IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Daredevil

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

There was a time when it seemed implausible that superheroes that didn't already exist in the general public's somewhat limited imagination could succeed as motion pictures. People remembered Christopher Reeve as Superman and Batman had a TV show in the 60s that Tim Burton and Michael Keaton could use as a springboard for their darker, edgier take. But Iron Man? Thor? Captain America? A decade ago these costumed crusaders wouldn't have had much of a chance. A lot of people at the time would have pointed to 2003's Daredevil as an example of why the lesser-known names can't make it at the box office. This is perplexing to me, because despite some of its shortcomings, Daredevil most decidedly does not suck.

Courtesy Marvel Studios

By day, Matthew Murdock is an attorney working a variety of pro-bono and low-rate cases in Hell's Kitchen. He and his partner Foggy Nelson fight for the underdogs who wouldn't have a chance otherwise. By night, Murdock prowls the streets as Daredevil, an acrobatic vigilante who is said to be absolutely fearless. The catch is, Murdock is blind. The accident that robbed him of his sight as a child hyper-sensitized his other senses, giving him a type of echolocation and the sort of reflexes that lead him to train as a martial artist. His goal is to topple the enigmatic Kingpin slowly consuming the criminal underworld in New York, but his encounter with a young woman named Elektra who matches his martial skills changes his life and may cause him to hang up his cowl forever.

Daredevil features characterization as its most prominent success. There is some definite chemistry between Matt & Elektra. Winston Fisk, the aforementioned Kingpin, has the sort of intimidating physical presence that, to quote Roger Ebert, "makes the camera want to take a step back and protect its groin." I'm a fan of Michael Clarke Duncan and this is very good work on his part. Kingpin's specialized hitman, Bullseye, seems possessed with a manic magnetism that has the audience watching his every move just to see what crazy thing he does next. Even minor characters' little nuances come through in the writing and acting, from Foggy's quirky sense of humor to reporter Ben Urich's dedication to unmasking Daredevil.

Courtesy Marvel Studios
"Your Honor, I submit this work for the pleasure of the court and ask that Armageddon be stricken from the record. And my memory."

The biggest question hanging over this production is if Ben Affleck was right in the leading role. The best answer I can offer is Marvel could have done much, much worse. Despite criticism that's been leveled at Affleck in the past, he portrays Murdock with honest charm, real humanity, and a haunted vulnerability. One of the best ways to show your audience that your hero is not invincible and a relatable character is to hurt him, and Ben's pretty good at conveying pain. It'd be nice if he didn't narrate so much in the beginning, though. He's not terribly good at delivering one-liners, either.

Daredevil does suffer from its share of flaws. The pace of the movie is somewhat schizophrenic, never seeming to strike just the right balance between having fun and being dramatic. Superhero stories do tend to be melodramatic, what with their hyper-realized heroes going through emotional changes before our eyes on big screens with bombastic surround sound, but this one goes a bit too far in places. Finally the action is undercut rather than underscored by the hit-and-miss soundtrack, which includes that one song Nickelback does.

Courtesy Marvel Studios
"Bullseye. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I dunno, boss... Guinness, football and hookers?"

Still, director and co-writer Mark Steven Johnson shoots clean, crisp scenes and makes the most of the characters he introduces. This is especially true in the Director's Cut. A lot of the problems of pace I mentioned are solved when the romance is cut back, the duality of Matt's life is increased and the reality of the situation is driven home in the expansion of the fights. This version of the film is rated R, while the theatrical release skated by with a PG-13 rating. I suspect that in order to appeal to kids, especially everybody who was really into Evanescence at the time, the romance was amped up and the "boring" courtroom stuff cut back. Which is a shame, because seeing the way Matt and Foggy work a courtroom and the things their client says on the stand are a real joy.

This movie, like its namesake, dwells in darkness. It's a brooding, driven piece of work. Even in its' director's incarnation, it's flawed. However, the shortcomings I've mentioned never quite overshadow the good things in it, the hallmarks of a genre shaking off the dark and gritty late 90s that gave us hard-edged anti-heroes like Spawn. Daredevil is edgy, but that edge is tempered with bits of humor and humanity that elevate it just above the surface of the dark and swampy waters of your typical Hollywood fare. I'd recommend it.

One thing of note to conclude: the superior Director's Cut is not available on Netflix. I watched it through Amazon's On Demand service. But the standard edition isn't bad, and you can add that to your Netflix queue if you're it sounds like this is the sort of superhero movie you're looking for. I do try to be honest in what I do, but I established the title of this series quite some time ago. I can't exactly change it every week to say "It came from Amazon", or "It came from my basement", or "It came from the side of the road", or "It came from my friend Ben's house."

Josh Loomis can't always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it's unclear if this week's film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain... IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

An underappreciated movie and yes, I do have the Director's Cut. Good review as always.

Very good review sir. I thought this movie was pretty good at the time.

Is anybody else having issues with the audio in this? Or is it just me experiencing the chalk board type static.

Anyway, great review BlueInk, look forward to next week's review.

Asturiel:
Is anybody else having issues with the audio in this? Or is it just me experiencing the chalk board type static.

Anyway, great review BlueInk, look forward to next week's review.

I used a different headset today. It lacks one of those fuzzy bits on the end of the microphone stalk. I apologize for the static but I'm glad you enjoyed the review in spite of it.

The audio quality was a bit wonky this time dude.
Otherwise quite enjoyable.

I maintain that this movie is about as good as a Daredevil movie could hope to be.

Good review.

Michael Clarke Duncan was so very good. He managed to convince me that Kingpin does not have to be a white guy.

1 problem. In the audio version there is occasional static. Has this been brought up before? I see now it has been while I listened to it.

Minor point, but I don't think you can get more mainstream in comics than Captain America. A decade ago, all the way back to 50s, he was a pretty big name and referenced by everyone. He was even a rather big hit as a serial in 1944. Same with Wonder Woman, Spider-man, Iron Man and others. Even Nick Fury had a movie with David Hasselhoff that didn't do too poorly.

Comic book superheroes, specific individual ones, not just the genre, have been part of the public's conscience for a long time now. People keep trying to say they are obscure or a niche culture, (and reading every monthly and know all the crazy stuff that happens in comics is a niche), but most of the big comic book movies coming out now have been seen as cartoons or serials since the '40s and probably had several movies that we've forgotten about in the last 30 years too.

I never disliked(in fact I actually enjoyed) the PG-13 draft but damn now I really wanna see the better R version

A great review (despite the static in the sound track, to start with I thought my head phones were on the blink, anyway), I've always been on the fence about seeing 'Daredevil' 'cos I knew so little about it, but I think now I might just go out and find a copy of it to watch.

BlueInkAlchemist:
Snip

I think the films over riding flaw was that it was a R rated movie based on a R rated comic (really, Daredevil is so dark and emo he would make Batman blush) force into the constrains of a PG-13 to maximize profits.

I always liked the Daredevil film, even in the original theatrical version, though I would readily admit it was quite flawed, but man - having seen just what it was they cut to create that version of the film, when I watched those "behind the scenes" special features where the producers talked about why the director's cut wasn't the version they sent to theaters? I wanted to strangle them every time they said something attempting to justify their savage acts of film butchery.

A lot of Director's Cut editions of films change things I felt were perfectly fine the way they were originally presented, and thus end up screwing with things I actually liked, or they tack on bits that, while nice, weren't really things we needed added back in. Daredevil's Director's Cut isn't one of them - there is absolutely no question that it's far superior to the theatrical cut of the film.

Damn shame that version isn't on Netflix, damn shame indeed (says a fellow who already owns the director's cut of the film and thus doesn't need to use Netflix to watch it anyways, but it's the principle of the thing!).

Huh, I didn't even know there WAS a director's cut of DD, I just thought it was a sub-par movie. Might check it out.

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked