Daredevil Month: Reviewing 2003’s Daredevil (Theatrical Version)

Posted: March 16, 2015 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Image taken from moviepilot.com

WARNING: Spoilers will follow.

Welcome back to Daredevil Month everyone. With all the talk about sequels and failed cartoon spin offs this blog has covered recently, I thought it’d be appropriate to take a look at the film that pretty much started it all: 2003’s Daredevil. The film gained a ton of criticism for not being a good superhero movie, or even a good movie in general. Even today, it still receives a lot of hate online. But is it really the terrible movie everyone says it is? Honestly, after rewatching the film recently, it’s actually not that bad. Granted, it does have a number of problems, but for a pre-MCU superhero movie, it isn’t that terrible.

The plot revolves around Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck), a blind lawyer in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York. Moonlighting as a costumed vigilante named Daredevil, Matt works to clean up the streets of his hometown, taking care of the criminals his day job isn’t able to put behind bars. As a child, Matt discovered that his father Jack worked for the criminal Fallon, leading Matt to the accident that blinded him and enhanced his other senses. Jack is eventually killed for refusing to throw a boxing match, setting Matt on the path towards helping others in any way he can.

In the present, Matt meets Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), the daughter of rich businessman Nicholas Natchios, who has had numerous dealings with Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan), better known behind closed doors as the Kingpin of Crime. While Matt and Elektra’s relationship grows, Fisk calls in the assassin Bullseye (Collin Farrell) to murder Elektra’s father while Fisk plants evidence to frame the businessman as the Kingpin. Matt as Daredevil intervenes in the assassination, and as he and Bullseye battle in the streets, Natchios is killed, with Elektra believing it was Daredevil. The death puts a strain on Matt and Elektra’s relationship.

Matt eventually goes after Bullseye to protect Elektra, who he finds out is Bullseye’s next target. He instead ends up fighting Elektra, who stabs Matt in the shoulder before finding out his secret identity. Bullseye later kills Elektra. Matt and Bullseye later battle in a church, where Matt finds out Fisk is the Kingpin. After incapacitating Bullseye by throwing him out of the church and onto a car below, Matt goes after Fisk in his office.

After a brutal fist fight, Matt breaks Fisk’s knees, but refuses to kill him. Leaving Fisk to the police, Matt escapes into the night to continue working as Daredevil. An after credits scene shows Bullseye, still in recovery in a prison hospital, impaling a fly across the room with a needle.

Overall, it isn’t necessarily a “bad” movie. The acting is decent, the costumes (despite the complaints about red leather on Daredevil) are fun to look at, and it’s a nice change of pace from the other superhero films at the time (like Spider-Man), in that it at least attempts a dark tone. The casting especially is praiseworthy; I don’t care what official reviewers say, I liked Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. He played the role convincingly enough, and is one of the few bright spots in the film’s cast (the other notable roles include Duncan’s Kingpin and Farrell’s Bullseye).

That having been said, there’s a large number of cons keeping this from being a “really good” movie. For starters, Jennifer Garner as Elektra was probably not the best choice the filmmakers could have gone with. To me, she just seemed very bland and one dimensional, never doing too much other than reacting in a scene she didn’t even set up. By the time her character actually starts to get interesting, she gets killed off (although she does end up coming back, off camera, leaving Matt a braille necklace). Some of her dialog is also extremely wooden and stiff, although this isn’t entirely a problem on her end. A lot of the dialog in this film is awkward to listen to, and comes off kind of forced.

There’s also too much sacrificed in the name of having a dark tone. Most of the courtroom scenes were deleted in favor of the romance between Matt and Elektra (which itself is very boring and happens way too quickly), which is a shame, since I feel that Daredevil needs a balance between fighting with fists and fighting with words (the director’s cut of this film even proves that Matt going out in his suit, as opposed to his costume, is very interesting in and of itself). On top of that, Daredevil swings wildly in terms of morality. On the one hand, we see early in the film that he’s willing to kill criminals (as is the case with his first onscreen target Jose Quesada, who gets run over by a train), but then he later tells a young child that he’s “not the bad guy”.

Overall, don’t immediately downplay this movie. It may have its problems, but I still think it’s a very enjoyable movie. Still though, if you can, watch the director’s cut. It’s a much better cut of an already fun and actioned packed film.

FILM GRADE: 6.5/10

DIRECTOR’S CUT: 8.0/10

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