Ben Affleck watches his career as
a serious actor go up in flames.
Review written by: Alex Sandell
December 6th, 1984. That was the day my first issue of Daredevil arrived in the mail. I remember it clearly because it came only a few days before my birthday, and I had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity. When that issue showed up at my door, I moved up a notch on the ladder of geekdom, and no longer just picked up a comic here and there from the local drugstore, but rather, I devoted an entire year to the series, and loved every single issue.
My dad thought that I'd "grow out of" this "comic book thing" within the next 12 months, so he had given me a subscription as a gift, with an unspoken agreement that I would give up these "childhood" habits, such as reading, by the next time I celebrated my birth, and become involved with "manly-man" things like helping him fix the car because, "someday it would be [mine]." Now it's 18 years later and I'm still collecting Daredevil, I haven't so much as changed my own oil, and some idiot demolished the automobile that was promised to me before I even had a chance to drive it out of the garage and to the end of the driveway.
When I walked into the Daredevil film, I brought 18 years of expectations along with me (not to mention my cousin, who was under the impression that we were seeing a film about "those motorcycle people like Evel Knievel"). Did the movie manage to meet my expectations? Yes and no. The movie didn't meet a single expectation I had as a comic book junkie, but it exceeded my expectations as a film simply by not totally sucking.
Screenwriter and director, Mark Steven Johnson (Simon Birch, Jack Frost, Grumpy Old Men), apparently had no idea that he was making a film based on a comic book, and instead thought he was making the official sequel to The Matrix, or, at the very least, a 90 minute heavy metal video. Like a music video, there is no rhyme or reason to anything that's happening, but a lot of it looks sorta nifty.
Although we have a fairly compelling individual in Colin Farrell's extremely over-the-top bad guy, Bullseye (similar only in name to the Bullseye in the comic), screenwriter Johnson is far too busy trying to find another place where he can inject the umpteenth crunchy rock song into the film to give the guy any motives, background story or character development. All we know is that Bullseye is a guy who uses anything around him as a weapon to kill anyone that gets in his way. Oh, and Kingpin, another guy we know next to nothing about, hired him. We're never told how the two know each other, how they met, or why they continue to work together. Instead, we get to see Bullseye standing up on his motorcycle whipping ninja star sort of things at automobiles, and fighting Daredevil in a Matrix-y fashion.
We're given another potentially interesting character in Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), but, although she's a hero of a sort, we're never actually told this in the film. Instead, we get to see Elektra fighting both Bullseye and Daredevil in slow-motion and jumping hundreds of feet from rooftop to rooftop, in a rather Matrix-y fashion. Although nobody in the film is supposed to have superpowers, they all jump around as though they're auditioning for the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Your suspension of disbelief has to stretch further than it ever has before, if you're going to even attempt to enjoy this movie.
The Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) makes a couple of appearances, but he's seen so little that he almost comes off as the "token black guy," rather than the menacing lord of all organized crime that's committed in Hell's Kitchen. The lack of character development with The Kingpin hurts this film more than anything else. Daredevil needs a nemesis, and in the comic the Kingpin is more than up to the task, but in this film he's almost inconsequential. Instead "the man without fear" is found fighting no one other than a few mindless thugs, the sexy Elektra, and some loony guy from Ireland with a bullseye on his head and really good aim.
As for "the man without fear" himself, Daredevil (Ben Affleck), we're given a little bit more to work with, but it's still pretty sketchy. There's an origin story for Matt Murdock toward the beginning of the film, but it's obvious that screenwriter Johnson wanted it to be as brief as possible so he could get back to making his Matrix music video. Affleck is up for the role of Murdock, but when he puts the costume on and becomes "Daredevil," he loses all ability to act, almost turning the film into a parody. The first time he put on the mask and growled something out, the entire audience broke up laughing. I don't think this was the intent of either the actor or the misguided director.
Unintentional cheese turns out to be the bread and butter of this film. The movie is too bad to be good, but is just awful enough to be fairly fun. The film doesn't slow down, the characters may not be that interesting but their actions are, and Jennifer Garner is so damn sizzling hot as Elektra that almost all else can be forgiven. Within minutes I knew that this was going to be the least faithful comic book adaptation to date, but it didn't take long before I was having a good time with what was put in front of me. When Elektra Natchios and Matt Murdock get into what just may be the corniest lover's "spat" of all time, largely taking place on a teeter-totter, I surrendered to the sheer stupidity of it all and laughed both at, and with, the film.
Daredevil doesn't forget to leave nearly everything open-ended for a sequel, but I honestly don't think this movie is going to do well enough to ever get to its second installment. I see two groups of people going into this film: the largest group will be the casual moviegoer looking for another Spider-Man. The second largest group will be fans of the comic, such as me, looking for a faithful adaptation. I see three different reactions coming from the two different groups, once the movie is over: the most common reaction will be a dizzying amount of confusion and the realization that this is no Spider-Man. The second largest reaction will be disgruntled and disappointed fans of the comic, so angry that they'll vow never to see a comic book film again, at least until The Hulk is released. The smallest group will take this all as camp, not care either way, and will shrug the whole thing off as an insubstantial, but entertaining 90 minutes at the movies. Not one of the three groups will make a repeat visit to the film.
It appears that the only thing "the man without fear" has to fear, this time, is the poor box office receipts his movie is going to get after its opening weekend. Why the producers of this film didn't get Kevin Smith, who wrote a few fairly good issues of the Daredevil comic, to churn out a screenplay, rather than to merely make a cameo appearance in the picture, is an answerless question that will forever bug diehard fans of the comic book. Any true fan of the comic knew years ago that it would be much to much to ask of the movie industry to hire Frank Miller, the man who took the comic medium to a whole 'nother level during his run with the series.
One of these days maybe Hollywood will understand ... if you really want to please comic book geeks, hire one of them to write your movie. As it is, Daredevil is loud, corny, dark, and surprisingly violent for a PG-13, and that's good enough, if all you're looking for is a quick entertainment fix.
On a scale of 1-10?
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Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].
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