Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

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March 18, 2003

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Daredevil is a guy called Matt Murdock -- a lawyer, blinded as a child, whose other four senses magnified in response. He can hear a heartbeat, read by feeling ink on paper, recognise anybody by their smell. Most notably, he has what he calls a kind of "radar sense" (which functions more like a "sonar sense"): he can see objects by the sound waves bouncing off them, kind of like bats do.

DAREDEVIL, the movie, is adapted from DAREDEVIL, the long-running Marvel comic book. Daredevil was one of many interesting characters created in Marvel Comics' heyday ("The Silver Age") of the early-mid '60s (others from the same era include THE HULK, THE FANTASTIC FOUR, IRON MAN, DR. STRANGE, and of course THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN). Stan Lee, the guy who co-created a lot of the characters (and wrote many of their early stories), was very gung-ho about creating flawed superheroes, human superheroes -- heroes unlike those coming out of their Distinguished Competition, DC Comics. Like Superman, (the invincible alien) Batman (the playboy millionaire) and Plastic-Man (who could stretch really far). Marvel's characters feared their own power, bickered with their families, were blind, were crippled and sometimes gave in to greed or lust or even stupidity.

DAREDEVIL became even more complicated and flawed in the '80s and '90s, as acclaimed stories by Frank Miller and Kevin Smith (both of whom have cameos in this movie) explored the depths of Matt Murdock's psyche, relationships and religious faith.

DAREDEVIL, the movie, starts off promisingly, our hero draped, beaten and bloody, over a cross on top of a cathedral. We get a very nice encapsulation of Daredevil's origins. Then things get a little bit unfortunate.

This movie is a bit darker than SPIDER-MAN's -- it fits the character. The script is often good, and faithful to the source material. The sound design is excellent (and to the fore, obviously). Sound designer Steve Boedekker deserves billing in the opening credits. The first fight scene is excellently staged.

But they've squished an epic story into 103 minutes, and it doesn't fit. The press notes are full of detailed information which explains the characters' motivations, backgrounds... but much of this stuff is barely hinted at in the actual film. There wasn't time for it. There was time, however, for long montages with irritating flash-in-the-pan-we-have-to-use-this-in-the-film-it's-going-on-the-soundtrack-nu-metal accompaniment. There's some really bad BIG ACTION MOVIE quips ("give the devil his due", etc) and cliches (quick close-up shots of somebody putting on their red leather costume). And some of the computer-animated stuff is obvious and ugly. The Kingpin raises Daredevil above his head at one point, and it's straight out of the comic. Looks excellent. Then they screw it up with CG rubber-Daredevil bouncing off the wall.

Lot of good actors doing nice work, though. Can't single anybody out, they all do pretty nice jobs. They set up the ending for at least one sequel, so you'll see them doing this stuff again in two years or so. In the press notes, lead actor and longtime DAREDEVIL (the comic) fan Ben Affleck is quoted as saying, "Daredevil always felt more grown up and real to me than other comics characters." If they squish the cheesy lines and fake computer fighting out of the mix, they'll have a sequel with those same qualities.

Stars: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau
Release Date: March 20th, 2003
Rated: M
Running Time: 103 minutes
Showing: General release


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