Disclaimer: this review is based upon the Director’s cut of Daredevil. This version is a superior film that adds a deeper plot and remains truer to the character.
I’ll admit it, I like Daredevil. It’s a good movie that really embraces its comic heritage, running with it full speed ahead. It seems a bit cliché to say it now, but had they released the director’s cut in theatres it would have fared better. This in itself is a flawed statement because Daredevil did well, money wise, but it suffered from some odd backlash. Also, apparently no one on earth likes Ben Affleck. Myself, I think it’s a good movie, one that has aged well, remaining just as enjoyable now as it did when I first saw it, unlike the Spiderman films which don’t hold up as well.
Daredevil is the tale of Matt Murdock who, as a boy, was given enhanced senses at the expense of his eyesight. He can hear a man’s heartbeat, detect the world around him with a radar sense, and has Olympic level agility, but he’s blind. This alone is somewhat indicative of the problems this movie faces: despite all the good in it, it has that one nagging flaw. Anyways, As a boy Matt’s father is murdered by mobsters, so to honor his father Matt becomes a pro bono lawyer; and then if a guilty person is set free Matt becomes Daredevil and makes them pay, usually fatally.
One of the aspects I enjoy in this movie is its unique spin on an origin tale. As the movie begins Daredevil is already an established crime fighter; the police deny his existence, and reporters speculate on rather he is real, somewhat like the 1989 Batman film. But Daredevil is barely a hero; he dishes out justice in cold blooded ways, murdering evil-doers. He’s an angry man, blind, loveless, murdered dad; you can understand his pain. What I like is that over the course of this film he learns that revenge and murder put him in the same camp as those he fights. He finds a better way and takes the first step to becoming a hero. This is interesting, to present a fully formed ‘hero’ and yet show him as less than such; it lets us witness that moment where he begins to take responsibility into account and not just revenge.
The problem here is that it also presents a standard origin story, and makes a couple small changes to that as well. In the comics little DD is blinded while pushing a man out of the path of a speeding truck. This shows his inherent goodness, and the fact that he continues to help people, even though doing so blinded him, means he’s a hero. Here he’s running from the fact that his father isn’t a good guy at the time, and then little DD loses his sight. A lot of fans were upset by this, claiming that it changes his character and motivations. I agree, but again I like that they went for an origin that takes place well after his ‘origin’.
This is not the only change; his ‘radar sense’ is also different. In the comics it’s pretty much echo location, but here it’s that each sound gives off a signal that illuminates other objects and paints an image of them. This is overly complex and needlessly explained. Echolocation I get, and if I don’t I can read a book, but in the movie I just have to shut off my brain. The effects for his sense look cool though, and during a party scene you even see wafts of alcohol and smoke, hinting that his sense of smell is filling in the picture as well; this is an effect I loved, and wished it had been used more.
As far as casting goes, I liked Ben Affleck in the main role, I felt he did well. He is apparently a huge Daredevil fan and was happy to have the part, though he made a statement later that he was embarrassed to do so. I loved the movies take on Bullseye, a psychotic assassin played perfectly by Colin Farrell; he has these moments where he is really badass, and he will pause to see if anyone will congratulate him on how bad ass he is. You can see him striving for attention, but he is acting in all the wrong ways; wonderfully written and performed I say. Jon Favreau as Matt’s best friend was also very good, he really helped ground the movie and the friendship between him and Affleck was believable.
The sour spot here is Jennifer Garner as Elektra, Matt’s love interest. Elektra is supposed to be a greek woman, and a capable killer in her own right. Here she’s some white chick who…fights. I believe Garner did her best, and she is not bad by any means, but she simply was wrong for the role. With the plethora of good casting choices in this movie she really stands out. The other questionable choice was Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin. I love MCD, he’s awesome and he did a fantastic job in the role, but for some unholy reason as his character is revealed, a suave businessman who rose from the streets to be the mind behind all crime in the city, they play some generic ghetto music. It’s wrong for the character and just plain wrong in general. Again, so many good musical choices but this one really stands out as a bad idea.
Eventually however, all these characters and music do warp together and they tell a tale that I feel was well worth telling. The plot is pretty decent, especially with the courtroom subplot added back in. There are strong visual elements and the action does feel very much like a comic book. Some of it stands out as awkward, but imagine what they are doing drawn in ink and paint, splashed on a page. It’s true to its source, sometimes detrimentally so. I think too much history was forced in, and perhaps the Elektra plot should have been spread out to a sequel. But, overall a solid movie, I would love to second one to see it all tightened up, and hopefully one day I’ll get my chance. And on that day if Affleck is still unwilling maybe they will cast Jeffrey Donovan in the title role.
Daredevil gets a 4/5