So recently I started watching the Netflix original show Daredevil. I mentioned it in my post of a couple of weeks ago about the advent of Netflix and other streaming services. I’ve only watched the first six episodes so far, but I noticed something odd at the end of the second episode, a weird style choice that I felt didn’t really fit with the rest of the show.
The last five minutes of the second episode are basically taken up by a one take fight. As in, the entire scene is done in one shot. It’s interesting looking, and certainly novel for a television show to do. I had heard about the scene before I watched the show. One of the websites I frequent happened to mention it and all I really thought at the time was “well that’s kinda cool”. And it is. But I felt like it didn’t really fit with the rest of the show’s style.
Daredevil is at its heart a dark and gritty superhero origin story. And this is reflected in the fact that most of the environments in the show are dimly lit and run down. But it is also reflected in how the fight scenes play it. Most of the fight scenes in the show are very fast-paced and brutal (one of them actually shows someone’s bone sticking out of their flesh, so be warned…this show is not for the faint of heart). They follow the modern style of bare-knuckle fights with fast-paced cuts to different shots. And it works for the show. It gives it this feeling of being gritty and unpredictable, which is perfect for a show that deals with crime and corruption. But the fight scene at the end of episode two feels out of place.
Because it’s all one take, the fight can’t be as brutal and gruesome because that would put the actors in serious danger of getting injured. So the fight progresses in a manner that just feels incredibly artificial. Daredevil (or Murdock if you prefer his actual name) keeps dodging in and out of the doors in the hallway, so a significant portion of the fight we don’t even actually see. It’s the only fight of its kind so far, and it really feels like it doesn’t belong.
When you create a style for something, be it writing, drawing, or filming, you develop a consistency within that style. This is something that people intimately familiar with your work will immediately recognize. They’ll be able to tell who worked on it based on the stylistic cues they pick up on. And if I hadn’t looked it up, I would have assumed that someone completely different shot that second episode. But it’s the same person throughout all thirteen episodes of the first season.
It would be sort of similar to taking a romance and turning it into an action movie halfway through (a bit drastic of an example, but the principle is the same). As cool as the scene is, it calls far too much attention to itself. It’s almost like the cinematographer was saying “hey look how cool I am” by shooting that scene.
Compare that to something like Children of Men, which consistently used the one-take scenes all throughout the movie. It was a consistent part of its style, and unless you were paying attention you probably wouldn’t catch on to it because it feels so natural. A few months back I watched the movie with my roommate and he said he didn’t even notice that until I mentioned it. And it serves a purpose too. It grounds the viewer in the movie’s world, letting them feel like they’re exploring a distant, dystopian future.
And that last action scene is just amazing. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean.
But in Daredevil the one-shot fight serves no real purpose. It doesn’t ground us in the action, making it feel more real. Rather, it calls attention to the artificial nature of it all. It’s incredibly obvious that the hallway had been set up for the fight, whereas the back-alley brawls in the show end up feeling more organic. Of course it’s all staged in the end. That’s the nature of fiction. But part of the idea is suspension of disbelief, of being able to just lose yourself in the story and the setting without constantly reminding yourself that it isn’t real. And that’s why the Daredevil fight scene bothered me, because it broke my suspension of disbelief. Basically, if you’re going to do something like that, it better have some kind of point to it.
I’m not saying that the show is bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s really good from what I’ve seen so far. The characters are well drawn and the villain is intriguing and unique. It’s just that one scene really stuck out to me.
Look at it this way. Explosions. They’re cool, right? Of course they are. Everyone likes explosions. But if there’s no reason for those explosions to be happening, people are going to lose interest very fast. Even in the dumbest of the dumb action flicks, the explosions have a reason for happening. It’s when they don’t that the facade really starts to crack.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading. Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.