Daredevil poster

USA, 2003. Rated PG-13. 115 minutes.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Micheal Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, John Favreau, Joe Pantoliano, Ellen Pompeo, Leland Orser, David Keith, Scott Terra
Writers: Brian Helgeland, Mark Steven Johnson, based on comic book and characters by Bill Everett, Frank Miller, and Stan Lee
Music: Graeme Revell, songs by various artists
Cinematographer: Ericson Core
Producers: Avi Arad, Gary Foster, Aron Milchan
Director: Mark Steven Johnson


Grade: D+ Review by Frances Nicole Rogers

S ee Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck). See Matt Murdock angst. See Matt Murdock prowl. See Matt Murdock kill. See Matt Murdock defy the laws of logic!

...or don't.

If Daredevil is a sign of what's to come in comic book cinema, we're in trouble. This throwaway action flick does not apologize for being bad and basks in the glow of its pseudo-cleverness. It reaches for the audience's sympathy with a grappling hook and inspires as much excitement as a chip off a bump on a log. The first offense was the credits, centered on the visual concept of a cityscape from which words in Braille emerge from the lighted windows. This apparently is clever because not only is Daredevil blind, but also the city is his "playground!" Whatever.

Second offense was the heavy emphasis on the importance of the church in Murdock's life. I have no problem with characters who are down with the church, but when it makes the ending painfully obvious, it becomes an issue. It's an even bigger problem when the composer of the film's score feels the urge to emphasize religion by writing cliché choral pieces for children. Elektra posterThe point is we know Murdock has guilt, we know Murdock is conflicted, but there is no need to shove this down our throats and stuff it in our ears.

Third offense was the purely cornball things that would have been acceptable in a better film. Since there is not much about Daredevil to take one's mind off its poor quality, the corniness is as overwhelming as the humidity on a hot summer's day. With lines like "That light at the end of the tunnel? That's not heaven, it's the C-train!" it's a wonder how any digested popcorn stayed in my stomach.

Fourth offense was Ben Affleck. I accept that, when not in possession of good script material, Affleck's only talent is looking good--which he succeeded in doing here--but if he has ambitions to continue his career as a third-rate comic book hero he first should take lessons on How to Angst Properly. His present attempts to hone the craft of angst have come off as being brain-dead, half-asleep, and other non-angsty things. He also needs to learn how to say "My God, you're beautiful!" with more conviction.

Fifth offense: Bullseye (Colin Farrell), the psychotic Irish killer with a knack for dead-aim. There was nothing very offensive about him--he was played well enough by Farrell, and didn't reek of corn like the rest of the film, but the fact that his moping "I missed" evokes more pathos than Matt Murdock's perpetual state of angst is offensive enough. We should be sympathizing with the hero, not the villain, right?

The biggest offense? Murdock himself. No matter how hard the filmmakers try, he never comes off as a human character; thus it's hard to relate to or sympathize with him. I realize that Matt Murdock is a comic book character, but it was easy to relate to Peter Parker even when he was running around New York in his atrocious outfit! Even when Peter did extraordinary things, as a character he never became more than ordinary. There is nothing very human about Murdock that we can hold on to. Yeah, he bears scars from his quest for vengeance, yes, he has pills to help ease the pain--but that's a whole lot of pills and a whole lot of scars! His "superhuman abilities," too, make him unrealistic. How can anyone make sense of a man who listens to a CD at full blast but can't endure the dripping of an IV? You simply can't--so how can one relate to a character who doesn't make any sense?

Anything else that might add insult to injury in this film is a given. This is one of the few films I've seen where the phrase "strictly for the kids" applies. Surely it has enough thrills that will keep the kiddies interested, but adults, especially those who've seen their fair share of films, will barely get anything out of Daredevil save a few laughs. Let's wait until May and X-2 to see if the comic book genre has anything better than this to offer.

Review © March 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2003 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

  Comment on this review on the boards  

  Official site
  IMDB page
  MRQE page
  Rotten Tomatoes page