Review: Daredevil

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

The first thing that many people said after seeing a trailer for Daredevil, is “who?” That has been the story of Daredevil, one of Marvel Comic’s B-Grade super heroes. Throughout the entire film, I was consumed with a sense of surrealism has four A-list stars act out the adventures of a this little-known super hero. However, after the disappointing Spider-Man, I was hopeful that Daredevil might be an improvement upon the recent comic book adaptations (Batman & Robin, Spider-Man). Fortunately for me, and the quickly growing genre, Daredevil is in fact an improvement.

Daredevil is far from great, and the reason my review may come off as overly enthusiastic is more to put shame to the wrongfully hailed Spider-Man, which played out more like a cartoon than a $400,000,000 blockbuster, than superlative praise for Daredevil.

The titular Daredevil’s alter-ego is one Matt Murdock. A pro-bono lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen who, who by day defends the innocent, and by night, slays the guilty. On catch though: Matt is blind. When he was a child, he was involved in a freak accident involving biohazard waste that left him blind. To compensate, his remaining 4 senses began to function above human standards, and his sense of hearing was so good, he was able to see sound, thus seeing objects that sound reflected off of. Every super-hero needs a reason to go into the crime-fighting profession, for Bruce Wayne (Batman) it was the killing of his parents, and for Matt Murdock, it was the beating to death of his father, Jack, a prize-fighter.

The specific story we deal with in the movie, revolves around a beautiful (and I mean HOT) girl named Elektra, played with electric charisma by Alias’ Jennifer Garner. Matt and Elektra soon fall in love, but when Elektra’s father is killed by an assailant named Bulls Eye (Colin Farrell), who was commissioned by the head of all crime in the city, the mysterious “Kingpin” (Michael Clarke Duncan) Elektra is rattled with vengeance, but for the wrong person. Elektra believes it was Daredevil who killed her father, when in reality Daredevil he tried to save him. Matt now must protect Elektra from Bulls Eye and Kingpin, while Elektra still believes that Daredevil killed her father.

Something Spider-Man had that Daredevil didn’t, couldn’t, or will never have is instantaneous name recognition. As I watched Daredevil, with such effort taken on the CGI effects, the cast, the action sequences, and visual landscape it all felt that a little kid wearing daddy’s shoes. A no-name hero given the full 9 yards. While at first its almost embarrassing to watch a movie have such a big deal made out of it, yet no one has heard of the franchise, we quickly lose that sense of embarrassment in place of a good story..

If you know me, you know what a sucker I am for romantic comedies and romances. From the outward appearance, you would think that Daredevil would contain little or no romance (despite its Valentine’s Day release date). Yet your assumption would be incorrect as Daredevil has a romantic side plot that rivals any of the sole romances of the year. I am sure that the reason the Elektra/Matt romance worked so well for me was because of my...minor...crush on Jennifer Garner. Her chemistry with costar Ben Affleck is also undeniably strong. We are talking hydrogen bond strong! (Sorry, just a little chemistry humor.) Jennifer Garner has a way of putting a smile on the face of everyone who gets to watch her smile, and a twinge in the heart, every time we see her heart leap.

If you go see Daredevil at the theatre, be consider yourself informed that what you are seeing is the third cut of the movie. The first two cuts received R ratings from the MPAA, and also consider yourself warned that what you are seeing is a very hard PG-13. Unlike some of the other super hero movies, Daredevil himself walks the line between protector and revenge seeking vigilante. Batman beat up the bad guys, and had Commissioner Gordon hall them off the jail. Daredevil takes it upon himself to rid society of these people. To give credit to director Mark Steven Johnson he tackles this “anti-hero” issue with his characters, a brave move by anyone, but one that certainly has paid off in dividends (or more like a positive review).

One thing I truly enjoyed about the character of Matt Murdock was how relatable he is. He seeks justice for people for whom the justice system has failed them, and also for himself. He is consumed with rage for the murder of his father. Also intriguing are the super abilities of Matt Murdock. He cannot fly, he does not have super strength, he cannot read minds. He is just a blind man with four very strong senses. This is more a compliment directed at the creator rather than the movie, but since this is my first introduction to “Daredevil” I will give the film credit for not ’Hollywood-izing’ the character.

To be sure, the special effects of Daredevil are stunning, utilizing all that CGI animation and special effects teams have to offer. However, I am disappointed that such state of the art special effects had to be used. Personally, I think that the movie would have worked far better had Matt Murdock not had...spider-like reflexes and leaping ability. Whatever relatable qualities that Matt Murdock has, Daredevil wipes them all away, as this seemingly normal man has the fighting abilities of Neo from The Matrix or yes, even Spider-Man. I personally find it insulting that the film makers think that in order to be entertained, we need the best in special effects when simplicity would have been better for the film.

I watch a lot of the talk shows on TV, especially Jay Leno. I happened to catch the interview Jay conducted with Ben Affleck a few nights ago, and I was shocked at what an ass Ben Affleck came off to be. He was glib with his responses regarding questions that had to do with fiancee, Jennifer Lopez, and he mocked Jay not once, but twice. It was almost enough for me to skip this movie entirely, (although, I knew I wouldn’t, due to Jennifer Garner), to my surprise, Ben Affleck is very strong in his role as Matt Murdock. He is able to convey to emotions necessary for this sympathetic and deep super-hero. To say the very least, Affleck easily puts Toby McGuire in his place. Top billing may go to Affleck, but its the supporting cast that steals the show. Jennifer Garner is amazing as Elektra and her personality is positively effervescent, while bad guys Colin Farrell and Michael Clarke Duncan prove to be two of the more memorable arch-enemies in recent memory. Of course both pale in comparison to Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Joker in the first Batman, but they are still excellent.

Daredevil will never be as high profile as some of its comic book brothers, yet when it comes to film adaptations, it seems to have won round two. Daredevil boasts one of the most interesting alter-egos in Matt Murdock, and features a fantastic romance. However, director Mark Steven Johnson takes no risks when dealing out the special effects, which is very disappointing after crafting such a decent super-hero fantasy on paper. Despite the hideous red leather suit, Daredevil accomplishes what it set out to do.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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