Daredevil   Two Disembodied Jet Wolf Heads out of Five
"What the hell? Did I miss the part where Matt Murdock was bitten by a radioactive spider?"
Reviewed: Tuesday, 18 March 2003

Jet Wolf Says ...I feel that the movie ultimately killed itself by just trying too hard. It wants to be an action movie, a love story, and a character-driven moral quest. Unfortunately neither the character of Daredevil, nor the actors involved in the movie, are strong enough to be spread so thin.

We had originally planned to see Gods & Generals that weekend. I was thinking about it that Friday morning, and it occurred to me that the title for the movie was really very good. In a war, a general is akin to a god, with the ultimate power of life and death. The realization of this title made me more excited to see the film. Until I realized that the movie was, oh, four hours or so long and had a bloody intermission. So we went to see Daredevil instead.

So much for my in-depth, intellectual review.

Daredevil is an action film in the fine tradition of soul-less blockbusters. As a result, it suffers from a few truths:

  1. It's star is Ben Affleck.
  2. It's not Spider-Man, no matter how hard it tries to be.
  3. It's star is Ben Affleck.
  4. It gives a half-hearted attempt to be more than it is, and as a result fails to be much of anything.
  5. It's star is Ben Affleck.
I've never been a huge fan of DD. The comic is okay, but I've always felt that he was an also-ran in the superhero world. He's not as strong as the Hulk, he's not as agile as Spider-Man, he's not as good a fighter as Wolverine, he doesn't have the shtick of Captain America, and he doesn't have the personality of ... well, anybody. DD has always just been there, another feather in the cap of Lee and Kirby.

Did I mention yet that I'm not a fan of Ben Affleck?

These aside, however, the movie had its high points. I was very impressed with the movie's presentation of Matt's condition. The visual representation of the "sonic seeing" was very impressive and made "sense" (in the way that all belief suspension makes sense). I was also taken by the ingenuity shown by Matt's independance -- braille-marked cases containing cash folded in different ways, for example. But this is less a tip of the hat towards the film makers, and more a nod to the handicapped for being creative enough to overcome their disability.

I feel that the movie ultimately killed itself by just trying too hard. It wants to be an action movie, a love story, and a character-driven moral quest. Unfortunately neither the character of Daredevil, nor the actors involved in the movie, are strong enough to be spread so thin.

I've already talked a little about Daredevil as a character. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't read a single issue of DD in about ten years, so it could be that they've really done a lot to improve the book in that time. I believe that I read of Kevin Smith taking over for a while, so I'd be willing to bet that it's more likely than not. However if such is the case, the interesting bits failed to make it into the movie. I'm all for a blind superhero. I think that's a cool concept, in fact. But the disability aside, what does Daredevil really have going for him? He's a less charismatic, less able Spider-Man.

The love story between Daredevil and Elektra is one of the classics of Marveldom. I know this because my first season Marvel Universe cards tell me so. I've actually never read the storyline. Seeing the movie doesn't really prompt me to want to. We're supposed to accept the fact that Matt, a character who, as the movie makes a point to establish, has commitment issues, falls head over heels for a stranger within the course of two days or so. Reason? She can fight him to a standstill. And takes him to bed on the first date. Oh yeah, I'm buying into this romance, be still my heart.

Which brings us to the moral quest. This is such a momentous facet of the movie that they mention it in passing not once, but twice! Darevil is painted in this movie as being something of an anti-hero, a vigilante. Like the Punisher, only Frank is way cooler. His father was killed by the Kingpin when he was a child, and it sent him on this personal quest to bring justice to the streets. Like Batman, only Bruce is way cooler. So years later, while on patrol, he finds one of the Kingpin's men. He chases the guy down and beats him up in front of a child. The child cowers in the corner, sobbing with fear at the man without it. "I'm one of the good guys," Ben whines. This event occurs in the first 45 minutes or so of the movie.

About an hour and a half later, Daredevil has beaten the Kingpin. He prepares to deliver the killing blow ... But spares his nemesis. "I'm one of the good guys," Ben repeats, somewhat less whiny this time, and walks away.

See! Two references! Now we know that Daredevil has succeeded in his moral quest, because Ben isn't whining anymore! Not because we actually saw Daredevil wrestling with this dilemma. Oh, sure, he had a small scene with his priest-confidante, but that scene was really just an excuse for close-ups on Ben so he could cross his eyes and try to look blind. I'm sure that the Kingpin wasn't really spared simply to seek revenge in the sequel.

So these are the things that I disliked about the movie. Shallow in all attempted areas. They might have done better simply trying to make an action movie. It would've been hard to remove the stench of Affleck, but maybe a few more over-the-top battles could do the trick.

What did I like? A short list, but there is one. The aforementioned "sonic seeing" aside, I very much enjoyed Bullseye. I know only slightly less about Bullseye than I do of Daredevil, but this was a character/actor combination that worked in all the right ways. Bullseye is murderously psychotic, and I loved every minute of his screen time. Should I ever watch the movie again, it'll be for his scenes.

And that, sad to say, was about it. The Kingpin was alright, and he was portrayed well enough, but he was just completely overshadowed by Bullseye.

Maybe in the sequel we can just dump Daredevil altogether and have a movie about the villains. I'd pay twice to go see a film where Ben Affleck gets the stuffing kicked out of him.

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