DREAMS AND REALITY
A Film Review of “Daredevil”
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
Writer and director Mark Steven Johnson says he has always wanted to bring Marvel Comics superhero Daredevil to the big screen. There is great care taken in adapting Stan Lee’s origin of the hero and Frank Miller’s epic 1980s storyline into a motion picture. An air of love is apparent in every frame – possibly too much – an unwillingness to relinquish control of the vision bogs the movie down. Usually it’s a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen destroying a production; here it’s one guy ignoring others’ input that might have saved it. I admire Johnson’s respect and determination, but not his Daredevil movie.
The imagery is intense. While it suffers from the darkness curse of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns (not especially fitting for Daredevil) it keeps the cinematography theme that made Spider-Man such a hit with comics fans. They are scenes that ripped whole from actual comic book panels and rendered beautifully in reality. Notable is the opening with old hornhead atop the cathedral, gorgeous, just gorgeous. No matter what can be said is wrong with this film, the visuals are stunning.
When it’s happening, the action is relentless. I challenge anyone to breathe during Daredevil’s frenetic assault on a pool hall early in the film. The scene is electrifying, it’s just not Daredevil. Daredevil’s just not that good. I’d have trouble believing this type of invincibility of Batman. Despite the impossibility of the final fight (neither Daredevil nor Bullseye should have lived so long with their injuries) it too is amazing.
Much has been said about Ben Affleck and how ‘not right’ he was for the role due to physicality and acting ability. While I can’t say he was perfect as Matt Murdock I can say he was perfectly believable.
I’m not an “Alias” fan, in fact, I’ve never seen the show. Many people have told me they’ve enjoyed it, mostly because Jennifer Garner is ‘so hot.’ Based on Daredevil, I don’t see the ‘hotness.’ Maybe she just doesn’t look all that great fifty feet high, on TV at five inches she’s okay. Not to say she’s not sexy, Garner fills out the black Electra costume adequately.
Costumes are another problem. If you’re going to go with the conceit of putting Daredevil in the red costume why not go all the way and have Electra and Bullseye in their comic book uniforms? At one point Bullseye even says to the Kingpin, “I want a costume.” Kingpin, like the film, never delivers.
Speaking of Bullseye, he is played with equal menace and camp by Colin Farrell (The Phone Booth). In the comics Bullseye’s gig is that he never misses. In the film it seems he never misses unless it really counts. Despite this defect Farrell dominates whenever he is on screen, Bullseye is a delight, albeit an evil one.
Mark Steven Johnson faced a dilemma in casting the Kingpin. He could get a white man who looks like the character who could not act or get a black man to portray a white character who could act. He went for the latter in Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile) and I’m glad he did. I think his Kingpin is perfect in mood and personality.
Writer/director/actor Jon Favreau is wasted as Foggy Nelson who offers some of the best lines and lighter moments which are painfully few. Joe Pantoliano is completely wasted as Daily Bugle (name changed to protect Spider-Man movie copyright) reporter Ben Urich. Scott Terra who plays the young Matt Murdock is a name to watch. He too steals the scene when on camera. Kevin Smith’s cameo as coroner Jack Kirby is very cute and speaking of references to comics creators they appear so often here they lose their charm. When winks and nods get old to comics geeks you know you’ve gone too far.
Speaking of the comics there are prominent parts of this story missing from the film, most notably Daredevil’s mentor Stick and the ninja gang called The Hand. Perhaps they were left out so as not to create comparison with Splinter and The Foot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is odd considering Daredevil is the original source material and TMNT is the parody.
Electra with her sai weapons (yet another inspiration for TMNT) present the best and worst in this film. Her and Matt’s playground dance/fight/flirtation is worth the price of admission and arguably the finest moment in the flick. Their jumping into bed after a few lines of conversation and knowing each other for a day is unbelievable and disturbing – especially when it is assumed (as in the comics) that this is true love. Really, besides being able to kick each other’s ass and a penchant for running across rooftops what do they have in common really?
Worth seeing but don’t expect Spider-Man and don’t think too much.
Posted on April 17, 2003, in batman, colin farrell, comics to film, daredevil, elektra, frank miller, joe pantoliano, jon favreau, kevin smith, kingpin, mark steven johnson, spider-man, tmnt. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.