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 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. 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 DC Comics' 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 slowly 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).
- Matt Murdock
- Elektra Natchios
Michael Clarke Duncan
- Wilson Fisk (Kingpin
- Franklin "Foggy" Nelson
- Ben Urich
- Jack Murdock
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
Written by Brian Helgeland
Released by 20th Century Fox