Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix: When Sound is the Storyteller
(Photo Credit: Netflix)
Disclaimer: I live my work-life at a music company surrounded by composers, musicians, and sound designers. I get to hang with some seriously sonically-gifted folks. I am not one of them. So if you are looking for a technical sound review of “Daredevil”, this will not be it.
I am however, a listener, and this is arguably my most important role at Man Made Music. After all, most people aren’t experts in music or sound, but we do love it, live through it, and have a visceral emotional response when the sound is perfect for the experience. I am the audience for sonic experiences in entertainment and for brands.
I am also a comic nerd. So, between the two, I could not wait to see what Netflix would do with “Daredevil” – the series about a man blinded by chemicals, relying on his heightened other senses to fight evil. If they played it right, the sound would be key to getting into Daredevil’s head – you have to experience the world through his ears instead of his eyes.
As many a Reddit reviewer has noted – watch “Daredevil” in surround sound or through headphones or you will miss out on the detailed sound design that is key to the viewing experience. Sound is one of the primary, if not the premiere, storyteller in “Daredevil”. The world as heard through the main character is immersive, powerful, and at times gruesome. This sonically-attuned-fan-girl was not disappointed.
Three specific executions of sonic storytelling in “Daredevil” Episode 1, I really enjoyed as a viewer…
- From the opening credits you know the heartbeat will play a key role in the soundtrack, true to the comic story. Defense Lawyer Matt Murdock focuses on the sound of the heart beating to tell whether a person is lying or telling the truth. You hear your first nod to this story point as the main title resolves onto screen with a subtle heartbeat closing the title track. The heartbeat is heard in the background of a few key conversations throughout the episode, clueing the observant viewer into the truth of the matter at hand. A note: it is subtle enough that my sister, who watched on her TV, did not hear it. Unlike the widely panned 2003 Ben Affleck film, the sonic storytelling here wasn’t painfully obvious, it was purposeful and effective in a way you might not even notice – exactly how sound should be when it’s done right.
- It’s been noted these Netflix series would be darker than the shiny Marvel blockbusters, and it is true. Through dark and gritty imagery, you can’t always see every detail of the fight scenes, but you experience them through the detailed sound. The cock of a gun, squish of a knife cutting flesh, crack of bone are present and pointed. Covering your eyes doesn’t help you skip the gore in “Daredevil”. During one battle you sense the swing of a knife going from left to right , and back over head from right to left with the backswing. These fights are choreographed not only visually, but sonically.
- The sound of the environment seems like it will be playing a key role in the series. In episode 1, two main scenes are set to the sound of falling rain and rolling thunder. The sound sets the scene for the viewer, as it does for Murdock. One such scene is a flashback and you can imagine how when a blind man thinks back to a moment in his past, what he remembers first is the falling rain. I look forward to seeing if this environmental sound treatment moves forward as it seems like flashbacks will play a key role – at least until they have fully told Murdock’s origin story.
The rich sonic storytelling was present throughout the entire episode, but the most visceral moment arrived in the last 30 seconds of the pilot episode. Daredevil stands on a rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen, sifting through a sonic barrage. The sounds of the city are laid out below him. Finally, he hones in on a single sound – the cries of a little boy come rushing at you the viewer, or in this case, the listener. Onto the next episode…
Thank you Netflix. Let the binge listening begin.
Lauren McGuire is SVP, Client Services and Brand Development at Man Made Music. Talk to her on Twitter @McGL212.