Daredevil (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The big problem for Daredevil as a comic book was that it had no really original hook. Oh, yeah, Matt Murdock was blind, and he was a regular human being in terms of physical strength, but when you really got down to the nitty-gritty, a Daredevil comic was exactly the same as a Spiderman comic. Her had special senses that told him when trouble was coming, he cavorted around the rooftops of New York, he swung from place to place Tarzan-style, he mourned for his lost parents, and he even fought some of the same bad guys as Spiderman. After all, Daredevil was no match for The Dread Dormammu or Galactus, so he had to fight villains who were just normal guys like him - like Kingpin, for example.

Daredevil was the grade B Spiderman.

You might say the same for the movie. Some of the special aerial action effects were excellent. Unfortunately I had seen them all the previous summer in Spiderman. The only new spin in Daredevil is that more action takes place at night. Two good reasons: (1) Daredevil has a day job (2) a blind guy has advantages over sighted people when it is completely dark.

Far above my expectations, there were some moments in the film that I really enjoyed:

  • A beautifully storyboarded visual - a bad guy runs from Daredevil at night, falls into a puddle. Sees the reflection of Daredevil in the puddle, as the cowled one approaches from overhead. Then, as the bad guy leaves, the camera stays on the puddle, and Daredevil's feet plop down into the water. Very dramatic, and a creative way to film the scene.

  • Daredevil uses his super-senses to "see" Jennifer Garner as raindrops fall off of her. He can pick up the shape of her face from the sounds of the raindrops, because his hearing is not really hearing as we experience it, but something like a Dolphin's sonar.

  • The police inspector tells the smart-ass reporter (Joey Pants, one of the best things about the movie) that there is no reason to think Daredevil was involved in a situation, or even to believe that Daredevil exists. The reporter flicks his cigarette butt insouciantly into a puddle of gasoline, which flames up into a giant "DD" symbol. Pants says nothing, just looks at the cop. It could have been overplayed very easily, but they made it very cool, and it was very well done. Joey Pants's role was poorly written. He had some rhetorical and corny lines to deliver, but he read them all credibly and seemed like a real person. Joey Pants is rapidly joining Samuel L Jackson and Sam Elliott in my pantheon of character actors who should be in every movie.

  • Daredevil (Ben Affleck) and Bullseye (Colin Farrell) do a great fight scene on a giant pipe organ in a cathedral.

There were also some things that really bugged me. I know that comic book stories are not supposed to be completely logical, but once they establish their world and ask me to buy into the premise, they have an obligation to hold it together consistently, and provide some normal level of continuity. Didn't happen.

The "origin" story goes on way too long, and features one of the silliest scenes ever. Little pre-Daredevil is running through Hell's Kitchen when he passes a storefront with hundreds of barrels outside, all being loaded on a truck. All of the barrels say "Biohazard". Do you want to know that midtown Manhattan is filled with factories that are storing barrels of biohazardous waste on the streets in 19th century beer barrels? Or maybe that isn't waste. Maybe there are factories in midtown Manhattan which are actually manufacturing biohazards and shipping them out in beer barrels. If so, they should do this across the river in North Jersey, where a spill would never even be noticed.



DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by director/screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Foster

  • Enhanced viewing mode - click for extra info when the symbol appears

  • On-screen trivia track

  • Visually impaired track

  • "Beyond Hell's Kitchen: Making Daredevil" documentary with optional enhanced viewing mode

  • Jennifer Garner screen test

  • 6 multi-angle scene studies

  • Kingpin featurette

  • HBO First Look special

  • "Moving Through Space: A Day with Tom Sullivan"

  • 3 music videos: "Won't Back Down" by Fuel, "For You" by the Calling, "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence

  • Still gallery

  • Widescreen anamorphic format


  • Extras about the comic book series:
  • "Men Without Fear: Creating Daredevil" documentary

  • "Shadow World Tour": an in-depth look at "Daredevil's sight"

  • Modeling sheets

  • DVD-ROM: Daredevil #1 virtual comic book, history of the comic book, bios for your favorite heroes and villains, wallpapers, sensory quiz

  • After Daredevil and Bullseye have their first fight, Daredevil escapes on the rooftops to a cathedral. Bullseye, who is a completely earthbound tough Irish street brawler, tracks him there. (Bullseye's superpower - he can throw any object with fatal accuracy, including baseball cards, condoms, water balloons, and hangnails). How exactly did Bullseye manage to track a guy who swings across rooftops?

  • Although Daredevil has absolutely no trouble defeating a room full of maybe twenty tough thugs with firearms, he gets his ass kicked by a 120 pound woman with a lot of martial arts training, but no special powers of any kind.

  • Daredevil is stabbed through the chest by a blade which pierces all the way through his body and out his back. He recovers from this wound enough to defeat two bad guys in hand-to-hand combat the same night - even after one of them cuts his windpipe! Not only is there no explanation for how Daredevil could have such recuperative powers, but there is no explanation for why his pretty burgundy uniform has no tears in the front where the knife went in, or in the back where the knife went out. 'Tis a mystery.

Daredevil comes off in some scenes as an insane vigilante. He loses a case in court, and an accused rapist goes free, so Daredevil does what the law would not do, and kills the guy the night after the trial. This might have worked if the audience really had a chance to hate the rapist, but we don't even know whether the guy is guilty. Daredevil acts like a petulant schoolyard bully who doesn't get his way. "Well, if I can't beat you in court with my brains, I'll just beat you up."

A little more comic relief from Jon Favreau as Daredevil's law partner might also have been good. This film tended to take itself seriously, and it didn't have the grotesque and creative Tim Burton world-view to justify that noir atmosphere. Spiderman was just much more fun than this movie

I guess the bottom line is that the film has some good comic book moments, but it would have seemed more impressive if it could have come out before Spiderman. It ends up where Daredevil always ends up.

He's the grade B Spiderman.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4.

  • General UK consensus: two and a half stars. Mail 6/10, Telegraph 6/10, Independent 6/10, Guardian 6/10, Sun 7/10, Express 4/10, Mirror 8/10, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $78 million for production, and the distribution/advertising costs are estimated close to $50 million. It did $102 million domestic gate with an unexpected February release. (Strange time to release a "big" movie. I guess they thought it couldn't compete at Christmas or during the summertime.) That leaves the studio $70-80 million in the hole before other revenues, but the film did OK overseas and the DVD is impressive, so ... maybe ...

As I write this, I am not expecting a sequel, but who knows?

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. You should like it if you like comic book adaptations, but you won't be thrilled with it. It's not one of the best, but it has its moments and is watchable. If you don't care for superhero movies, there is nothing here to make you change your mind, so stay away.

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