Daredevil


It starts with clever titles (think Braille), followed by an ominous opening sequence establishing the twisted use of religious motifs and the fact that Daredevil is no invincible Superman: he lies half-dead atop a church, bleeding heavily. We then get the origin story through a few short but evocative scenes. Lawyer Matt Murdock lost his sight when he was hit by a truck carrying barrels of radioactive waste, but somehow he ended up with his other senses becoming extremely sensitive. His hearing is so sharp that it works like a radar, picking up on vibrations and giving him a near-perfect sense of his surroundings and his heightened sense of touch allows him to pull the wildest acrobatics. And when his father is killed by the Mob, Murdock vows to use his new abilities to bring some justice to Hell’s Kitchen…

The film’s storyline mirrors the classic Frank Miller run which introduced Elektra, Matt’s true love. The daughter of a Greek billionaire, she was trained by the best martial arts experts all her life and made into one of the deadlier assassins in the world… But if that’s also true of the movie-Elektra, you wouldn’t know it if you’ve never read the comics. Murdock and Elektra do get a meet-cute mixing fighting and flirting, but we’re never told about Elektra’s whereabouts; she’s just a babe who can kick some serious ass. This is one of the problems with trying to fit years and years of comic book continuity into 100 minutes, you can get the basics right but you don’t have time to really develop things.

Thankfully, the inspired casting manages to connect some of the dots. I never thought Ben Affleck could convey such gravity. Maybe it’s the blind contacts, but he’s got this eerie, aching-soul thing going on that elevates the whole picture. Murdock’s gift is also a curse, as it’s impossible for him to turn off his acuteness to all the noisiness (the only way he can sleep is in a soundproof “coffin”). With Elektra, though, he can finally lighten up, and in the pants-charming-off department Affleck is irresistible. His cocky smirk is priceless, and Jennifer Garner matches him nicely. She’s not given enough material to be as affecting as the character could have been, but her chemistry with Ben goes a long way and she certainly looks gorgeous in all those outfits. Jon Favreau also plays nicely off Affleck as Murdock’s law firm partner, delivering most of the movie’s comic relief. Then you’ve got the marvelously over the top villains: the Kingpin of Crime, played with towering attitude by Michael Clarke Duncan, and Bullseye, the madcap hitman hilariously portrayed by Colin Farrell. He might just be my favorite thing in the movie. I love how he’s given absolutely no motivation or layers, he’s just this gleeful killer who gets off on his own throwing skills and perfect aim. “Bullseye!”

Writer-director Mark Steven Johnson does a surprisingly good job bringing “Daredevil” to the screen. It’s obvious he’s passionate about the source material, as you can tell by all the little touches for the fanboys like cameos by Marvel Chairman Emeritus Stan Lee and former DD scribe Kevin Smith and off-hand references to John Romita, Joe Quesada, Kirby, Bendis, Mack, etc. Johnson is no Sam Raimi and the action scenes are often muddled and over-edited (and what’s with the crappy modern rock soundtrack?), but they still feature some impressive stunts/SFX and cool moves. The way Johnson visualises Daredevil’s radar sense is consistently stunning and I couldn’t get enough of all the jumping around and diving off building. Also, suspense builds greatly through the film because of the ruthlessness of this world. These people can and do get hurt, a lot.

“Daredevil” lacks the relevance and depth of X-Men and the heartfelt charm of Spider-Man, but it still delivers an exciting comic book ride with tragic undertones.