Daredevil (2003), Runtime - 103 minutes, Cert 15.

Director - Mark Steven Johnson.

Writer - Mark Steven Johnson.

Starring - Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan & Colin Farrell.

 

Premise - Daredevil, The Man Without Fear, known through the day as lawyer Matt Murdock. He grew up in Hells Kitchen New York, where he was blinded by toxic waste. The waste may have taken his sight, but it empowered his other four senses to superhuman levels. He could see through the sound waves that bounced of objects around him and his senses gave him amazing acrobatic abilities. Through the years he has honed his abilities to such a degree that he prowls the New York nights as Daredevil, to deal out the kind of justice that through the day, as a lawyer, he is unable to dispense.

Decent Marvel comic book adaptations are like buses. You wait twenty years for a decent one to come along and a bunch come along at once. Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man have all come and gone and all have been pretty good, with Spider-Man being excellent. So, now comes Daredevil, a pretty minor character in comparison to Spider-Man, Hulk etc, but one with a rich back-story nonetheless. And certainly one with a rabid enough fan base to warrant a movie version.

If you were to compare Daredevil to a previous comic book movie, you would have to go with Batman. A child witnesses his father being killed and vows to avenge him the only way he knows how, by pulling on tight fitting latex and hanging around tall buildings. Yes, there are many parallels to draw between Batman and Daredevil (not surprising since both characters have at one time or another been written by Frank Miller), but Daredevil is just that bit darker than Batman. Where batman would draw the line and hand the felon over to the cops, Daredevil will casually let the guy be cut in half by a subway train.

Itís things like these that make Daredevil more of an anti-hero than a flat out hero, he is basically a vigilante. His actions donít come without effects either. He regularly goes to confession, not for forgiveness, but (as the priest says) for permission. His condition means that in order to get a decent nights sleep he must sleep in what is basically a water tank, cut off from the world. Because he has no superpowers to speak of outside of his heightened senses he chews painkillers like sweets. Daredevilís life is not the glamorous world that we see other superheroes lead.

Ben Affleck is out of this world as both Daredevil and Matt Murdock. The man has a lot of naysayers, but I have never been one of them. I have always been prepared to look beyond the boyish good looks and have always figured him to be a competent actor. Here, Ben excellently shows both the good natured side of lawyer Murdock and the hardened vigilante side of Daredevil. Itís almost like two different actors played the two sides of the character, very impressive work and a performance that should serve to shut up some of Affleckís naysayers.

In the film Daredevil is quite a dark, brooding and generally depressing character. The only times when he seems genuinely happy are when he is with Elektra. In-fact the only time when he sleeps in a real bed is when he spends the night with her, testament to how content being with Elektra makes Matt feel. Elektra is played by the simply stunning Jennifer Garner, fans of her amazing TV show Alias will know what she is capable off, but Daredevil is her first big chance to impress on the silver screen.

Simply put, she is astounding, her athletic background from Alias means she can more than handle any action asked of her, but itís the quiet moments with just her and Matt that impress the most. The chemistry between these two is astounding, they practically melt the screen. The first time they meet leads to a wonderful little toy fight scene between them as they measure each other up, itís a great scene, very playful. The pairing works so well and so much of the movie is given over to them, that it wouldnít be out of place to describe Daredevil as a love story more than an action/comic book movie.

But, since this is a comic book movie we must have some villains. And daredevil has some of the best villains from any of the recent glut of comic book films. Michael Clarke Duncan really is the only person on the planet who could have filled Kingpins suit and also have the acting chops needed to carry the character. The fact that he is a black man playing a man that was white in the comic books is neither here nor there. What is important is that he nails it, he has the presence that is required of such a character and the way he carries himself, the strut, the cockiness, itís 100% Kingpin. Kingpin as a character has the front of being legitimate business man Wilson Fisk; he lets other people take care of the dirty work. But, when the time calls for it, he is a formidable adversary in combat.

The other half of the villainous duo is made up of Colin Farrell as Bullseye. Up until Daredevil, Farrell has been best known for starring in fairly sensible films and playing fairly sensible characters. He had built his career around quality parts in quality films and was garnering a reputation as being one of the next generationsí great actors. Well, here he plays a character that can be described as simply being mad. Bullseye is an Irish hitman hired by Kingpin, but he is no ordinary hitman. Bullseye has the ability to make any object, no matter how small or insignificant into a deadly weapon. He never misses and heís as mad as a March hare. His fuse is non existent and he goes off into maniacal rages at the drop of a hat. Farrell is obviously having the time of his life playing Bullseye; itís a performance reminiscent of Jack Nicholson from the first Batman film.

Elsewhere you have Jon Favreau as Mattís legal partner and friend ĎFoggyí Nelson. Nelson is, for want of a better phrase, the light relief. He is funny as hell and brings some much needed humour to the dark world of Daredevil. Joey ĎPantsí Pantoliano shows up as a New York Post (not the Daily Bugle as in the comic as Sony own the rights to that name) reporter and spends the film trying to track Daredevil down. I really enjoyed the kid they got to play the young Matt Murdock, Scott Terra. I previously saw him in Eight Legged Freaks and he seems to be a good little actor. Thereís a handful of cameoís spread throughout the film, most notably Kevin Smith (who wrote on Daredevil for a while), Frank Miller and the standard cameo from comic book God Stan Ďthe maní Lee.

Itís quite a surprise that this film should come from director Mark Steven Johnson. His previous work includes such non-events as ĎSimon Birchí and ĎGrumpy Old Mení. Not really the kind of pedigree you would expect from a man directing a major Hollywood comic book movie. However, since the man is a devoted fan of the comic book, he was an obvious choice to not only direct, but also write the screenplay. He handles the action scenes extremely well; itís all very dark with stylised editing and a lot of wire work. Itís a dark movie in general, very brooding and gothic. The buildings are bathed in either moonlight or rain and practically the whole movie takes place at night.

Perhaps the best part of the visual look of the movie is the way in which Daredevilís point of view is handled. Using an excellent combination of visuals and sound the Daredevil POV is a jumble of sound waves and part images. Itís really hard to explain, but when you see it I guarantee you will be impressed. The effect that rain has on Daredevils vision is astounding; it allows Matt to basically see properly. The first time he sees Elektraís face is just a wonderful moment. The sound is overpowering at times during these sequences, giving an idea of how hard it must be for Matt to filter out all the background noise. I especially liked the scene from the beginning part of the film where we see the young Matt hearing these sounds for the first time, itís a bewildering experience.

What Mark Steve Johnson has achieved here is not your average superhero flick. The core of the movie is more the relationship between Elektra and Daredevil than it is a kick ass action film. Fans of the comic book will be kept happy, although there are obviously some deviances from the source material. In the comics Elektra initially works for Kingpin after replacing Bullseye whom has been sent to jail, Elektra and Bullseye are mortal enemies in the comic and in the comic Matt defends criminals, but in the film he makes a point of only defending the innocent. I could go on, but these points are only nit picks and really add nothing, nor take anything away from what truly is a wonderful film. The only other problem I had with the film was its relative shortness; I really could have handled a bit more, the ending in particular feels a little rushed. But I digress, what there is, is magnificent.

If you are a fan of the comic then go see it, if you are a fan of action then go see it, if you like a little romance then go see it. Heck, just go see it.

 

/10.

See Daredevil if you enjoyed - Batman, Spider-Man, Blade.

Poster Quote - I dare you to not like this film.