Old Movie Review: Daredevil (nerd rage)

daredevilaffleck     This is an old review (2003) that I wrote for another site that’s now gone. It gives you an insight on how poor my writing skills are and how much nerd rage I had. (probably still do.)  I’m reposting virtually verbatim, with a few minor tweaks to update and to protect the innocent. Also, it easily qualifies as a tl:dr.

Daredevil (2003)

Rated PG-13

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Actors: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan

Let me just say that I’m a comic book geek. There, I’ve said it. Not as much as i used to be, mind you, but I still have the comic books and read them whenever I get a chance. I am a stickler for continuity and the integrity of the characters, including the back history. At times, I even have lengthy discussions about them with other comic book fans. That aside, I try to be objective when it comes to the translation from book to screen, because — let’s face it — it’s very rare that books gets the near perfect movie treatment. Also, with movies being more mainstream, there are more people out there who’ve never heard of some of these books or characters. In trying to be fair, I tried to treat this movie as someone who hadn’t read the comic books of even heard of Daredevil. I’m pretty sure I didn’t succeed.

After the successful openings of Spider-Man, X-Men, and The Hulk underway (which looks ridiculously cool in the trailers, by the way), I wondered, which superhero from Marvel would make the next silver screen debut? I was very happy to hear about Daredevil taking the mainstream plunge. Even when Ben Affleck was cast as the lead, I thought, “He’s a good actor, he could probably pull it off.” The main issue was I didn’t want this movie to go the way of The Punisher (the one with Dolph Lundgren) or worse, like Captain America and The Fantastic Four, both of which seems to be only available in bootleg form. (Hint: Both were very, very bad.) I’ve watched both X-Men and Spider-Man and both were good and very good respectively. It seems as if comic book hero movies could only get better. Being an avid comic book reader as a kid, mainly reading Marvel, the Daredevil movie just stoked the warm embers of my little geek heart. Screw it. I was ecstatic. My childhood heroes were getting a shot at the big screen and I was eagerly waited for opening day.

Friday, February 14, 2003. Valentine’s Day. Romance was in the air. A beautiful sunny day with couples around the city walking hand in hand. The city is imbued with fragrant roses, scrumptious chocolate and hearts aplenty. The dominant color of the day is red. Daredevil red. Yes, the action-romance movie Daredevil opened in theaters across the country inviting couples in love to view the blind, costumed crime fighter from the Marvel Comics powerhouse. They invite you to feel the passion between one of the most famous couples in comics, Daredevil and Elektra, on the most romantic day of the year. So, being a comic book geek, I naturally went with Nacho on Saturday. How unromantic can that be? About 2 hours later, as I’m standing outside of Sony Metreon in the chill gloomy, damp air of the evening, I reflected on the Marvel movie that I had just seen and though, paraphrasing  “Wow! That movie was great! … for me to POOP on!” (Apologies to Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.) And now I will attempt to explain.

The fact this movie slated to come out on Valentine’s, it was billed as an action/romance flick. I felt that this movie was rushed and lukewarm in the romance department. The woefully underdeveloped mistreatment of the main characters and the cramming of several years of story into a 2-hour storyline that made little sense with no depth made left me scrambling hard to look for some cohesive romance. I also thought casting put too much faith in star power, hoping Affleck and Garner could use their wiles to cover up an anemic script. The chemistry between the two came across as rather forced and uncomfortable. I just couldn’t see these two seriously hooking up. Affleck gave a rather sordid performance of utter banality, playing Matt Murdock as a spastic, smarmy, ex-frat boy, who’s too cool to even comb his hair before being in court. I’ve seen him do better in Reindeer Games. Yes, I said Reindeer Games. Garner is somewhat new to me. I know about Alias and yeah she looks hot (Nacho differs), but her vapid, clueless characterization did everything to prove that she ain’t ready to play the sultry, beguiling, graceful, daring, world class assassin that Elektra is. Plus, she barely lasted long enough to make us give a fig. She also had this amazing ability to smile yet still seem like she’s just getting over the fact that her favorite pony is dead. Between Afflecks’s ‘Average Joe’ flat charm and Garner’s apathetic attitude and vacuous victimhood, this picture is as romantic as a booty call between bored people.

The action sequences seemed reminiscent of Jackie Chan with the feel of The Transporter fight scenes put in. Namely, “I know it’s been done before, but ours is so much different!” Yeah. Right. Affleck seems uncomfortable, as if he had to go potty every time you saw him in the red suit. He looked like he was more intent on flopping about and acting hurt. Garner was much more comfortable with the action thanks to her training on Alias. Still, how some of the scenes came about were either ridiculous (school yard brawl) or downright shameful (the final showdown). However, I did enjoy the scenes with Bullseye in them. Colin Farrell just seems to get better and better in each successive film that I see with him in it. his over-the-top portrayal of Bullseye essentially made the character far better than the comic counterpart. He moved with ease in his fight scenes even though wearing a cumbersome, punk, fur trench coat. Farrell gave Bullseye an edge and intensity that the character never had in the comic book. Hyper-accurate marksmanship aside, Farrell made me believe that a quivering, egotistical, homicidal maniac with his rage barely controlled, could exist and brand his forehead with that funky target symbol and yet keep that comic book absurd flavor. Too bad he was stuck with other less passionate characters.

Speaking of other characters, Michael Duncan Clarke’s Kingpin was actually pretty good despite the direction h was given. He was intimidating but wasn’t overpowering and as menacing as he could be. There wasn’t any indication of why he should be feared other than he’s a crime boss. But, he was creepy and menacing enough to pull it off for this movie. I think it’s because of this reason the final showdown between Daredevil and Kingpin as handled as such. I know people who have read the comic and watched the movie were stupefied and none too happy with how it ended.

The other supporting characters mostly did a fine job. For such a limited role, David Keith as Jack “The Devil” Murdock (It’s “Battling Jack” Murdock, dagnabbit!) couldn’t have done any better showing us the down and out father torn between being a henchman for the Kingpin and doing right for his son, competently played by Scott Terra. Jack tries to shed the former and stubbornly vows himself the latter, all the while you can see the fear and humanity in Keith’s eyes and face as he lives with the consequences of the dangerous path he has chosen. Damn, I wish Keith would get a really good and bigger role in the future. Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich does a decent job as the reporter who knows Daredevil’s alter ego and goes against his die-hard, journalistic instincts to expose one New York’s secrets. On the flip side, there’s Jon Favreau as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson. I don’t know how much this is direction, script or actor’s discretion, but Favreau’s performance made Foggy  go from a constant worry-wart with a heart of gold, to a creepy jackass who tries to exploit Murdock’s blindness for kicks. This is a big departure of character. Foggy was never a stereotypical New York lawyer and I was thoroughly insulted. (though it didn’t affect Nacho much, I do believe he was more intent on why we’re watching this in the first place.) Oh yeah, this is Daredevil. Riiight.

The special effects were a bit trite. As far as the radar sense goes, anyone who has seen Hollow Man and even House on Haunted Hill (circa 1999) will understand the basic gist of the special effects in this movie. Though not very original, the effect do service how Daredevil’s radar sense works and is still pretty nifty in of itself.

This is writer/director Mark Steven Johnson’s first action film and second directorial effort. He directed 1998’s Simon Birch, which I did not see, so, no comment. There were rumors, though I couldn’t confirm that Daredevil was on of his favorite comic characters. Which from a reader’s perspective begs the question, “What Daredevil comics was he reading?” His awkward paced direction was annoying and looked borrowed from MTV videos. Also, the script tried to jam several years worth of story into 2 scant hours. This inevitably led to a lack of depth in characterization. Johnson’s approach of trying to make the film more realistic, darker and grittier, instead made it look like Spider-Man with bad lighting. He also made Murdock a painkiller junkie and portrays Daredevil as someone who doesn’t care about justice but just wants to settle a score. This is where the comic book geek comes out to say that this is out of character. It makes some sense but alters the integrity of the characters in this movie. Except for Bullseye, who was bland to begin with; Farrell brought him up to where he should be: over the top and crazy. I’m sure Johnson is a fine director but his sophomore film left me with a unpleasant, icky feeling inside.

So, my initial fears about Daredevil the movie were confirmed. Marvel’s third major movie since ’99 was not a charm. The overall theme of this movie was lack of sustenance. It is lacking in nearly everything and most importantly, lacking vitality in the script. The romance between the two main characters is tepid and baffling at best. The character treatments were equally bad and made me care little about them or embarrassed for the actors at most. The action and special effects are nice but not noteworthy or really anything new. The supporting characters are the only ones that are trying to carry this load of earwax, but their appearances are short and add little to the depth of the story as a whole. I should have gone with my first instinct of rejection when I heard about Affleck, who turned out to be an ill choice for the lead and some though Matt Damon would’ve been a better choice. Given the performances in Meet Joe Black, Fight Club, and Snatch, I thought Brad Pitt, though a bit on the pretty side, would have been a much better choice for Matt Murdock and Daredevil.

Yes, I watched this movies and wasted my 10 bucks. It will definitely be the one Marvel movie that will not be in my DVD collection.

Excuse me as I scrub my brain clean. Anyone got a brillo pad?

IMDB gave it a generous 6.3 stars. I am in a generous mood as well, I give it. 4 stars. (IMDB as of this writing rates Daredevil 5.4 stars.)

[Note: This movie was crap. Crap on a stick. Crap in a blanket. Crap with a side order of crap. An ice-cold glass of crap. Crap with two all-crap patties, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, special sauce and a sesame bun. Pardon me, but did I mention that this movie sucked?]


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