Daredevil (2003)

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Daredevil (2003)

Post  BoG on Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:37 am

A big screen adaptation of the blind super-hero who was introduced in the comic books in 1964; to compensate for his blindness, he has a radar sense which enables him to move freely among the big city rooftops of NYC, using a 'billy club' - a rod that releases a cable for swinging to and fro.  The film covers his origin (a flashback) as a young boy, when an accident blinded him but also gave him this extra-sensory ability and enhanced senses (hearing, etc.). He quickly became an Olympic-level athlete and fighter. Tragedy struck early - his father (David Keith), a boxer, is murdered by the local hoods; the story has some similarities to Batman's origins and the early comic books tried to copy the success of Spider-Man. Most of the film, however, adapts a famous storyline from the early eighties of the books, when writer/artist Frank Miller turned the title into a more gritty, violent and dark series. The hero grows up to be a lawyer, partnered with good friend Foggy Nelson (Jon Favreau, who went on to direct the 1st 2 Iron Man films, as well as playing another comics character, Happy Hogan).
I didn't "get" Daredevil when I first saw it - this was the theatrical version. It was a loose compilation of scenes, hastily put together, some 2 or 3 swift fight scenes and no strong story to hold anything together. The Director's Cut explains that - there were too many missing scenes - but it didn't really cause me to raise my grade much. We start with the title character, a super-hero played by Ben Affleck, who didn't even bother to get into proper shape for the role. He's not mean & lean in the suit - just an actor going to a Halloween party. And, a so-so actor, and they picked one of the tallest (and ungainly) actors to play one of the smallest (and most agile) Marvel super-heroes. Most of the computer FX of 'him' leaping among buildings just don't work, it's obvious animation. It doesn't matter how dark you make the scenes or how many fake scars you place on his body - if it comes across as fake, it doesn't work. This also stresses how Daredevil's super senses can be a drawback, forcing him to use a senses-deprivation tank and painkillers; but, such a torturous existence makes his effectiveness as a crimefighter seem very unlikely - he'd be busy controlling his pain while dodging a punch.
On the positive side, we have Colin Farrell as Bullseye, one of the best and most intense villains in Marvel comic books, and much of that is captured here. There's possibly too much humor in his role, but he carries it off - his character really is insane - you feel that; you don't even need to see the bullseye scar on his forehead to know it. In between we have the Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Elektra (Jennifer Garner) characters. Neither of the actors have much to work with and do the best they can: crime boss Kingpin is a big, powerful bully and Elektra is a lonely, fierce rich girl, driven to revenge in the 2nd half of the story. Now, in the comic books, the story of Elektra covered years; that same story is compressed into days in this pic. Daredevil, in his civilian identity of attorney Matt Murdock, meets Elektra, becomes enamored of her; she loses her father to assassination, goes for vengeance and is killed. Here is the weakness of the script and the inexperience of the director.
Here is an instance when the comic books provide a much more rich, layered version of the same story. The writer and director took all the best elements and events of the books and jammed them all into one 2-hour film, which, again, covers only several days. There's no time for Matt & Elektra to get to know each other, not with the intensity which should be evident in their scenes together. There shouldn't be enough time for Daredevil to figure out who the Kingpin is and confront him. The hero is impaled by one of Elektra's blades and seems half dead in a church; moments later, the wound is gone - it has to be so he can battle the villains within the next 15 minutes. There's quite a lot of fighting in the last half hour, but it doesn't add up to much. I did like the FX associated with the hero's radar sense, especially in the rain. And the supporting players are all fine - even Kevin Smith in his silly one scene.  BoG's Score: 5 out of 10
Daring Trivia: several in-jokes related to the comics - thugs are named Quesada (Marvel's editor-in-chief) and Kane (seventies artist); a priest is named Everett (artist on 1st issue); Frank Miller cameos as a victim of Bullseye; Stan Lee cameos as a pedestrian during the Matt-as-a-boy scenes; the sort-of sequel was Elektra (2005), a box office bomb in which Elektra was resurrected (similar to the plotline in the books); the earlier live action versions of Daredevil & Matt Murdock (and the Kingpin) appeared in the TV Movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (89) - it might have resulted in a TV series for Daredevil back then but nothing came of it until Netflix produced a new Daredevil series in 2015.
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