"Where the fuck is Spiderman when Daredevil is getting his ass kicked by Bullseye in the middle of Manhattan?"
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Producer: Arnon Milchan, Gary Foster, Avi Arad
Writer: Mark Steven Johnson
Action Director: Yuen Cheung-yan
Cast: Ben Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau
Running Time: 114 min.
Plot: Based on the popular Marvel Comics character, this is the story of Matt Murdock, son of a boxer who gets killed by petty criminals for refusing to take a dive. This drives young Matt to fight crime, despite a childhood accident that robbed him of his sight. That same accident, however, also granted him exceptionally advanced senses of hearing, touch, taste and smell, as well as providing him with a strange sort of mental radar that helps to compensate for his lack of vision. After training hard in the martial arts, as well as excelling in law school, Murdock becomes a lawyer by day and a vigilante calling himself Daredevil by night.
OWLMAN'S REVIEW: Having once been a fan of the comic book during its heyday, I approached the film version of Daredevil with excitement and a touch of apprehension (just like I did with Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman). The trailers certainly looked very good and with advance photos being readily available, I had to admit that they did a good job with the costume, always a difficult thing to pull off in any comic-to-film production.
I watched the film on Sunday with my little brother-in-law who, at 13, has no idea about the complex story of Daredevil over the years, save for a few appearances on the new Spider-Man cartoon. This actually turned out to be a good thing for him because it didn't spoil his experience of the film - something I couldn't avoid since I cherished the whole Elektra saga from 20 years ago.
And, on that note, this is where I shall air my faint praise and many more grievances with the film...
What's good about the film?
The director, Mark Steven Johnson, certainly had the dark atmosphere of the comic down pat in the film. Daredevil never was a happy-go-lucky kind of superhero - sharp contrast to the other (and more famous) superhero of NYC. In committing that dark, tragic, and complicated psyche of Matt Murdock to film (or attempting to - more on that later) and making NYC a really shite place to live in, Mr. Johnson certainly scored.
The villains were very well cast. Colin Farrell made an excellent Bullseye, even if he didn't get to wear the blue and white costume from the comic (something he complains about in one of the best lines in the film). He's still every bit as psychotic and cocky as he is in the comic. Michael Clarke Duncan also played Kingpin to a T, with most of the menacing qualities that we remember a bald and large white guy to be - but black.
As for Elektra...wow, she sure looked good. I didn't think Jennifer Garner looked exotic enough to play Ms. Natchios but after seeing her in the film, my initial qualms were eased a bit. The leather outfit reversed my initial protests over not using the red sashes.
Plus, for the comic fans, the film does use some of the best lines and even scenes from the original Elektra saga - witness the final fight between Bullseye and Elektra.
What's not good about the film?
Noticed that I haven't said anything good about the central character? For good reason - Ben Affleck didn't do it for me in his portrayal of Daredevil. Quite frankly, I'm not a big fan of his work in other films (except for Chasing Amy) so when word came out that he was chosen to play DD, I flipped out. I then hoped that it would turn out like a "Michael Keaton as Batman" kind of deal but it was not to be. Every time I saw DD on screen, I just couldn't accept him as anything more than some pretty boy with a one note delivery.
To me, Daredevil is a lot like Marvel's version of Batman - a human being without any superhero powers who straddles the line between good-hearted individual and all-out psychotic nutjob. A man in need of some serious therapy. In the film, Mr. Affleck clenches his jaw to show that he's miffed. He clenches his jaw to show that he's not so miffed. He clenches his jaw when he gets some Elektra tail. This doesn't show me any real emotional complexity in the character but it does go to show that he sure can pull off a really good jawline, a pre-requisite of many superhero characters.
And, to continue on the comic fan trip, Elektra in the film is a far cry from the one in the comic. This is not to say that Ms. Garner did a poor job with the role. Instead, it is a knock on the fact that the scriptwriters turned the complex Elektra into a single emotion version. In the comic, she is an assassin who allows her desire for vengeance to lowly darken her soul, almost to the point of no return. In the film, she is neither an assassin nor is her soul all that corrupted. No, she's just out for vengeance and that's tough for fans like me to swallow.
Finally, for those who thought the fight scenes were good, I'd like to know what version of the film you were watching. The one I saw yesterday had fight scenes that were nothing more than a blur. Note to the director - if you're going to make cool fight scenes, don't put the camera in so close. I swear, the actors could have been dancing the funky chicken and I would not have been able to see the difference.
While I didn't outright detest the film, it certainly was a bit of a disappointment for me. My brother-in-law, however, thought it was fun so maybe I'm just a little too jaded on the original comic book to give an objective opinion. Nevertheless, the film was marketed with a focus on three things - the superhero, the fights, and the girl. While they more or less got the last part right, the fact is that the movie is called Daredevil and not Elektra.
Anyway, to sum it up, okay film for those who have not read the comics and are willing to put up with mediocre acting from the lead actor. A disappointment for the rest.
In the comics, both Daredevil and Spider-Man operate in the Manhattan area. Therfore, one would expect to see characters like Kingpin and Ben Urich (who, in the comic world, actually works for the Daily Bugle just like Peter Parker) show up in both films. However, the rights to the film version of Daredevil is owned by 20th Century Fox and the rights to Spider-Man by Columbia so don't expect any cross-overs any time soon. In interviews, Jennifer Garner has mentioned that the producers have discussed a spinoff series of films centered on Elektra. Without giving too much away, I'd like to see how they're going to pull that off (unless they bring in the mystical elements of the original comic book storyline).
OWLMAN'S RATING: 3/10
WOODY'S REVIEW: Half of Bennifer crammed into a ridiculous suit, befouling the legacy of one of Marvel's greatest comic books. Limp action, horrible character designs, lapses in credibility, and the less than wise decision to veer away from the dark brilliance that was Frank Miller's run with the comic book makes this one to avoid.
I could go on and on about why this is a waste of guitar picks, but that may potentially, God forbid, awaken the comic book nerd deep within my fragile soul. After watching this turd, I could feel my inner comic nerd screaming in disapproval, aching to dive into a box of Daredevil back issues to point out flaws, wanting desperately to run to a computer and post irate messages on countless fanboy message boards blasting this sorry excuse for a Daredevil movie. But, alas, I will keep this review short, breath slowly, call up my girl, and try my best to soothe the savage 350-pound triple-chinned loser with a ripped Iron Maiden shirt and propensity towards sarcasm that lurks within my 130-pound happenin' guy frame.
So, excuse the brevity, but there isn't much that needs to be said. Don't see it. That's all you need to know. It's lame. It's bad, but not in a good way. It's just bad in that "Murder She Wrote" or "Saved By The Bell: The New Class" kind of way, not in the rad, comical "Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill!", "Plan Nine From Outer Space", or "Schindler's List" sort of way.
WOODY'S RATING: 2.5/10
20 Questions About Daredevil
1. Who is Mark Johnson and what did he do to deserve direction of a major studio film and Marvel property?
2. Why didn't they get Frank Miller -- author or some of the best Daredevil stories -- to write the script?
3. When did Daredevil learn how to FLY? He dives off of skyscrapers and leaps across football field-long chasms with only a pair of rubber boots to cushion his landing. Lame.
4. Who made Daredevil's costume? Matt Murdock is blind, right? I'm guessing he didn't spend much time sewing (leather!) in Hell's Kitchen between beatings by that kid from HBO's Sopranos.
5. Who thought it would be a good idea to cast Ben Affleck in the title role, Jennifer Garner as Elektra and Jon Favreau as Foggy Nelson? Affleck's smarmy demeanor is irritating and ultimately ruins the illusion of Matt Murdock supposedly being a downtrodden everyman toughened by a boyhood in Hell's Kitchen. He's J. Lo's boyfriend for fuck's sake.
6. Why couldn't the production design team have realized that skateboards in the '60s were plastic and skinny and that black kids sported afros, not intricate cornrows? Details, people, details!
7. Why does the young Matt Murdock remind me so much of that annoying kid from that Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie Over the Top?
8. If the creators of the film decided that it would look cool to wrap Daredevil in red leather, why couldn't they also have decided to include Bullseye's original blue and white costume, one of the coolest in comics? Colin Farrell, with "branded" bullseye on his forehead, looks absolutely ridiculous in that alligator-skin overcoat.
9. Why isn't there any mention of Matt Murdock's mentor, Stick? In the comics, the young Murdock was trained by the mysterious Asian martial arts guru. In the movie, Murdock learns how to kick ass and fly...er, jump really far on his own.
10. Why does Hell's Kitchen look so much like a Hollywood backlot? Oh, it IS a Hollywood backlot. Never mind.
11. Why is Kevin Smith even in the film? His "reinventing" of the character sucked.
12. And why does the script borrow so heavily from Kevin Smith's overwrought run on the title anyway? Frank Miller's storylines are classic and include some of the best comic book writing ever. Dumb bastards.
13. Why the hell does Joe Pantoliano wear his hat backwards in every one of his freakin' roles? He's not nearly as cool as he thinks he is.
14. Why is Kingpin black? Not that it matters, but if the filmmakers were so adamant about staying true to the Daredevil comics, they would have found the fattest white guy on the planet to play the part. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed The Green Mile as much as the next guy, but if the script can include references to Daredevil minutiae like Karen Page, John Romita and the Fixer...surely they could have gotten Kingpin's ethnicity right.
15. The Stan Lee cameo was kinda cute, eh?
16. Want proof that Affleck will never make it in Hollywood as an action star? Check out the "fight" scene between Murdock and Elektra shortly after they've first met. Affleck is a half-second slow to react to every punch and his skills on the omnipresent wires are embarrassing at best.
17. Why is Ray Park here and why doesn't he get to fight anyone? He is probably the most skilled combatant in the film, but as Kingpin's errand boy he doesn't get to do much beyond walking beside the hulking Duncan.
18. And finally, why is there never any mention of other super-heroes in super-hero movies? Where the fuck is Spiderman when Daredevil is getting his ass kicked by Bullseye in the middle of Manhattan? Where are the X-Men (and where the hell was Alpha Flight in the first X-Men movie)? Fantastic 4 (Murdock's first major clients, by the way)? Iron Man? The Avengers? Batman AND Superman each went four movies without ever meeting another hero. Why can't the people responsible for bringing these stories to the big screen at least throw in a reference to another character to help SELL the setting?
19. Blah blah blah, blah? Blah? Blah blah blah blah blah?
20. ALEXANDER'S RATING? 5/10
ALEXANDER'S RATING: 5/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: You know you have a problem when the title character of the movie brings the entertainment level down. I didn't even have a gripe with the unmasked Daredevil (Matt Murdock, played by Ben Affleck), but as soon as he gears up as the blind superhero, I wanted to look away. I'm not sure if it was the outfit or the way Ben played him; I just can't explain it. Frankly, I don't give a shit and I'm actually sitting here getting a headache because I can't give one solid reason. By the way, those shoulder pads are way to broad for Ben.
And Jennifer Garner (TV's "Alias")...well, stick to TV babe. Everytime she pops on the screen, it just gave the film a "TV series" feel. Her acting, her presence - she was born to be on TV. However, her ass, was born to be on my lap. Also, I'm no comic-buff, but even I can tell ya, her portrayal is no Elektra. Buffy The Vampire Slayer maybe, but no Elektra. Way too soft, honey.
On the other hand, Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile") wasn't bad as the Kingpin. I was always wondering why they picked a black guy to play one of Marvel's most noticeable baddies. Everyone knows the Kingpin is a huge, bald, fat, white guy. Michael Clarke Duncan is just a big black guy. However, he actually works for the part. It's just one of those performances that has to be seen to accept.
As for Colin Farrell ("The Recruit"), his over the top portrayal as Bullseye was outstanding. He's definitely the highlight. Jon Favreau ("Swingers"), chubby as ever, was also nice to see as Matt Murdock's buddy. He supplies a few, much needed, laughs.
"Daredevil" has a couple of good things going for it. The use of extreme sounds and effects to show the audience how the title hero does what he does was pretty nifty. The action scenes (there are plenty) are well done. The hand-to-hand martial arts sequences (helmed by Yuen Cheung-yan, brother of Yuen Woo-ping) are rich, but ruined to fast cuts and camera angles from hell. Why does Hollywood even hire these Hong Kong guys when all they do is cluster-fuck their work? So screw it, I guess the Yuen Cheung-yan's choreography doesn't belong in this paragraph.
I don't know about you guys, but I think the whole "Marvel Superheros Invade Hollywood" thing is getting out of hand. I hope it ends sometime soon. It's just too bad I'm going to uncontrollably see every one that comes out. Well, I guess we'll know it's coming to an end when "Thor" hits the big screen.
The best way to sum up "Daredevil"? Well, it's a combination of "The Crow", "Spiderman", "TV shit" and a Roger Corman superhero flick with a budget. In other worse, typical Hollywood shit.
Sorry about this shitty review, but it fits right with the shitty movie. I'm hungry. Let's get a taco.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 5.5/10