Tag Archives: Daredevil

I started watching Daredevil Season 2 and so far the choreography doesn’t seem very good, mostly random backflips magical chain-whipping and punching already down opponents in the face for no practical reason. Am I missing something major or does it just get way better further in?

Yeah, you’re confusing flash for substance, and then looking for flash. The TV series skews hard towards actual combat concerns, rather than creating superficially good looking fights, it’s showing plausible ones (if you can get past the superheros shrugging off inhuman amounts of punishment and that the people they’re punching should probably be dead).

There’s a lot of stuff there that’s mostly authentic to how fights actually shake out. Including considerations like the idea that just because someone’s on the ground, doesn’t mean they’re going to stay there. Which is what the punching downed foes is about.

Also, someone connecting with a chain that heavy will wreck you. It’s actually rather telling that you don’t often see stunt performers messing around with chains. These things are just about as dangerous as films and TV will suggest, and there’s no easy way to whiff strikes with them. The last time Michi says she saw someone use a chain that heavy in their fight scenes was Sylvester Stallone in Expendables 2. He kept the pair of them several feet away from Van Damme in their fight scene for obvious reasons. Those are the same reasons why Van Damme didn’t take the jump wheel kicks anywhere near his head. You’re looking at the kind of stunts meant for movies with a movie budget rather than television. The same is true when they do a flip and “land” on the guy. When doing tricks and flips on a television budget, you’ll often see the stunt performers giving whoever is doing it a wide berth. This is for safety reasons due to the danger both to the performer if the trick goes wrong and the fact that no one wants 180-220 pounds of dead weight to fall on them. They really don’t want it when followed by the incredible amount of kinetic force which you need to carry you through a flip. With the stunts, we’re looking at a show that has budgeted for near movie quality fight scenes or they’re very good at making the most of what they have.

Another thing you didn’t mention is the slight sloppiness that saturates the combat. I can see why that sloppiness might throw you off. In theory, this is something you’d usually chastise the choreographer for. In theory, you want everything to look sharp and clean. But, that kind of sloppiness is actually how real combat looks with trained combatants. It’s there as a deliberate design aesthetic at work here. It feeds into the authenticity, but it also feeds into the thematic nature of Daredevil as a character. The superhero who is fraying at the edges and deteriorating in front of you as a result of his crusade.

The other big thing with Daredevil’s choreography, and it’s easy to miss if you don’t realize what it entails, are those long shots. When you’re shooting a film or TV series, you get your stunt performers in, and they’ll shoot pieces of a fight, then you splice it together in editing. This can easily take all day, because you’ll shoot each punch and parry a couple times, then thread the whole thing together in editing. It’s easy for the stunt actors, because they just need to hit their marks, then they can take a few minutes to recover, while everyone resets the scene.

When you start stacking up techniques in a single shot, it gets trickier, because instead of needing to perform one or two techniques, they need to nail everything in that shot. The longer the shot goes, the harder it becomes, because your stunt actors need to go through the entire shot, before they can take a break.

What you’ll then see in Daredevil are continuous shots that never cut away. For a stunt actor, this stuff is murderous. They all need to get the choreography right, or they have to do the whole thing over again. This is also very strenuous physical activity. Think of a fight like a sprint, rather than a marathon. You’re going all out as hard as you can, as fast as you can. When it’s one or two blows, that’s pretty easy to manage, and recover from, but when you’re following someone down a staircase? When you’ve got minutes of screen time without any cuts? That’s some seriously impressive work from the entire team. Combine that with actors in costumes that severely restrict their ability to see, and working with legitimately difficult weapon elements, and the entire thing becomes really impressive, from a technical standpoint.

Seriously, the stunt performers on that show are fantastic. They’ve got some very difficult material to work with, and they’re turning out quality results. The choreography probably isn’t what you expect from a superhero show, but it is some of the best on TV.

-Starke

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About the Daredevil post, you mentioned in there how some of the hits look like they could kill, and in other posts how it’s difficult to do disabling blows without risking either killing the person or not doing enough damage. But do you think because of Matt’s senses this wouldn’t be a problem? He can monitor his opponent’s heartbeat, breathing, and any internal damage so he knows exactly what kind of shape they’re in. At the very least he could choke someone out safely. Thoughts?

Nah, Daredevil’s whole shtick in the comics is that he’s riding the line between becoming a killer and staying clean. You should always worry that he’s going to cross that line. It’s one of the main themes of the character and it’s present in both seasons. Much as Daredevil gets presented as the “Marvel Batman”, Matt is not Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne’s schtick is that he’s a control freak. Matt Murdock’s is that he’s always on the verge of losing that control.

The temptation is always there and the threat for him is that he always could, even on accident. It’s important to remember that he’s accidentally killed people in the comics and done so in the Frank Miller run that the writer’s are pulling heavily from. We even see him ascribing Nobu’s death in Season 1 to being an accident because he burned to death rather than killing him with his bare hands. He even says at the end of the season that nobody died, meaning he didn’t kill anyone because he held himself back from the temptation of killing Fisk and chose to count Nobu’s death (in which he was a participant) as an accident which was not his fault.

This is actually very important to understanding Matt Murdock’s personality and how he deals with the consequences of his actions. Matt is someone who is driven by his concept of morality, but underneath the surface he is also a masochist. He beats people up because he enjoys it and he feels guilty about enjoying it, but covers that by saying he’s doing the right thing. Essentially? He’s weaponized his Catholic guilt.
And we haven’t even gotten to the Daredevil villains who really put Matt Murdock’s “No Kill” policy to the test.

Which, considering he’s always on the edge of breaking it 90% of the time, is actually very impressive.

There will be villains that he should kill, that the audience will want him to kill, that he’ll desperately want to kill, but he won’t because his principles are more important to him than the reality. He’ll be made to suffer for that choice over, and over, and over again.

That’s just Daredevil though.

He accidentally kills the random mooks and goes on to spare the villains that will never change their ways. He’s much more likely to take care when he’s in the company of someone like Elektra or the Punisher.
He’s a hypocrite like that.

At the very least though, we can say the hypocrisy is thematic and part of his personality. It’s something he’s called out for, often by other characters in the comics and in the show. Matt is supposed to be a hypocrite, paving the road to hell with his own good intentions, and the narrative knowing that makes it about 1k times better than similar narratives where they never acknowledge it. Matt is not not a protagonist ordained by the story to always be in the right. The question of whether or not he should even be a vigilante in the first place is one one of the driving themes of his story. Is he any better than the bad guys? Sometimes, he becomes the bad guys. (But, I hope we can all agree that the arc where he becomes the new Kingpin is stupid. Though to be fair, everyone around him thought it was stupid too.)

With Daredevil, it’s never a question of what he can and can’t do. It’s what he will and won’t do. He could do what you’re suggesting, if he’s paying attention and doesn’t get caught in the rush. Which…

There’s a difference between what the powers allow and the personality in play, and Daredevil is a character who is remarkably human. One who is prone to mistakes. He’s a fantastic character and part of that character is the part where he’s a mess. One who is working out his inner demons by taking out people who he perceives as threats to the safety of his neighborhood. Due to all his flaws, foibles, failings, Daredevil is one of the most human characters in the Marvel universe. He’s not very good at keeping a handle on his secret identity, so quite a few of his enemies figure it out and use it against him. He doesn’t have superhuman resistance to damage, he just keeps getting back up. Much of what he does is, in large part, on his own willpower.

I think, really, this is what makes Daredevil such an interesting character and one really worth looking at when setting up your own characters who fight. There’s a nasty habit when it comes to conforming a character’s personality to their fighting style or have their knowledge alone dictate their actions.

There’s what they know and what they’ve learned, then there’s who they are, and that all comes back to direct how they fight.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a character making choices that directly contradict their own morals, their own best interests, and which fly directly in the face of everything they’re supposed to know how to do.

What is most important here is that choice on the part of the character, rather than just assuming it’s right. At heart, Matt Murdock is a character who is extraordinarily self-destructive. It’s part of who he is as a person and as a superhero. It’s part of his character. He makes bad choices.

He tries, but he also sometimes fails.

And that is what makes him interesting and compelling as a character.

Not the choices themselves but the logical reasoning behind them, the part where who he is becomes the driving factor. Ultimately, when we talk about organic writing we’re discussing characters making choices that are in line with who they’ve shown themselves to be. Even when it’s unfortunate or we disagree with those choices, we can ultimately be content with them because it fits with what we’ve seen them do within the story itself.

The short answer is: Matt’s powers could make his combat safer if he were a different person, but that isn’t who he is and it isn’t how he fights. He’s much more reckless, he gives into his emotions, and is much more inclined toward brutal beatings than controlling his environment. We can joke about the Daredevil helmet and “seeing red”, but it is a very true statement when it comes to Matt Murdock.

The Punisher is, ironically, better at disabling shots than Daredevil. He’s just choosing not to use them and focuses on efficiently killing his opponents instead.

-Michi

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How do you feel the new Daredevil series has handled their choreography?

We love it.

It’s not just that the fight scene choreography is really very fun, but there’s a lot of attention to detail in Daredevil. There’s often a real sense of weight to the hits, and it feels like people are getting hits. There’s a sense of exhaustion as the fights proceed and everything begins to slow near the end. You start to feel how tired Matt is by the end and general exhaustion is actually extremely rare in these types of shows. It also fits thematically with what Daredevil is trying to convey about Matt Murdock and the kind of hero he is. Ultimately, Daredevil is about punishment, both giving and taking, about someone who takes a lot of punishment and keeps getting back up. You see that represented in Daredevil’s choreography.

You can tell that the showrunners hired one or multiple stunt choreographers capable of giving them what they were looking for in terms of character expression and development and that they took their fight scenes very seriously.

It’s especially noticeable in Season 2, but every character has a fighting style that matches their personality and background.

Daredevil is, at heart, really a blue-collar brawler. I don’t mean that
in terms of his training, though you can see boxing featuring heavily
into his combat style, but as a mentality and as a part of his
personality.

You can see his rage when he fights, see him seething, see that pummeling of villains and street toughs as an expression of his frustration. Those stress lines, that barely contained fury, it all acts as a means of showing the audience more about who Matt Murdock is and actively supports the character building the narrative is trying to show. As Daredevil, Matt Murdock is always walking a very fine line that he flirts with crossing. It’s all there in those fight scenes. The action sequences all serve a purpose both in furthering the story and showing Matt’s character. Charlie Cox is actually pretty good, fast enough on some of his shots where they will lose frames because the camera can’t catch it. The transition between him and his double(s) is pretty seamless, which is fantastic.

Daredevil and The Punisher are night and day by comparison. Frank is angry, exceedingly angry, always angry, but you don’t see that translate into his fighting. Unlike Matt Murdock, he’s military and it shows. His fighting is explosive, and he has a brutal but more refined style. He isn’t a brawler, he fights to end. He’s solid, he’s straightforward, and he doesn’t go in for any of that ninja shit. Daredevil fights to break, The Punisher fights to kill. He’s much more explosive and much more raw in terms of brute strength. Special props to John Berenthal for managing to keep his elbows inside his body line when striking. Elbows in is a concept a lot of actors, especially ones without a martial arts background struggle with. I have no idea what Berenthal’s history is but I truly appreciate his lack of chicken wings.

Elektra is wild. You can tell when she’s fighting that she’s here to have a good time. She’s more fluid, athletic, and acrobatic in her combat style than either Daredevil or the Punisher. Where Matt enjoys it but feels guilty about it and often regrets how far he takes it, Elektra has no regrets. She revels like a true adrenaline junkie in the center of the chaos. You can see it in the way that she fights and it’s a unique character trait. She’s not fighting that way because that’s just how women fight in the way that Hollywood usually presents it. Elektra is a risky fighter. As a character she walks on the wild side, she takes risks and that’s evident in how she fights, in the openings she leaves in her defenses. Whatever else can be said, her fighting style fits her personality.

A lot of productions overlook the importance of actors, especially women, being able to convincingly sell the action part of their role. Often it’s worse for the girls because they’re invariably asked to perform techniques which are more advanced and more difficult than their male counterparts. As a general rule, girls are asked to kick more (especially roundhouse and sidekicks) and perform more acrobatics than male characters. Sometimes it may seem like we judge actresses too harshly on this blog, but that’s often because the techniques they’re asked to do are difficult. Difficult to learn and be comfortable with and perform effectively in just three months. This is as much a problem in some of the big name productions as it is in low budget.

When I heard that Daredevil had cast Elodie Yung (from G.I. Joe 2) as Elektra, I was kind of ecstatic. One of my big fears was that they were going to once again cast an actress who couldn’t convincingly do the stunts. I’d already seen her keep up with Ray Park (Snake Eyes, Darth Maul, Toad) so I had zero doubts on that front. Aaaand, I still don’t. She’s been great.

The stunt actors in Daredevil are really great too, especially when you consider that Daredevil’s are doing all that while visually impaired and with limited peripheral vision. It’s one of the few (Western) shows I’ve seen where the gymnastics actually make sense and feel like they’re fluidly part of the fight rather than them just… existing. This has to do with the closeness between the stunt actors when they perform them, usually when you have cartwheels or flips on screen (especially in low budget productions), you can see them give the actor a wide berth. Here the gymnastics lead into things and are, in Daredevil’s case, used as finishers for his fights. He lands hard and has difficulty getting up after.

Gunfire actually gets treated as relatively dangerous. So, you often see the characters prioritizing enemies with guns or the gun itself first. There’s logic going on, which is nice.

One of the neat things about Daredevil’s choreography is that they tend to do these really long shots (not just the Hallway/Stairwell scenes) in which the fights play out and that takes so much talent on the part of the choreographer and the actors to keep it interesting. The longer the shot the more difficult it is.

I mean, you have to take everything with a grain of salt, as… there are a few things Daredevil does that make one question whether or not he’s killing people. However, I can say that neither I or Starke are routinely thrown out of the action by inconsistencies and action which doesn’t match with the storytelling. That happens more often than you’d think.

All in all, our opinion on Daredevil is A+.

I hope that answers your question.

-Michi

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Ignoring the issue of firearms, how effective a crime-fighting duo do you think Batman and Robin would actually make (where Robin is a kid)?

Unless you’re talking about actual superheroes with real superpowers, not very. Firearms aren’t actually the sticking point, ironically.

If you’ve ever played games with well developed stealth systems, you should have some basic ideas for how a sufficiently trained individual can neutralize armed opponents. Actually, while we’re talking about it, the Arkham games do a pretty good job of this when we’re talking about a Batman style superhero.

We’ve talked about how children can’t go toe to toe with adults before, and again, unless your Robin stand-in is more in the 16-20 range, or has actual superpowers, they’re just not going to be able to take on adults in hand to hand, no matter how good their training is.

The real problem is, this isn’t sustainable behavior. Mark Millar’s Kickass does a pretty good job of showing what will happen when a character like that screws up in a fight. At least the comic does, I still haven’t gotten around to the film.

But, of all things, the Ben Affleck Daredevil film pays lip service to the consequences for an (effectively) unpowered character doing this without screwing up and getting mauled. If you haven’t seen it, there are a couple shots early on in the film showing that he is downing massive cocktails of painkillers on a daily basis just to remain functional.

Here’s the thing, even if your character fights effectively, they’re going to physically deteriorate at a phenomenal rate. This is why boxers and other professional fighters have careers that only last at most a decade. Martial artists who don’t participate in competition last longer, but people who are engaged in real world combat, are looking at a couple years before their bodies are complete wrecks. This isn’t a skill issue, this is just that they’re pushing their body past the breaking point every night, and it quickly catches up with them.

For powered characters, who have faster healing or increased resistance to damage this is obviously, less of an issue. Also characters like the Punisher or The Shadow that rely more on weapons to dispose of criminals will be mostly unaffected by this. (Though, now that I think about it, The Shadow probably does have increase healing from his training, so that example just undermined itself.)

Looking at Garth Ennis’ Welcome Back Frank isn’t a bad place to look at someone balancing comic book sensibilities with the consequences of failure for The Punisher, and characters like him.

-Starke