out of Five
Running time: 105
A crushing disappointment after the blistering successes of X-Men and Spider-Man – it’s frustrating, poorly shot, occasionally nonsensical and frequently stupid. And, oh yes, it’s got Ben Affleck in it.
As you may well have noticed, superhero movies are currently All The Rage, thanks to the phenomenal successes of both X-Men (to which a sequel is due later this year) and Spider-Man. And it’s not over yet, with Ang Lee’s take on The Hulk due fairly soon (the trailer is fabulous) and projected new Batman and Superman films also in the works.
In terms of release dates, then, this is the perfect time to release
Daredevil, with the studios hoping to catch some of that superhero-hungry cash, before the big guns come out for the summer – the publicity campaign has been pretty intensive up to now and shows no signs of abating. Unfortunately, however, the film doesn’t live up to the hype – it’s messy, badly shot and frequently stupid. And having Ben Affleck in the lead doesn’t help either.
Boxer Father + Radiation + Accident = Superhero…
As with Spider-Man, the film follows the pattern of giving you the ‘Origin Story’ (these stories have almost mythic status within Marvel and film-makers mess them up at their peril) first and then moving swiftly into a plot, of sorts. Having said that, it does start off with a battered and bloody Ben Affleck at death’s door so his origin story becomes part of a cheesy “They say when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes…” type thing.
Scott Terra (the kid from Eight Legged Freaks) plays Matt Murdock as a young kid (and, frankly, acts everyone else off the screen), who witnesses his idolised boxer father doing some loan shark work and then has A Nasty Accident with some radioactive waste (as you do) which leaves him blind, but with all his other senses intensely heightened as a result. He’s also able to ‘see’ thanks to a kind of ‘radar sense’ that the film does a good job of representing visually.
So, after his father is murdered for refusing to throw a fight, Matt grows up into Ben Affleck, blind lawyer by day (justice is blind, see?), red-leather gimp-suit wearing superhero by night, who metes out justice by beating to a pulp all those criminals he fails to put away as a lawyer. (Which sort of begs the question – why couldn’t he just become a better lawyer?)
Shapely Lass, Assassination, Weaponry…Yawn.
The rest of the plot involves Elektra (Jennifer Garner, from TV’s Alias), who falls in love with Matt and also becomes a skilled assassin to avenge her father; The Kingpin of Crime (a brilliantly cast Michael Clarke Duncan) and Bullseye (a hugely over-acting Colin Farrell), another deadly assassin able to turn any object into a lethal weapon.
There’s so much that’s wrong with Daredevil that it’s difficult to know where to start. For one thing, Ben Affleck is something of a charisma vacuum – it’s very hard to warm to his character. As a result, he’s acted off the screen by everyone around him, from Jon Favreau (as friend and partner Foggy Nelson, who isn’t in it nearly enough) to Jennifer Garner (who is, along with Terra, the best thing in the film).
As for Farrell, he appears to have decided to go as over the top as possible and the result is by turns amusing and embarrassing. (Purists will probably be upset too, as Farrell has transformed the character into a twitching psychopath).
Bad Fights, Bad Effects and Crap Tunes
The fight scenes are extremely disappointing. They’re poorly shot and badly edited so that you can never really tell what’s going on. This means that after a while you just switch off and wait to see who’s standing at the end. Also, it’s entirely possible that some of the film has been cut – either that, or Daredevil manages to defeat one major character just by giving him a nasty kick in the knees.
The special effects are equally bad and come off as a poor cousin to the similar effects in Spider-Man. Ironically, what the film lacks is more of Daredevil swinging around the city, Spider-Man-style (he carries an all-purpose ‘billy club’, which is, oddly, never named in the film).
It gets worse. The soundtrack is incredibly intrusive, full of atrocious rock crap interspersed with sappy love ballads. To make matters worse, the songs often serve to introduce the characters, so the first time we see The Kingpin, the song is “I’m a dirty dawg’.
The frustrating thing is that they almost got it right. The ingredients are all in place and the film is extremely dark – much darker than expected – so they obviously made the film they wanted to make. There are a lot of nice touches for Comic Geeks too (characters named after famous comic artists etc).
Also, every so often, there’s a really great scene (Matt waking up in
hospital; Foggy and Matt meeting Elektra), although it’s usually followed by five or six terrible ones (Matt and Elektra’s playful ‘fight’, in which no-one remarks at The Amazing Blind Man jumping all over the place etc). There’s also an unforgivable error towards the end of the film, where we are supposed to believe Daredevil is seriously injured and yet, moments later, he’s leaping around like nobody’s business again.
It’s a shame, because, potentially, Daredevil is one of Marvel’s most interesting and complex superheroes. Similarly, the film wastes good character actors such as Joe Pantoliano (as reporter Ben Urich, who figures out Daredevil’s secret identity by noticing that his billy club has the same handle as Murdock’s cane. Well, duh…)
In short, the film disappoints on almost every level, though if you lower your expectations you might get a few laughs out of how bad it is. It does have its moments, but unfortunately they’re few and far between. Hold out for The Hulk instead.