Daredevil movie

DAREDEVIL (2003)

Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan
Genre: Superhero Fantasy

After seeing the music-video-like trailer of this movie running constantly on prime-time television, I was really thinking the producers had ruined an otherwise excellent character – and maybe even damaged the superhero genre in the process. Thankfully, this was not the case.

The new Daredevil is, in a word, gritty. It’s real life (at least as much as one can get when you’re dealing with a comic book). Daredevil bleeds, he loses teeth, he has scars covering his back from innumerable fights that didn’t always go his way. But most of all he worries about treading the thin line between vigilante and hero. He knows what he’s doing is necessary while also knowing that it’s all too easy to cross that line and become, in his words, “The Bad Guy”. His mantra, “I’m the Good Guy”, is very telling.

What’s also interesting is the play on words and colors in the movie. Sure, they’re nowhere on par with those used in The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, but they’re there…everything from DD’s name to the color of his costume, to why he’s the Man Without Fear. Even the play on the word “Devil”. I won’t spoil anything, but these onion layers of drama and plot are the foundation of the movie. They take what would otherwise be a two-dimensional superhero flick and transcend into dramatic spectacle.

Having said all that, it’s important to note some cheese factor. While I liked Ben Affleck in the roll, I thought Jennifer Garner’s Elektra was a weak and rather forgettable departure from the sleek comic book assassin. Her bright scarlet (and skimpy) costume is gone and in its place the ubiquitous black leather so popular with superhero movies (this is so we know they’re dark and brooding). She seemed more like a spoiled rich kid who attended one too many karate classes and decided to rebel against all daddy’s money than a world-renowned ninja assassin.

Finally, there’s also a bit of misplaced humor sprinkled throughout the film that could have been left on the cutting room floor. The movie was dark, but the director just didn’t have the guts to take it all the way and make the movie that should have been made.  As is so often the case, the producers are more worried about scarring the psyches of 14-year-old boys’ mothers than making a bold artistic statement.

And like many movies that tend to side with flash and spectacle over logic, there are a number of instances where the characters perform stunts and leaps that are more superhuman in nature. As a long-time superhero buff, this drives me more than a little crazy. Comic books are usually very aware of their own internal logic…Spiderman doesn’t suddenly start lifting buildings like the Incredible Hulk for no reason at all. One would think that the grown-up counterparts to the comics would maintain a similar level of decorum. No such luck here, I’m afraid.  But it’s a tiny gripe and doesn’t ruin the movie. Only die-hard fans would likely even notice.

As a sidenote, I’ve also seen the Director’s Cut and for once I think the theatrical version was better (I’m usually a sucker for the extended-length director’s cuts of movies). A few details here and there were changed that just seemed a little indulgent, like the director was trying too hard.

So while Daredevil isn’t the greatest movie ever made (nor even the best superhero flick), and it has its share of flaws, it’s still definitely worth a look!

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