When I was a mere squirt of about 13 years old, a comic book taught me a few lessons that I haven’t forgotten to this day. This comic book was Daredevil.
The new feature film based on the popular Marvel Comics character, Daredevil, stars Ben Affleck as attorney-vigilante Matt Murdock who prowls the roof-tops of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen in a search to preserve and maintain justice.
The film opens with a bloodied and battered Daredevil falling into a church much to a preacher’s surprise. This event springboards the filmgoer back into the character’s past where young Matt lives with his struggling boxer father Jack Murdock (David Keith).
When Matt is blinded in a freak accident, a new connection develops between father and son. But it seems that Matt has adopted some extraordinary powers that leave his remaining 4 remaining senses in a sort of hyper-flux. He also develops a sort of radar sense that allows him to see in a whole new way.
After Matt’s father is killed following a crooked boxing match, Matt devotes his life to justice. He becomes an attorney. When the worst cases slip through the system, Matt dons a crimson leather suit and exacts his own brand of justice as the vigilante, Daredevil.
One day when Daredevil comes to close to uncovering the truth about organized crime in Hell’s Kitchen he becomes hunted by the self-made crimelord Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan). Kingpin hires the assassin-with-perfect-aim Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to take down Daredevil but Matt’s new girlfriend Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) becomes reluctantly involved. How will this new dynamic and showdown effect “the man without fear”? Can a mere attorney from Hell’s Kitchen bring down one of the most powerful crimelords in New York?
This is one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to write. I have struggled to look at this film without my admiration with the comic. I have found that impossible. The film is based on the legendary Frank Miller storyline from the 1980s, which changed the lives of the ones who read it forever. How could a comic influence and change a reader so much? Isn’t that left only for novels? Well for anyone who doesn’t enjoy comics or know that comics are for grown-ups, that maybe the truth.
Daredevil, the film incarnate moves along very briskly in its 103-minute time frame. Because of time restraints, it seems Kingpin and Elektra have been over simplified. For fans of the comic, these changes may be annoying since each character is so multi-layered and intricate for the plot. For the basic moviegoer it maybe all right. I may never know.
I loved the look of Daredevil; the dark, grisly feel is such homage to the comic. I also loved how some of the scenes reminded me so much of favorite panels from the comics. I loved how the film depicted Daredevil and how he was in constant conflict with his faith. I also cheered the aspect of Murdock needing a sensory depravation-tank. How else is he able to escape his heightened senses. I thought there was a lot of depth in Affleck’s portrayal of Matt Murdock. He even surprised me.
I also loved the depiction and portrayal of both Daredevil and Bullseye. Bullseye, character-wise, reminded me so much of his comic version. Colin Farrell’s performance as Bullseye was a real treat in the film.
I had a lot of problems with the portrayals of Elektra and Kingpin. The audience needs to know more about them before it can connect with them. Even as a die-hard fan I found it difficult to follow the film-versions. It was as if Joel Schumacher had written these characters. Who is Elektra? Why should we care about her? How deep does the Kingpin’s influence go? What is his motive?
I really think that with a longer running time, the film could have been more of a success. Maybe the DVD will shed some light on that. I just hope that the power, emotion and life lessons I learned as a kid will be seen some day. Daredevil is a success but not a rampant one.
Theatrical Cut: 3 out of 5
Director’s Cut: 4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.