Word is spreading and people are flocking to local theatres to catch the number one movie in America, “Daredevil”.
The biggest buzzes around the new “Daredevil” film were the questionable casting and the obscurity of the character. With those two factors combined, this movie was expected to fly in under most people’s superhero radars.
However, “Daredevil” silenced critics with a strong showing last weekend, coming in at No. 1 over Kate Hudson’s “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, and earning over $40 million at the box office thus far.
The story, which is based on the comic “Daredevil”, is fairly standard superhero fare. Ben Affleck plays Matt Murdock, an attorney who was blinded during a childhood accident that has granted him super human senses. Murdock’s powers include a radar sense that works very similar to a bat’s sonar.
Of course, Murdock’s father is murdered when he is only 12, and with shades of “Batman”, young Matt vows vengeance. He proceeds to punish criminals during the day through use of the legal system, and at night, through means less appropriate by legal standards.
Affleck turns in a surprisingly well-acted performance as Murdock, not only playing off his blindness well, but also managing to illustrate Murdock’s dark inner personality, all the while charming the pants off of Jennifer Garner. Garner plays Elektra Nachios, Murdock’s not-so standard issue love interest.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Affleck’s portrayal of Daredevil. This character comes off as a very typical “dark avenger”, whose dialogue borders on cheese, perhaps appropriately so.
The major casting issue with “Daredevil” fans was the casting of Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. “The Kingpin”.
While Duncan’s performance is fairly forgettable, showing only at key moments to be imposing and intimidating, he does do a fairly good job considering the limitations of this role.
However, the most enjoyable roles in this film both come from the supporting cast. John Favreau (“Swingers”) turns in a hilarious performance as Murdock’s legal partner and live-in comic relief, Foggy Nelson. Favreau and Affleck’s chemistry gives a spark to what otherwise would be an abysmally dark movie.
Colin Farrell (“Minority Report”) plays the assassin Bullseye, who crosses Daredevil’s path many times in this movie, leaving a trademark trail of bodies in his wake (he is an assassin after all).
Farrell’s Bullseye leaves you wanting more, as he does devise some interesting ways of dispatching his targets. While, at times, Bullseye borders on becoming the Joker, he still manages to hit an original chord.
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson (“Simon Birch”), “Daredevil” is definitely top-heavy when it comes to action. This is what you would expect from a film of this genre, however, “Daredevil” fails to find a unique visual identity, as elements are borrowed from predecessors like “Spiderman”, “The Crow”, or “Batman”. Some shots appeared to be lifted directly from these super-powered brethren, particularly “Spiderman”. However, the depiction of Murdock’s radar sense almost makes up for it, as it is as original and clever as “bullet time” was for “The Matrix”.
The script, working within the bounds of a fairly obvious revenge story, manages to infuse the movie with many thoughtful moments. The portrayal of a blind man’s life is very well thought out as can be seen in the placement of brail tags on Murdock’s business suits. The life of someone with unimaginably powerful senses is also well handled. For example, Murdock is so besieged by his extra-sensory powers he has to sleep in a sensory depravation chamber.
The script also does a marvelous job of staying true to its source material. Names of both popular and legendary comic book creators are dropped at every opportunity, but many shots where laid out exactly like shots by the original artists of the comic.
The film is surprisingly dark, with the Daredevil character crossing lines most superheroes would not even approach. According to reports, the movie was so violent Johnson had to re-edit it three times to prevent an “R” rating.
While “Daredevil” is not a particularly original film, it is a superhero sampler, and a great place to start if someone is uninitiated to the superhero film genre. More seasoned comic book fans should immediately identify the similarities of this movie to its forerunners, but will nonetheless be impressed by its heroic faithfulness to the comic.
“Daredevil” is not a movie that is going to tread a new path, or bring anything new to the table, but it is still a very enjoyable movie.