Daredevil arrives riding on the coattails of the success
of Spiderman and X-Men. It attempts to copy
their money-making formula. The movie is based on the Daredevil
comics, specifically the dark “Daredevil: The Man Without
Fear,” penned by Frank Miller. Given such good source
material it’s a surprise to have ended up with a second-rate
Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Affleck) grows up in New York
City’s Hell’s Kitchen with his father, a boxer past his prime.
His difficult childhood takes a turn for the unexpected when,
in a freak chemical spill, he loses his vision, but all of
his other senses are magnified to superhuman levels. Most
importantly, he gains a radar-like sense enabling him to “see”
enemies. Things get even worse for the young Matt (Terra)
when his father is killed by gangsters for refusing to throw
a fight. That night he vows revenge on criminals everywhere
and Daredevil is born.
Now all grown up, Matt is a lawyer acting as prosecutor by
day and the judge and jury by night. Even with this hectic
lifestyle Matt still has time to put the moves on the lovely
Electra (Garner), a fiercely independent woman with
extensive knowledge of the martial arts. Their relationship
is destined for some rocky times since Electra’s father is
mixed up with the Kingpin (Duncan), master of all crime
in the city. The Kingpin calls in Bullseye (Farrell)
to assassinate her father and then Electra herself, setting
the plot into motion.
Daredevil is a dark movie strongly reminiscent of
Tim Burton’s Batman or Alex Proyas’
The Crow. Often Daredevil perches like an avenging angel
on a rooftop surrounded by Gothic architecture, listening
to the beat of the city and awaiting an opportunity to dispense
justice. In Daredevil’s New York City the streets are always
wet because it has just rained and the candlelit church is
the only sanctuary from the predators who roam the streets.
Criminals operate with impunity, protected by high-priced
lawyers bought by the Kingpin. Idealistic lawyers like Matt
try to protect the innocent, but are helpless before a corrupt
Daredevil is an interesting character. At least he tries
legal alternatives before resorting to street justice. Despite
his superpowers, he is in mortal danger every time he takes
to the streets. Years of vicious street fights have covered
his body with scars and he takes painkillers to cope with
the constant agony. His legal firm is in some financial trouble
since the decent people he represents are also flat broke.
He knows that to defeat a devil one must become a devil, but
fears that the lust for revenge will totally consume him.
Ben Affleck is always wearing sunglasses or the Daredevil
mask so it’s difficult for him to emote and the movie must
rely on soliloquy for these insights.
The other characters are a bit more one-dimensional. Jennifer
Garner’s Electra is so strong-willed that it’s somewhat out
of the blue when she falls for Matt so quickly. It’s a charming
idea that he would fall for a woman he has never seen, but
when they get together it seems more out of necessity for
plot advancement than any romantic connection. Colin Farrell’s
Bullseye is also more of a plot device than a character. His
special power is he never misses with a thrown weapon—except
when attempts to hit Daredevil—a setup that rings rather false.
This movie will do little to advance Farrell’s image as a
sex symbol. He sports a shaved dome with a crosshairs scarred
into his forehead and communicates using grunts. On the other
hand, Michael Clarke Duncan totally delivers as Kingpin. He
literally fills the screen with physical presence and the
ground reverberates with his every word. The precious few
minutes he is on screen add greatly to this movie.
This is a very ambitious movie, and it makes a few mistakes.
Daredevil finds loud noises very painful, but when bad guys
start shooting guns—a very loud activity—it bothers him not
at all. Also where’s the money for this crime-fighting gear
coming from? Not his legal practice. Many of the scenes feel
like music videos—no dialogue and blaring music—time that
could have been better spent giving us more background on
the characters. Matt and Electra’s romance drags on too long,
holding up the rest of the story. But the cardinal sin is
that the action sequences are of mixed quality. They are poorly
edited, being too dark and featuring excessive jump cuts,
an annoying trend in movies today. Ben Affleck’s complete
lack of kung fu skills may have been part of the problem.
Daredevil has a lot going for it, especially its dark,
almost anti-hero protagonist and a noir setting. It tries
to have the best elements of Spiderman, X-Men,
and Batman, but emerges a pale comparison to all three.
Nothing here stands out as truly unique that this production
can call its own. Daredevil is unable to transcend
its obscure origins and like the comic it is destined for