The superhero/comic adaptation genre is in the midst of a major comeback with the likes of Marvel’s “Blade”, “X-Men” and of course “Spider-Man” proving the best film adaptations of the medium since those first few “Batman” and “Superman” flicks over a decade ago. However, like all trends, the market gets oversaturated with sub-standard clones and thus the overall output gets weaker and weaker as time goes on. “Blade 2” for example whilst proving enjoyable, was still somewhat a lacklustre to follow-up to the original – substituting an interesting story with dated wirework and cheesy filming tricks.
“Daredevil” takes a step further into the gutter by including both a fumbled story and some of the worst directing/visuals I’ve seen in an action movie in a long time. There’ve been worst superhero films to be sure (Superman 3 & 4, Captain America, Judge Dredd, Spawn) but this movie falls behind the mediocrity of the likes of “The Shadow” and “From Hell”, both of which at least had some interesting ideas and a certain effective look to them.
So what’s the problem? Well the finger can be pointed to several things though easily the biggest culprit is Mark Steven Johnson. I read the script a year ago and found it an ok but forgettable read at best – some elements like Bullseye were underused, Elektra had an interesting backstory and the romance was enjoyable albeit very rushed. Whilst the Bullseye elements were thankfully beefed up slightly, the problems in the final cut are far more noticable. The romance between Daredevil & Elektra is even more flimsy than originally planned, whilst the flashback to his childhood runs on far too long.
The cameo sidekick of Foggy Nelson (with the exception of one or two lines) is simply unfunny, Kingpin & Elektra both desperately miss backstory let alone dimension, side characters from Matt’s secretary to Kingpin’s assistant have gone from decent parts to pure wastes of space, and don’t even get me started on the cinematography. SO many scenes in this film use that god awful high contrast/highly saturated look like something out of a bad music video that it makes the action very hard to see. Graeme Revell’s lacklustre score doesn’t help much either.
So what does this movie have going for it? Two words, Colin Farrell. The man plays a somewhat insane playful Irishman (ie. he’s playing himself) and is a deliciously over the top and morbidly dark villain who just seems to be having a ball. Every moment he’s on screen the man rules it, as does Michael Clarke Duncan who brings a nice sense of both power and understatement to the Kingpin role.
Jennifer Garner who does such brilliant work as the female James Bond-esque Sidney Bristow on “Alias” should be right at home playing a character that’s both everyday nice girl and action heroinne – sadly that’s not the case here. She’s got charisma and all her TV fighting skills combined with some new training which allows her to pull off the fight scenes quite convincingly (such as an admittedly fun playground teasing one-on-one), but the character development is so poor that she’s not much more than a babe with an attitude. I’ve always liked Ben Affleck despite his decriers but I’m sorry – he’s more wooden than the Congo Basin here.
Some reviewers are using the old excuse ‘this was made for fans by a fan’ which is such bullsh*t. John Logan was a major Trek fan and look what utter dreck ‘Nemesis’ was (and I’m a massive TNG fan). Johnson for all his love of the material, hasn’t done this type or size of movie before and it shows. Why did “Lord of the Rings”, “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” work? Because they had producers & directors who were not only fans of the material and could respect it, BUT were also proven filmmakers in their own right before they even touched this material.
At a brisk 100 minutes there’s no time for extraneous material which is somewhat of a relief, and indeed in the last half hour the pace picks up a hell of a lot to result in some cool fights. The sad verdict though is all up the movie is a washout despite nice production values, costuming and the fact this is easily the darkest superhero flick that’s hit the theatres since the somewhat morbid “Batman Returns” (a film with its own problems but still FAR better filmmaking). Justice may be blind, but the only enjoyment to be had out of this is to be blind drunk.