Awfully Good: Daredevil

General consensus seems to be pretty positive for Marvel's Daredevil series on Netflix. But of course the masochist in me wants to revisit…

Daredevil (2003)

Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Stars: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell


A blind superhero with a heightened sense of hearing must persevere against a world filled with Evanescence and Nickelback.

Note: This is a review of the theatrical version of DAREDEVIL, not the Director's Cut, which is admittedly a better movie.  

It's a little unfair re-watching DAREDEVIL so soon after binging the Netflix series, as it only highlights everything the 2003 Fox film gets wrong that the 2014 Marvel show does right. While the Netflix reboot isn't perfect, the movie is really, really, really, really not perfect.

Google Glass' "Guess Her Cup Size" app was technology at its finest. 

It was easy to be blindsided (no pun intended) by DAREDEVIL back in the early 2000s. Comic book fans were still riding high off the unprecedented success of SPIDER-MAN (before we were oversaturated with superhero movies) and this take on The Man Without Fear seemed to be a dark and gritty response to Sam Raimi's colorful webcrawler. And the opening of DAREDEVIL, where our broken and bleeding hero collapses inside a church, definitely set a more adult "Frank Miller" tone for the movie, with plenty of bleak hero worship, harsh violence, and even a little sex. This was all welcome news for a less-discerning 18 year old viewer like myself. I remember walking out of this movie saying, "Daredevil killed that guy. And then he stayed behind to get laid! Awesome!" Now watching it, I'm more like, "Okay, that's kind of a dick move, Matt."  


But we're barely tapping our walking cane in the street here. Let's dig deeper in to DAREDEVIL:

There's no doubt that Mark Steven Johnson loves this character and knows his comic books. The film beats you over the head with constant references, winking character names, and shots faithfully recreated from iconic Daredevil panels. He had the passion for the character… he just didn't know how to make a good movie about him. Having only directed one film (SIMON BIRCH) and written a few others (GRUMPY OLD MEN, JACK FROST), Johnson might not have been the best choice to lead a big budget action tentpole. His script feels more like a draft with trite character arcs and some truly painful dialogue. (Things improved upon but not completely fixed in the Director's Cut.) And it's sadly obvious this was his first time using visual effects like this, given the embarrassing use of CGI stunts and action. 

A lot of the movie also feels like Johnson knowing he was only getting one shot at making a Daredevil movie and packing in as much as humanly possible in 90 minutes. You get Daredevil's origin story, a little bit of Matt Murdock's law practice with Foggy Nelson, his tragic love story with Elektra, his rivalry with villain Bullseye, reporter Ben Urich's investigation, an introduction in to Kingpin's criminal empire and his ultimate confrontation with Daredevil. The movie barely has time to hit all of these plot points, let alone properly explore them.

What's better: Affleck's "Come hither" look or the fact that the girl in the background is completely unimpressed?

Ben Affleck wasn't terrible in the title role, but the script's treatment of the superhero didn't do him any favors—from his back story (instead of gaining his powers after saving a man's life, he accidentally runs in to a barrel of toxic waste) to his training (teaching himself how to fight and do handstands on skyscrapers, as opposed to learning from Stick) to the aforementioned "hos before bros innocent victims" situation. Even the costume is goofy in hindsight. The cowl/mask actually works well (better than the final Netflix version, IMO), but the motorcycle jumpsuit makes no sense for someone who needs to fight, let alone move at all.   

Though my favorite thing about Ben Affleck's Daredevil is what a prick he is. Example: Murdering a guy he loses a legal case against. We first see them in court (where a rape victim seems to be suing her rapist?!) and Matt Murdock is unable to convict him. So he shows up at his bar as Daredevil and stands in the corner until someone notices him. Daredevil then proceeds to beats up everyone in the bar before chasing the criminal to the subway, where he breaks his back and then mocks him with a terrible one-liner ("That light's not heaven, it's the C-Train!") as he gets run over by a subway car. This sounds more like Judge Dredd than Daredevil. And the best part is when the cops show up, they drop a cigarette and ignite his signature logo in fire on the subway station floor. I 100% love the idea of Daredevil hanging around after the murder and pouring out some lighter fluid in perfect Double D's.

Much like vampires, Greek ninja warriors also sparkle. 

It's almost impressive that Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck got married after this movie, given their palpable lack of chemistry here. Or maybe it's just the completely insane way in which their romance blossoms. First, Matt Murdock smells Elektra from afar, then goes over and totally plays the blind card to get sympathy from her. When she understandably refuses to tell this stranger her name, he chases her down the street and grabs her. What ensues is one of the most embarrassing scenes of foreplay ever conceived, as the duo proceeds to have a flirty kung fu fight on a playground and immediately fall in love. I can't even understand how this made it past the outline stage, let alone made it in to a script that other actors signed off on. (Literally, Ben Affleck read "Matt and Elektra do wirework on a see-saw" and was like "Give me my paycheck!") It's almost as bad as Elektra training with a laughably impractical sandbag obstacle course in her apartment to an Evanescence song.

Colin Farrell's take on Skinhead Jesus was not well-received by Middle America.

Bullseye is legitimately the best part of this movie, solely due to Colin Farrell's relentlessly over-the-top performance. Why root for sourpuss Daredevil when you can instead enjoy a bad guy who kills old men in bars with paper clips, murders old ladies on airplanes with peanuts, goes surfing on a motorcycles, uses his crocodile leather coat in combat, and does close up magic tricks right before killing someone? This should be a dumb character, but Farrell makes him fun. Even the literal bullseye carved in to his head shouldn't work, but I totally believe Farrell's character would do that.  

The late Michael Clarke Duncan is big and menacing enough to play the character, but he doesn't get much to do (except stand around and wait for final fight at the end). So much so that the script feels the idiotic need to make him the person who killed Matt Murdock's dad, just to give Daredevil closure completely unnecessary to his character. Though I do like that Kingpin's reasoning for dismissing all of his henchmen to fight Daredevil mano-a-mano is, "I was raised in the Bronx. You wouldn't understand."

Young Matt learned all too late that the old wives' tale about blindness and self-gratification were true.

After Daredevil defeats Bullseye in the climactic fight, I assumed that they would leave Kingpin for the next movie. Nope, Mark Steven Johnson has to wrap up that storyline too in the next five minutes with a disappointingly quick fight scene where the hero defeats the villain after getting him wet. Daredevil tells Kingpin that the police sirens are coming for him (even though nobody else knows he's the Kingpin) and then walks out the front door of his office building, completely leaving behind his mask. So Daredevil is blind with no transportation, wearing his costume with his face exposed, and miles away from his home. Good luck with that, Man Without Fear.  

Oh, and of course Elektra is revealed to still be alive so she can get her own terrible, terrible spinoff.

You've come a long way, Feige. 

Nothing ages a movie worse than having Evanescence featured in two prominent scenes. Honestly, the music is probably the funniest part of DAREDEVIL, from Ben Affleck waking up from his sensory deprivation chamber and immediately putting on Seether to Nickelback being blasted during a fight scene. The rest of the movie/soundtrack features bands like Fuel, Saliva, Drowning Pool, Hoobastank, Finger Eleven and other reminders that I'm glad it's 2015. 

Jon Favreau actually says, "Wilson Fisk is in the hizzzzzzy!" And it gets worse from there with cheesy romantic scenes and the best of Bullseye. 

The best action and fight scenes, of course including Matt and Elektra's playground foreplay. 

The sex scene is strictly PG-13 and wildly unexciting. 

Buy the Director's Cut instead!

Take a shot or drink every time:
  • A rock song from the early 2000s is heard
  • Matt Murdock smells Elektra
  • Someone says, "Stay with me"
  • Elektra is rained on
  • Bullseye kills someone
  • An action scene switches to digital stuntmen
Double shot if:
  • The requisite Stan Lee cameo happens


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: JoBlo.com



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