By Shawn McKenzie 02/14/2003
When X-Men came out in 2000, it sparked a revival of comic book superhero movies. Last year, one of those movies, Spider-Man, was the highest grossing movie of the year. Why are these movies doing so well? It is because moviemakers have finally been able to figure out how to satisfy the comic book geeks, yet still make them appealing to the non-comic book geeks (like me.) The latest example of a comic book translating effectively to the screen is Daredevil.
Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is a blind lawyer whom, with his legal partner, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson (Jon Favreau), helps the innocent in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. He has another side to him though. As the superhero Daredevil, he seeks vengeance on the bad guys who avoid justice. When Matt was 12 years old, he (Scott Terra, Matt as a kid) was accidentally blinded by a chemical spill. His remaining senses, however, became super-enhanced, including the ability to “see” with something similar to radar vision, especially when it was raining. His father, Jack “The Devil” Murdock (David Keith), a boxer working for a notorious crime boss, had raised Matt alone. Jack is murdered as punishment for not throwing a fight, and Matt vows to fight against all of the injustice in the world from then on. As he fights crime, he struggles with whether or not he is doing the right thing with his vigilantism or if he is a bad guy himself. He spends a lot of time in a church's confessional talking to Father Everett (John S. Bakas.) One day, while having coffee with Foggy, Matt meets Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), an attractive woman who's just as skilled at martial arts as he is. One problem though…her father, Nikolas (Erick Avari), is doing business with Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan.) Her father wants to get out of his association with Kingpin, because he doesn’t like his criminal dealings. This doesn’t sit well with Kingpin, who sends his assassin, Bullseye (Colin Farrell), to kill Nikolas. Since Kingpin tends to have whole families killed, Elektra's life is in danger as well and it's up to Daredevil to save her. To make matters worse, not only does he have to save his girlfriend, but he realizes that his secret identity might have been found out by newspaper reporter Ben Ulrich (Joe Pantoliano.)
When I was doing my research on this film, I was looking at the past credits for its writer/director, Mark Steven Johnson. He wrote the screenplays for the Grumpy Old Men movies, wrote the screenplay for Jack Frost (the stupid Michael Keaton movie, not the cheesy killer snowman one), and was the writer/director of Simon Birch. This was the man they let bring Daredevil to the screen? Well, I remember the geeks being worried when they heard that The Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer was going to helm X-Men, so I am impressed that some directors like Johnson can still surprise us.
The movie is very cool. How faithful is it to the comic book? Honestly, I don’t know. I never read a single Daredevil book, but I did bring a hardcore Daredevil fan with me, and he loved it. He was impressed by the fact that they made the character still human despite his heightened senses, which included sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, taking prescription drugs, and occasionally getting the crap kicked out of him. In my own research on Daredevil, I’ve discovered that they did take a few liberties with Elektra, but like last year’s “liberties” taken with Spider-Man, I really didn’t care. I just wanted a cool movie, which I got.
The cast in this movie is perfect all around. Affleck is a strong presence as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Garner’s already proven athletic stature (from ABC’s “Alias,” of course) is used to full effect here. Unlike the shaky chemistry between Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man, Affleck and Garner smoke. Favreau is an absolute cut-up here, and Farrell steals every scene he is in (proving once again what I had started saying about him in my review of The Recruit; see my review here.) Duncan once again plays one of the smoothest bad guys around (something he started in The Whole Nine Yards.)
Daredevil is another benchmark in the comic book movie. The action is cool, the performances are memorable, and it makes you want to turn around and see the movie again. I know I will be looking forward to picking up the DVD when it comes out (maybe I will be able to see those scenes that were cut so that the movie could avoid an R rating!) Whether or not you are a fan of the comic book, Daredevil will not disappoint you. It didn’t disappoint my hardcore comic book geek friend!
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