A Film Review By The Mike
|Rating: PG-13 for superhero violence and superhero sexuality.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Joe Pantoliano, Jon Favreau
Directed By: Mark Steven Johnson
I’ve always lived my life holding on to a fleeting belief that one man alone, who tries to do the right thing for other people at all times possible can in fact make a difference. Deep inside I know it’s not true, and it usually causes me confusion and pain in the end, but I hold on to this belief. That being said, I connect very easily with the idea of superheroes, and films of the topic always make me smile.
With that point made, I bring you my review of Daredevil, the latest superhero to hit the big screen. Adapted from the Marvel comic of the same name, Daredevil is the story of “The Man without Fear”, a blind lawyer whose blindness has given his other senses multiplied accuracy and a bit of a chip on his shoulder, which is also fueled by the murder of his father before his own eyes. (Is it a law that the male guardian of a budding superhero must be killed before their son’s eyes? I think so.)
Of course, he has not always been this way, as the first 20 minutes of the film point out with an in depth backstory. You see, Matt Murdock was a weak little child whose father was a weak failing boxer who made extra money beating people up for the mob, something his son disapproved of. When young Matt sees his father at work, he runs in fear, right into the path of a forklift carrying a radioactive liquid, which he ends up with an eyeful of.
After the accident the father and son make a pact to live without fear. Matt gets back at the bullies that pick on him while making the city rooftops his playground, and his father gets back to boxing, building an impressive winning streak. This streak ends up costing him his life when he refuses to take a fall, and the melodramatic death before your child scene occurs. The backstory as a whole is well done, except for the fact that the young actor playing Matt is not much of an actor, in fact a very bad one. This is a bit of a detriment that took me a while to get past.
We move to the present and meet Matt Murdock (Affleck), a lawyer by day who works hard to represent only the innocent. By night he becomes Daredevil, and swoops from above to destroy those who do badly. Like any other superhero he has trouble gaining public respect, and has a nosy reporter (Pantoliano) trying to dig up as much as he can on his whereabouts and identity. And like all other superhero movies, the filmmakers try to make us feel that our hero is actually a disadvantaged and unfortunate lost soul. While most of these films try to accomplish this feat with things like “Oh look, It’s difficult for me to grab a pop can sometimes!”, Daredevil appears as a man alone, covered with scars, hopped up on painkillers, and unable to keep a girlfriend. We are told to feel sorry for him, and it works to an extent. I felt sorry for him, but this feeling was due to the fact that I realized he never actually sees Jennifer Garner.
Garner is Elektra Natchios, the love interest and budding superheroess of Daredevil. This is a perfect role for her, and she oozes off the screen every minute she’s on it. Elektra has extensive martial arts training, skill with daggers, and also was witness to her mothers’ death. And that’s not all the revenge fodder she’ll have by movie’s end. Murdock tries very hard to convince Elektra that revenge will not cure everything, and she should have listened to him. Regardless of the actual plot, this is a character that captivates our attention (especially from a male perspective) in every minute of screen time she gets. Like I said, I feel most sorry for Daredevil because he never actually views her…this is the biggest drawback to blindness I’ve ever heard of. Well, there is a way for him to “see” her that they use in the film, but I won’t take the time to divulge it all here.
Every superhero film needs villains, and this one gets two solid ones. Michael Clarke Duncan plays The Kingpin, the big boss who’s in charge of all crime in the city. I was very tentative prior to this film at the thought of Duncan carrying a film as villain, but it turns out that this is a much smaller part than advertised, and he does what he has to well. The real star as a villain is Colin Farrell as Bullsye. His over the top antics are at times both hilarious and petrifying, and he’s a very memorable character. Watch for the scene on the airplane, which cements him as both comic and evil with the flick of a finger.
Of course, the biggest question on most people’s minds is Affleck. I know many that wondered if the man could pull off playing a superhero, and in my eyes he does. There were times I thought a casting change could have benefited the film, but they were few and far between, and in the end I’m convinced that Affleck was in fact right for the part. He plays the sullen hero well, and doesn’t fail in the action scenes. It’s a good enough performance.
Daredevil is a well-made film, albeit a commercial property first and a film second. It’s easy to see why many critics were hard on the film, as it is easy to see that the film was designed with its primary goal to make money and sell merchandise. Regardless, it never stops trying to entertain the viewer, thanks to some good performances and some excellent battle scenes. It’s a darker vision of justice than usual, and it’s easy to say that it could rub many people and critics the wrong way. Fans of the darker Batman films may be disappointed, as the darkness in those films is not matched here (not due to lack of effort), and fans of lighter superheroes like Spider-Man may be disappointed by too much darkness. Daredevil as a film is an in-between property, one you will either be able to accept as fun and entertaining, or one you will dismiss as a failed attempt. Despite the facts that it lacked a little in plot and overuses Catholic imagery as a plot device, I was thoroughly engaged by Daredevil. Check it out, if you’re ready for what it is and what it is not you’ll probably enjoy yourself.