The next installment in the Marvel Blogathon comes from John Link Movies who generously volunteered for the unenviable task of reviewing Daredevil (2003). Head over to his site to read an extensive catalog of movie reviews covering recent hits and old classics.
Thanks for the review John!
DAREDEVIL is a movie which suffers from a lack of consistent tone. The movie was originally slated to be a modestly budgeted $50 million, but saw its allowance increase over 50% after the success of SPIDER-MAN. The Raimi film left its mark in other ways, however, as the darker story line of DAREDEVIL found itself infused with a sort of humor that doesn’t quite fit in.
Matt Murdock was blinded in an accident as a little boy. His other four senses were heightened, however, and so he has the ability to ‘see’ a room through a bat-like radar. As a grown man (played by Ben Affleck), he becomes a lawyer by day and a vigilante by night. He seems to have no particular nemesis until Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) is outed as the major string-puller of New York City’s crime network. Kingpin hires an assassin, Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to kill some folks, including Murdock’s new lady. He is falling in love with a woman who is a trained fighter herself, Elektra (Jennifer Garner).
For this review, I watched the Director’s Cut for the first time. Writer/Director Mark Steven Johnson gives us more villainy and more violence. But he also gives more confusion. Daredevil, as a character, starts out as a guy who has no problem murdering criminals in his vigilante outbursts. Yet, despite the seriousness of all of this, there is a counter-point of silly action taking place on playgrounds with kids cheering as a blind guy fights a woman. Then there are scenes of witty banter between Murdock and his law partner (Jon Favreau). Obviously, movies constantly use humor as a counter-point to violence; in fact juxtaposing violence and humor is a major language of film. There is nothing inherently wrong in doing so. But DAREDEVIL feels like it is three different movies happening at the same time. There is angry Daredevil, there is love story Murdock, and there is lawyer Murdock. Add in the unnecessarily violent and one-dimensional baddies Kingpin and Bullseye, and you have a movie searching for an identity it never finds.
Daredevil should be a great movie character. This is a movie made before Christopher Nolan showed us how to do dark and brooding (yet still highly entertaining) with BATMAN BEGINS. This 2003 DAREDEVIL can’t give us anything that sticks. We don’t care about the characters much, because they feel too paper-thin rather than merely larger-than-life characters. It is ironic, then, that there was an intent to go ‘realistic’ by taking out the more colorful Bullseye costume and toning down the Elektra garb. The fact that they thought costumes were what might make this movie unrealistic – when you literally have humans (the ones with no super powers) jumping eight feet in the air or throwing people straight up through a ceiling – goes to show you how far off base this movie was from its conception.
There are some smart bits, to be sure. The radar-effect, particularly in the rain, looks good. The canted frames and the disorienting colors often put the viewer in the same mental place as Murdock. The scenes showing Murdock preparing for the day by folding his money in a particular contain some nice quiet moments.
It is amazing, then, that this is an action movie which gets all of the action wrong. The opening fight with the kids is pure schtick. The first time we see Daredevil in a brawl at a bar makes him too invincible. The fight on the playground is tone-def. The montages of Daredevil or Elektra getting dressed in front of a generic background, or fighting sandbags in a training room, respectively, are goofy and don’t make anyone look tough. The battle between Daredevil and Bullseye on a church organ never looks like anything but a CGI creation which didn’t fully render. The last battle with Kingpin feels choreographed and underwhelming. How does an action movie consistently have such terrible and uninspiring action sequences?
The Marvel Universe of films has had many, many hits. In fact, there are so few misses that the terrible ones (DAREDEVIL and FANTASTIC FOUR, as examples) look even worse when you see how successful the world creation can be. The character of Daredevil is getting a reboot as a TV hero for a new Netflix series this year. Hopefully, that series gives us much more to revel in and enjoy than the movie did.
FILM: 3; MOVIE: 5; ACTING: 4; WRITING: 2
FINAL SCORE: 3.5 out of 10
Flashback/Backslide’s Marvel Blogathon continues Thursday, January 22nd with a review of Elektra written by Movie Rob! Check out the most recent entry in the Blogathon; a review of 2002’s Spider-Man. And make sure you head over to the site of today’s contributor John Link Movies.
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