things throughout the series, but still manages to provoke feelings of empathy and understanding with the audience. He is intimidating, anxious, calculating, and somehow empathetic all in one. He doesn’t need superpowers or weapons to show his power. Simply by displaying the effect he has on people and what he makes them do for him before he even appears on screen is enough to show how much of an unstoppable force he is, and how he truly lives up to his comic book alias, ‘The Kingpin’.
Whilst some argue season 2 of the series wavers in its objective quality, upon several re-watches I have come to appreciate the thought and depth placed into its story arcs. The first few episodes centre around one of Marvel’s most compelling and morally ambiguous villains – the Punisher. Once again, Jon Bernthal to me is the Punisher like Robert Downey Jr is Iron Man. He is a man to be feared by criminal organisations yet the series isn’t afraid to show his more emotional, familial side. Should we simply kill criminals so they don’t commit their unspeakable crimes again? Or does every criminal, no matter how terrible their crimes, deserve a chance at redemption? This intriguing dilemma is discussed in depth between Daredevil and Punisher, showing two different perspectives on the idea of vigilantism yet showing how similar these two characters are. As the Punisher says to Daredevil – ‘You’re one bad day away from being me.’ That is what makes these characters some of the most compelling in the Marvel universe. The parallels drawn between them throughout the series show how easy it would be for Daredevil to kill and turn into those he fights so hard to defend Hell’s Kitchen from. Season 2 also crafts a story about what it means to live two different lives, as Matt struggles to maintain his day life as an attorney with his night life as the man without fear. He pushes his two closest friends away, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, trying to balance the demands of the Punisher’s trial as Matt Murdock and the fight as Daredevil with a secret organisation known as The Hand. He forms romantic connections with Karen as Matt Murdock, and with assassin Elektra as Daredevil, epitomising the struggle of which life is best to lead. The more absorbed he becomes in one, the more it infects the other. Season 2 creates believable conflict between those who call each other friends, and understanding between those who call each other enemies. It encapsulates the dichotomy of right and wrong, and how many different approaches there are to achieve what an individual believes is the ‘right’ thing to do to protect others.
As if the first two seasons weren’t enough to fulfil even the Devil’s appetite, Netflix and Marvel provided us with a third (and possibly final) season of Daredevil. Season 3 effectively uses what made season 1 great and adds refreshing new dynamics to Matt’s defence of Hell’s Kitchen. A broken, beaten Matt seemingly has abandoned his everyday life as an attorney and fully embraced his vigilante persona. Not only this, but the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk, has returned to the Kitchen and proves that house arrest is far from enough to keep his atrocious criminal schemes at bay. Season 3 also provides us with an intriguing portrayal of one of Marvel’s most underrated villains, Bullseye. Season 3 turns what was originally another costumed assassin who can turn any object into a deadly projectile into a compelling yet terrifying antagonist for Matt Murdock. Bullseye, or known in the series as Poindexter (Wilson Bethel) is an unhinged FBI agent whose childhood abandonment and unresolved psychopathy leads him to become a tool of Fisk’s to incriminate Daredevil with the very crimes Fisk is guilty of. Not only does this parallel Matt’s own abandonment issues from his mother, but it provides us with yet another antagonist who has understandable motives yet atrociously goes about fulfilling them. Similarly to D’Onofrio’s Fisk, he is a villain whose actions you do not condone, yet with a character skilfully crafted to provide an understanding of why he is like he is. The impending clash between Daredevil, Fisk, and Bullseye occurs in one of the most climactic series finales I’ve ever seen. Will Bullseye kill Fisk’s wife Vanessa before Daredevil can save her? Will Daredevil cross the line and kill Fisk? Charlie Cox provides an award-worthy performance as he cries out in pain when the opportunity to kill his adversary arises but he can’t bring himself to do it. What makes the protagonist of Netflix’s series a hero is not Daredevil, but Matt Murdock. As Fisk urges Matt to kill him, Matt exclaims “You don’t get to destroy who I am“. If Matt kills Fisk, Fisk wins. Daredevil becomes a hero by maintaining the integrity of his humanity, by choosing not what is easy, but what is right. I could probably write pages and pages more about why Netflix’s Daredevil is one of the best series of the 2010s. About the stunning comic-book inspired cinematography, the intense, dark soundtrack by John Paesano, and the performance of every actor. But it’s a series you should simply watch for yourself, because I believe it is a series that every comic book fan should experience and could learn from.
Netflix’s masterful series inspired me to indulge in other Daredevil media and explore the world of Matt Murdock further. Comic book writers and artists have provided us with some of the most stunningly drawn and compelling tales in the Marvel universe. Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil storyline not only provided the basis for the 2003 feature film, but also became one of my favourite comic book stories to date. An infant is mysteriously placed into the care of Matt Murdock, which is revealed to be either the Messiah or the Antichrist, leaving Matt to struggle with his faith in Catholicism and how it weighs on his sense of morality. The story isn’t afraid to deal with themes like substance abuse, suicide, and religious faith. I couldn’t talk about Daredevil comics without mentioning the main man who made the character what he is today, Frank Miller. Miller took Lee and Everett’s creation and placed him into much more real-world scenarios, and immersed him in darker themes and conflicts which readers could resonate and empathise with. Miller’s Born Again story arc is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential Daredevil storylines. Having discovered Daredevil’s secret identity, the Kingpin is hell-bent on bringing down Matt Murdock in every way he can, leaving Matt to pick himself up and find the willpower to pursue his adversary. With its uniquely religious symbolism and struggles with identity, Born Again provided much of the inspiration for seasons 2 and 3 of the Netflix series. Even the criticised 2003 feature film starring Ben Affleck I find enjoyment from. It may have some toe-curling cheesiness, but I appreciated its performances, tone, faithfulness to the comics, and of course those underground-early 2000s Matrix vibes which most comic book films tended to have back then.
Whatever media is used to portray the story of Matt Murdock, whether it be film, TV, or graphic novel, I have come to appreciate him as one of the most interesting and unique characters in the Marvel universe. The way he turns his disability into effectively his greatest assets is awe-inspiring, and shows that irrespective of potential disadvantages, you can still stand up for what you care about. I recently read Travis Langley’s book, ‘Daredevil Psychology: The Devil You Know‘ which explored the complexity of the character and his powers using psychological literature. As Langley writes in his final essay of the book, “Life’s balancing act lasts as long as we do“, which I believe encompasses what makes Daredevil so compelling. The character epitomises the dichotomy of life and morality; lawyer by day, vigilante by night; working both inside and outside the system. Do we indulge in our emotions or keep ourselves level-headed? It shows how things aren’t always as simple as right or wrong or good versus evil. Daredevil taught me things about myself which I wouldn’t have even considered before, and provided me with a reason to express my passion and resonation with the world of comic books and TV. But most importantly, the character taught me to always have faith, no matter the odds. It’s fair to say Daredevil is my favourite comic book character of all time.
Ever since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers have continually utilised the power of using ‘the’ in their film titles. Especially in horror, films such as The Shining, The Thing, The Exorcist, The Birds, all use ‘The’ in their titles to creating an ominous feeling of dread; something that overshadows everything and incites fear of the subject in the title. A simple but effective technique which director Matt Reeves uses in his new take on Batman. This film encompasses the title of ‘The Batman‘ by creating a dark, gritty Gotham city in which there lurks a force to be reckoned with. A force whose past trauma has led him to practically abandon his every day life and dedicate himself to a symbol. A symbol which targets Gotham’s corrupt and strikes fear into the hearts of criminals. This symbol is – The Batman.
Everything about this film encompasses what it means to be Batman. From Michael Giacchino’s chilling yet epic new Batman theme, to the stunning wide shots of Gotham’s skyline at dawn. The film provides not only a fresh take on the caped crusader himself, but also the storyline and world he is placed in. In The Batman, the titular character must follow a murderous trail left by the Riddler whilst becoming entangled with a variety of other characters such as Selina Kyle and ‘Penguin’. The Gotham City in The Batman felt more dirty and unkept than any other iteration so far, which is exactly the type of setting such dark characters would believably spawn from. It feels like a city run by it’s criminals who are haunted by a vengeful vigilante known only as ‘The Batman’. The scene in which you first see Batman himself genuinely felt like something out of a horror film. The way the camera shots linger when he is on screen and the colours of the scene around him only add to his intimidation and how he is truly perceived as a monster by criminals. Interestingly, the film focuses on Bruce Wayne’s fractured psyche, as Reeves practically abandons Bruce Wayne’s playboy billionaire persona and instead presents a more unnerving, unhinged Batman, and a much more antisocial, reclusive Bruce Wayne. Both Robert Pattinson’s Batman and Bruce Wayne are men of few words, mostly keeping their human interactions minimal as they learn to traverse their way through Gotham’s criminal underbelly. Even Wayne Manor looks more like Dracula’s castle than the abode of a playboy billionaire, and I appreciated one moment in particular which showed how Bruce Wayne doesn’t tend to go out during the day.
The film also shows off an excellent variety of supporting characters. Every scene with Paul Dano’s Riddler was chilling, and left the cinema in absolute silence. Dano effectively managed to balance the unnerving campiness of the classic Batman villain whilst adding an almost serial killer eeriness. This really suited not only the setting of the film, but also gave a realistic portrayal of the characters as if he was a real person in the 21st century. Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle was also a blend of the classic character with a realistically updated portrayal. She almost acted as Batman’s darker side (as if he could even have one), more at the mercy of her base impulses yet rooted from similar trauma to the caped crusader himself. As such, her relationship with Batman was one of the most intriguing aspects of the film; going from two self-serving individuals who happen to cross paths to two people whose shared trauma and reclusiveness naturally draw them towards each other. The other supporting cast members only helped to encapsulate the unclean feeling of Gotham City in the film. Jeffery Wright’s Jim Gordon makes you feel as if he has the entire weight of the Gotham police on his shoulders. He is constantly being told not to associate with the vigilante, yet he still knows full well that the Batman may be the only one capable of stopping the Riddler. Colin Farrell’s portrayal of Penguin was also more of a realistic mobster than the classic bird-brained villain. The use of prosthetics to make Colin Farrell almost unrecognisable made the character look like a real mobster who would plague the criminal underworld, which I really appreciated.
DC comics have really struggled to find their footing in cinema over the past decade. The company went from creating an extended universe of films to standalone films as we started to lose count of how many times we’d seen Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot on screen. Nonetheless, it is good to see such an iconic character receive the modern day treatment he deserves. I understand this iteration of the character may not be for everyone, since the film is quite slow and deliberate with a 3-hour runtime. On the other hand, in a world full of face-paced, energetic superhero films, it’s nice to have something which takes its time and has clear thought put into its characters and plot. The Batman reminded me a lot of the final season of Marvel’s Daredevil series. It shows how loss and trauma manifests itself into vigilantism; how a man can take every possible measure to overcome it and prevent anyone else from having the same experience. By doing this, they may isolate from society and become dedicated to an ideal bigger than themselves; which is reflected not only in the Batman, but in the Riddler too. The Batman is a classic comic book tale of one man fighting not only a battle against crime, but a battle within himself. The film left me very hopeful at the prospect of seeing more of Pattinson’s Batman in Reeves’s gritty iteration of Gotham City.
The day was Wednesday 15th December, 2021. The time was approximately 21:42. A young man had just walked out of one of the first screenings of Spider-Man: No Way Home. This young man had been a Spidey fan ever since he was a young boy climbing in trees and collecting Spider-Man figures from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. He had been there for every new Spider-Man film for as long as he could remember, and was very well informed on the comic book origins and timeline of the web-slinger. He knew that what it meant to be Spider-Man was not to have the proportionate strength, speed and ability of a spider. He knew what it meant to be Spider-Man was Peter Parker. A young man, a similar age to himself, who suffered and lost what he held most dearly as he battled between his life as a masked vigilante and a broke but clever student from New York City. On that particular Wednesday, the young man had never been in such awe of the web-slinger who had held such a close place in his heart ever since he was a young boy. That young man, was yours truly.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a triumphant love letter to everything which makes Spider-Man, Spider-Man. It not only has its much needed doses of fan service, but it is quite possibly the best Spider-Man story to be portrayed on the big screen. The main cast gives it their A-game, from Tom Holland as the titular hero to Alfred Molina reprising his role as Doctor Octopus. For those skeptics who saw Tom’s Spider-Man as nothing more than Tony Stark’s golden teenager, No Way Home proves that Tom can in fact encompass what it means to be Spider-Man, which quite possibly makes him the best iteration of the character to date. He goes through things in the film which no previous Spider-Man has gone through before, yet they are experiences which ultimately defines what it means to be Spider-Man. The film not only changes the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also the course of the story of Spider-Man on the big screen. It is in a sense the Avengers: Endgame equivalent for Spider-Man. The stakes have never been higher, and the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange adds for some intense multi-versal elements we have not yet seen on the big screen in the MCU. The fight scene between Spider-Man and Doctor Strange is impressive enough to rival Strange’s spectacular battle with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Taking inspiration from one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories in the comics, ‘Spider-Man: One More Day‘, the film places some MCU twists on the comic storyline whilst still remaining relatively true to the source material. It was brilliant to see so many iconic Spidey villains on-screen together in live action, giving us what is essentially the closest version of a live-action Sinister Six (even though there wasn’t quite six). It is often difficult to have so many supporting characters on-screen without making a film feel crowded, but No Way Home somehow does it perfectly. The villains’ chemistry with not only Spider-Man, but also each other, was one of the best aspects of the film which I was pleasantly surprised by. I genuinely could not stop myself from grinning all the way through the film, it made me feel so lucky to be a film fan, a Marvel fan, but most of all, a Spider-Man fan.
I would be interested to watch this film from the perspective of a non-Marvel or Spider-Man fan, as I have no doubt there is still much enjoyment to be found. To the casual cinema-goer, Spider-Man: No Way Home is nothing short of the story of a young boy becoming a young man. It is a story of how far a person is willing to go to do the right thing. It is a story of an average teenager attempting to balance his normal life with the responsibility of being a superhero, which is exactly what Spider-Man is all about. The film shows that no matter how much loss and suffering Peter Parker goes through he is still willing to make sacrifices to do the right thing, which is exactly why we love him. Any doubt about Tom’s iteration of Spider-Man is gone by the end of the film. He truly epitomises what it means to be Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and the film makes it clear that the person who does the right thing is not Spider-Man, but Peter Parker.
I love Spider-Man. As if the picture isn’t enough to scream that, I’ve loved Spider-Man as long as I can remember. I remember the despair I felt when I was 8 years old and lost my Spider-man 2 Doctor Octopus figure at school. I remember climbing up trees around my village and posing like the Web slinger. I remember the excitement I felt first seeing Tom Holland as the MCU’s Spider-Man in the Captain America: Civil War trailer. Peter Parker has always been a big part of my life, but as I grew into late adolescence I was no longer buying Doc Ock figures or climbing up trees. Then when I was 21 I played Insomniac’s Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4. And my god. It reminded me why I love Spider-Man.
Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 is a 2018 action-adventure video game made by Insomniac games. It lets you play as the web slinger in a fully explorable New York City sprinkled with plenty of crimes to stop and references to the wider Marvel universe. The game has a full original story just like the movies, but with the expansiveness and emotional depth as many of the comics. Personally, I don’t think you could beat the idea of an open-world Spider-Man game where you can live out your wildest web slinging dreams. The combination of John Paesano’s phenomenal musical score and Insomniac’s gorgeous recreation of the New York skyline makes you feel like Spider-Man.
*Spoilers ahead for the main story of Spider-Man PS4*
From the very first scene of the game my love for Spider-Man began tingling. It opens with a spider dangling over Peter Parker’s window, and then pans to all the newspaper headlines pinned up of all the villains Spidey has put away. As Peter is alerted to Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin) causing a major problem for the NYPD, he puts on the iconic suit and looks down at the phone alert, and then looks at a slip for overdue rent. He looks back and forth again, and then leaps out the window and spreads his webs. That decision right there is what epitomises Peter Parker and why Spider-Man is such a global phenomenon. He has to make a choice, go after Fisk or pay the rent; what is right or personal responsibility. And this is within the first 5 minutes of the game.
I don’t think I’ve played a video game which I’ve been more emotionally invested in than Spider-Man. The characters are written as good as if not better than the films. Peter Parker is an older, more experienced Spider-Man in this story, so he’s faced with the pressures of adulthood whilst also balancing the vigilante lifestyle. His relationship with Otto Octavius is so well written that die-hard Spider-Man fans don’t want him to become Doctor Octopus. Otto and Peter have a shared passion for science and have an incredible rapport, so much so that Peter idolises him. So much so that by the end of the game when Octavius has become Doc Ock you almost dread Peter’s final showdown with him; a friendship thrown away for the sake of vengeance and arrogance.
Peter Parker’s love interest, Mary Jane (or MJ), is probably the best portrayal of MJ in any film or other media. Unlike the films, MJ is clearly no damsel in distress who needs Spidey to rescue her every 5 minutes. Being a journalist with an eye for a shifty story, she goes out by herself to investigate any villainous schemes that may be posing a threat to the city, even if it means putting herself in harm’s way. Throughout the game she has a slightly ambiguous yet stable relationship with Peter, balancing the thin line between casual friendship and deep romantic interest. She is much more than the cliché love interest for the hero. Peter and MJ are crime fighting partners; MJ using her journalism skills to do the right thing even if Peter disagrees with it. Miles Morales is another character worthy of an honourable mention. For those who are unfamiliar, Peter acts as a mentor figure to Miles and as die-hard fans know he eventually becomes the next Spider-Man. Miles goes through similar trauma to Peter; he loses loved ones, he faces potentially losing his city but he still carries on and does the right thing. There’s one brilliant scene where Spider-Man shows Miles how to throw a punch, which is later paid off in a scene where Miles punches an escaped convict for stealing some medical supplies. And this is all before he gets bitten by a spider and gains his own spidey powers.
These characters mean a lot to so many people because they are us. Peter doesn’t have a perfect relationship with MJ, Miles doesn’t have superpowers yet he helps out at a homeless shelter after losing his father. The relatability of these characters and the trials and tribulations they’re tested through is what inspires us to be better than we are. We may not have superpowers or a cool costume but these characters make us believe that we don’t need them to do just as much good. Spider-Man gets beaten down again and again, he has to take down the closest thing he’s had to a father figure. He has to make the ultimate sacrifice by choosing whether to save the city or save a loved one. Despite all this, he keeps going. He keeps being Spider-Man and he keeps doing the right thing. The emotional depth to this game is unparalleled to any other Spider-Man film or TV show. This game is the reason I went out and bought a Spider-Man costume. It made me want to read every comic book and watch every movie, and it made me so happy Marvel blessed us with this wonderful character. If you asked me who the greatest fictional hero of all time was, it wouldn’t be Superman, Batman, King Arthur, or Captain America. It would be Spider-Man. Because he’s one of us.