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Daredevil (2003)

PG-13 105 minutes

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
Written by Mark Steven Johnson

Starring
 · Ben Affleck
 · Jennifer Garner
 · Michael Clarke Duncan
 · Colin Farrell


Review by Thom Stricklin

You should've seen me today. I was the daredevil. Still suffering from a horrible digestive/intestinal bug, I was under the weather quite literally as well--facing the rainiest day Arizona has seen this year. Still, I braved the odds, "took the dare", so to speak, and drove forty miles through zero visibility to see the early screening of Daredevil.

I've had a lot invested in this movie. During my run on the Comics2Film news team, I was the "Daredevil Czar", the guy in charge of tracking all things DD. There was no way I was going to miss my chance to see it early, if even by a couple of hours. So what did I think?

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it. Really, though, I couldn't enjoy it. In the amount of discomfort I was in with my stomach bug, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy it if Jennifer Garner had popped out of the screen and given me a lapdance. But alas, I stuck it out, took one for the team, and present you with my review.

 

Popcorn

 
 89%

I wish I could first write about how maniacal Farrell was as Bullseye, or what good comic relief John Favreau gave as Foggy, but at risk of sounding obsessed--lord knows it wouldn't be the first time--let me say this: Affleck was the bomb in Daredevil, yo! Really, you can question his acting ability or his charisma all you want, but not in this role. Perhaps it's because he was bringing to life a character he's admired since childhood, but for whatever reason, he shone in this role. You can feel his pain, you can truly invest in his character and sympathize with him, perhaps moreso than any role previous to Daredevil. There's no need for fanboys to long for a "better" actor like Ed Norton or Guy Pearce... Affleck is more than fit to wear the Marvel triple-crown along with Tobey Maguire and Hugh Jackman.

Hmm... Who else was in the movie? Oh yes. *Brings himself out of Affleck-obsession land* Colin Farrell. That guy was fookin' hilarious as Bullsye. Let alone the character's wacky stunts, such as that oh-so-wrong trick with the peanuts on the airplane... Farrell delivered the perfect charisma to the role. Is there any wonder? Just take a look at the actor's real life. He smokes, drinks, curses every other word, always offering an in-your-face attitude... He's perfect to play the maverick assassin. (Sounds like a good match for Britney Spears, too.)

Of course, for some humor that isn't accompanied by a feeling of guilt, we have Jon Favreau as Matt's law partner, Foggy Nelson. Favreau doesn't have too many lines, but he generates at least as many good laughs in that time. If they make a sequel, I hope it'll be based on the Born Again storyline, because I really want to see more Jon Favreau.

What I truly loved most about this film, though, was how faithfully the source material was brought to life. From Bullseye's line-by-line slaying of Elektra, to Daredevil's decision to drop Bullseye, and even the post-credits scene that reveals Bullseye slowly recovering, it was a treat to watch these scenes made real as they were.Mark Steven Johnson was unafraid to take even the risks that Sam Raimi shied away from.

 

Smarts

 
 52%

Sadly, Daredevil falls a little short of its target, thanks to a few lapses in directing. One scene that seems quite out of place is Matt Murdock's encounter with Elektra in the playground. Let alone that it's risky for a plainclothes blind guy to reveal his talents in public... The delivery of the scene was flat-out hammy. Another little complaint was near the end, when Bullseye caught huge stacks of glass shards effortlessly, and tossed the heaping piles en masse. It would have been just as effective and more less campy were he to just pitch the glass piece by piece as he caught it. I have faith that Mark Steven Johnson will evolve into a solid director, but his lack of experience (relative to X-Men's Bryan Singer or Spidey's Sam Raimi) is apperant in his first action outing.

I feel bad marking MSJ off for his direction, as these complaints really do stem from a few small scenes. So if it's any consolation, I'll commend his screenwriting abilities. Though there are a few plot holes, I find them excusable and recognize that a lot of them are probably due to studio-mandated cutting. All in all, he really succeeded in bringing some compelling characters to life. Dare I say, he may have even improved upon some already-great source material, bringing in Daredevil's quest to prove himself "the good guy".

One element of the filmmaking that was seriously questioned throughout production but proved to be spot-on was the casting. As said before, Affleck, Garner, and Farrell were stupendous in their roles, but the casting bliss doesn't end there. From the major players to Favreau, to Duncan's intimidating Kingpin... All the way down to Joey Pants' Ben Urich and even that bulgy-eyed lab technician (Kevin Smith), there wasn't a casting error in sight. Everyone was as they should be.

 

Final

Daredevil isn't Spider-Man, nor is it X-Men, but in certain aspects it's stronger than both. Never before in a comic adaptation do I feel we've been given the opportunity to empathize with the "hero" as we are with Daredevil.

At very least, I hope this film can accomplish two things. First, that it will pave its own way to a sequel, where the few glaring wrinkles of the first film can be ironed out. Secondly, I hope it attracts moviegoers to some of the source material, because Daredevil's tales are truly among the most compelling I've ever read, not just among comic books, but in all of literature.

Worth the price of a ticket? Yeah, I'd say so. It's certainly better than the competish this time of year. At very least worth adding to your DVD collection when it comes out.

Speaking of DVD... I sincerely hope Mark Steven Johnson is given the opportunity to realize his own, unedited vision of Daredevil for the DVD release. I believe it would provide us with an even better film. I'll now return from atop my soapbox.


1041 Words Published: 14 February 2003

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