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Daredevil

Old 02-07-03, 02:12 PM
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Daredevil

********MINOR SPOILERS INCLUDED*********












I was all set for this being a cinematic disaster not seen since those far off days of oh, Star Trek Nemesis or Red Dragon in 2002, aka the year of crap (Spider Man excepted natch). However, Iím deliriously happy to be proven wrong. Mark Steven Johnson has produced a movie which is maybe the first serious response to Burtonís Batman Returns (benchmark for noir comic book adaptations IMO). As excellent as Spider Man and X Men were, they exist very much in a lighter world, both thematically and literally. DD is a dark movie, in tone and in appearance. A brief plot precis follows:

Matt Murdock, lawyer, champion of the downtrodden is in reality Daredevil - costumed avenger, The Man Without Fear. Blinded by a toxic solution as a child, he finds his other senses have been heightened to superhuman levels much in the same way as Spider Man but without the web sligning and sticking to walls bit. Set on the path of avenging crimes that go unpunished, by the murder of his boxer father (familiar Batman territory folks - what did you expect? This isnít Dostoyevsky), a basically good man who had become enmeshed in the local hoodís activities as an enforcer. Flash forward to present day to find DD discovering that all the seemingly random crimes in NY are overseen by one man: The Kingpin. He vows to find this man but has to uncover his identity first. Along the way he meets and falls in love with the gorgeous Elektra, ninja trained daughter of a billionaire who unfortunately is in partnership with The Kingpin who uses him to deflect attention away from his own door by having him killed by assassin for hire, Bullseye who determines to take out DD also. In the process DD is implicated and Elektra believes him to be the killer. The scene is set for a showdown where DD must not only face-off against Bullseye and The Kingpin but also his own lover, Elektra. Whatís a boy to do?

Before I spill over into out and out gushing over this flick let me just point out that itís not perfect. The costume is pretty camp, especially the cowl which never looks like it really fits properly. The movieís also too short. Clocking in at 100 minutes it might sound like a reasonable length but the climax is somewhat less than it should be partly due to the fact that there doesnít seem to be enough build up to it. Also despite the fact that they establish brilliantly the way that DDís radar sense works right at the start this does need to be repeated throughout and itís never done quite as effectively as it is in that first scene. This is due in part to the fiendishly complicated fight scenes which require concentration to follow as they are quite darkly shot. I suspect some of this is down to the desire to make it more noir but also to de-campify (is that even a word ?) the costume somewhat. For the latter it works but at the expense of being able to easily follow whatís going on. I hope some of this is maybe just down to a slightly dark print that I saw but just donít go expecting to see every detail and you shouldnít be too disappointed. Personally I also think a general audience will have a hard time accepting that a blind man essentially without any super-powers can fly around the city in much the same way as Spider Man does. As a comics-reader I am happy to suspend dis-belief at that but Iím not so sure Joe Public will.

On with the gushing! As someone who used to like Affleck a lot for his Kevin Smith work, I had soured on the dude as he seemed to be appearing in everything last year including taking over as Jack Ryan which did not sit well with me at all. However this is where he makes good on all those bill-paying roles as he incredibly invests both DD and Matt Murdock with believability in the same way Toby Maguire did in Spider man and Hugh Jackman did for Wolverine in X Men. All the more remarkable when you consider that this version of DD is basically a dark and dour character who is screwed up by what happened to his father and the inability of the justice system he works within to punish the transparently guilty wrongdoers in society. Although he fights for right in the courtrooms first itís clear that this New York needs a more hands-on approach to retribution. This first part of the flick clearly establishes DD as a superhero apart from Spider man, Superman et al as heís willing to kill people to see that their crimes are avenged. Apparently itís this that has caused some concern with ratings boards but these scenes are essential to show the characterís development within the movie. The smart-ass Affleck that we love from the Smith movies is also in evidence here with some amusing comic interplay with a (intentionally I hope) bloated Jon Favreau (Swingers) as his partner, Foggy Nelson.

Mention should also be made of a very nice title sequence helping a non-genre audience further clue in to what it is that sets this superhero apart from all others. Where Batman was happy to rostrum around a monolithic Bat logo, this movie uses the titles to advance the flick even before the action has begun - Clever.

Jennifer Garner is more than capable as Elektra and having now seen the movie itís obvious why the red ninja costume from the comic had to be ditched, a point which had previously got my fan-boy goat. Her scenes with Affleck have some genuine heat, enough to make J-Lo squirm in her seat(s) (two at least surely?) on premiere night and letís face it thatís a nice thought isnít it? The reasoning behind Elektra being this skilled Ninja type character is frankly poor and itís a pity they couldnít have invested her character with a little more back-story in the same way they did with DD. I have hopes that come the DVD we may have some more scenes with her inserted back into the movie as there are unfortunately not that many. I was quite shocked by her character not running throughout the movie as does Affleckís. This does pay off at the end but the two work so well together, especially in a playground fight scene where Affleck wins her over by beating her up!, that I feel more of the two of them should have been included.

As good as Affleck is, the film is stolen from him by Colin Farrell as Bullseye - the man who never misses. Using anything to hand heís able to kill and maim with pencils, playing cards or even a paper clip! Farrellís public personae is rapidly resembling Russell Croweís with tales of rampant egotism abounding but when he delivers the goods in such a spectacular way as he does in Daredevil who can begrudge him this foibles? He takes what is essentially the part of the "the villain to be dispatched" and invests it with wry, sarcastic humour but never to the point where you could grow to like him. Youíre still aware heís amoral scum but damn, heís funny with it. This vein of black comedy provides a superb after the credits coda that patrons are advised to stick around for - DO NOT leave when the titles start to roll.

Michael Clarke Duncan gives another solid (literally!) performance as Wilson Fisk, Kingpin, crime-lord of New York. Duncan is a massive man but even he had to bulk up and wear padding to portray the vastness that is the Kingpin. Stopping far short of the comic bookís outlandish hugeness, Duncan still dominates every scene heís in due to his commanding presence as much as his physical proportions. Having said that I didnít really think the mano e mano scenes at the end where he personally takes on DD were right for that character. I understand that as the main villain of the piece, convention demands that the hero kicks the crap out of him at the end but the comic book Kingpin is all about insidious malevolence and getting others to do his dirty work that I personally found it ran contrary to what I thought the character to be. A minor point though in the overall scheme of things.

Joe Pantoliano (Matrix, Fugitive, Memento, Sopranos) has a nothing role as Ben Urich, reporter and while he obviously gives it 100% itís a role that any half-way competent actor could do without breaking a sweat.

Effects work is, by and large, superb with only a couple of instances where the figures appear entirely and obviously CG. No Blade II cheapness here which is surprising considering the short turnaround time of this flick: 11 months from first dayís shooting to opening day. Some of the characterís landings could have been worked on but this is an inherent problem with most wire-work that Iíve seen. Thereís a very well-done scene in the main Church in the movie that shows off the skill of the effects people but it is basically a steal of the slow-mo scene from Spider Man. I prefer to think of it as a tip of the hat rather than outright theft.

Nice score by Graeme Revell (ex of 80s techno band SPK and countless other scores) which complements the on-screen activity and underscores the action rather than overwhelming it as does Danny Elfmanís work.

Some cool camoes in the movie are Kevin Smith as a mortuary attendant, Frank Miller as one of Bullseyeís victims and of course Stan "The Man" Lee making another well deserved appearance in the big screen outing of the character he created.

On a side note DC comics needs to get itís act together as Marvel is crapping all over them from a great height. No longer do they have to take it from the tired and all but dead Batman and Superman franchises. Marvel has taken the gauntlet thrown down by DC and run with it, producing confident, audience and fan-boy pleasing entertainments while DC is content to navel gaze and bicker over who plays/directs Superman and Batman. Get on with it guys already!

With The Hulk looming and X Men 2 on the horizon, 2003 looks set to be the second coming as far as kick-ass Super-hero flicks are concerned.

Last edited by jonathan.e; 02-07-03 at 02:54 PM.
Old 02-07-03, 02:21 PM
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Yo, SPOILERS WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA HERE. At least a warning in the thread title. No idea when I clicked on it that this would have a full spoiler filled review. Thanks.
Old 02-07-03, 07:23 PM
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Originally posted by Sierra Disc
Yo, SPOILERS WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA HERE. At least a warning in the thread title. No idea when I clicked on it that this would have a full spoiler filled review. Thanks.

The three inch gap between the **spoiler** and the review wasn't enough?.........
Old 02-07-03, 09:53 PM
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Um, Jax, you will notice that the original poster edited his post AFTER I posted my response and added the spoilers, which is much appreciated...

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