A colossal misfire, DAREDEVIL is the BATTLEFIELD EARTH of superhero films, which
isn't surprising given its pairing of charisma-free actor Ben Affleck (PEARL
HARBOR) with saccharine writer/director Mark Steven Johnson (SIMON BIRCH).
DAREDEVIL wants badly to be the next SPIDERMAN but fails miserably at every
Ben Affleck plays a comic book character who was blinded in childhood in an
accident which so heightened all of the rest of his senses and skills that he
can do anything a sighted person could do and much, much more. Affleck's
character is known as a lawyer named Matt Murdock by day and as the masked
Daredevil by night. Since his father (David Keith) was murdered when Matt was
young, Matt, as the Daredevil, lives to deliver vigilante justice and to seek
The sappy and silly script has Matt sharing little messages with us. Typical of
these trite little thoughts for the day are: "Revenge won't make the pain go
away," "There are days I believe, and other days that I've lost faith," and
"Justice isn't a sin."
Filmed darkly and edited confusingly, the movie is quite uninviting. The
director doesn't have a clue on how to direct an action picture so that it has
the requisite energy and proper pacing. Only a good supporting cast makes the
movie sometimes watchable. Jennifer Garner plays Matt's sexy, superhero
girlfriend, Elektra Natchios. Michael Clarke Duncan is the sneeringly suave,
big bad guy named Kingpin. Colin Farrell plays Bullseye, Daredevil's cocksure
opponent. And Jon Favreau turns in a fun little performance as Franklin 'Foggy'
Nelson, Matt's law partner. Foggy's main interest is getting someone to admit
that the alligators-in-the-sewer urban legend is true.
Now for the big question. Will there be a DAREDEVIL 2? I'm afraid so.
DAREDEVIL runs 1:43. It is rated PG-13 for "action/violence and some
sensuality" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
My son Jeffrey, almost 14, gave it *** 1/2. He found it entertaining, and he
liked the action.
The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, February 14, 2003. In
the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC and the Century theaters.
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# stars based on 4 stars: 3
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
20th Century Fox /Regency Enterprises
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin
Farrell, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano, David Keith, Scott Terra
Screened at: AMC, NYC, 2/12/03
What philistine in the audience could fail to identify with Matt:
ordinary albeit visually challenged citizen by day, ACLU's worst
nightmare at night, as he battles crime in the only way that the
unjust can understand? Watching the film, I couldn't help thinking
that give or take some notches on the ophthalmology chart, there
go I: mild-mannered movie maven by day, but by night,
CRITICMAN! Slayer of razzies, educator of the average moviegoer,
upholder of all that is best in cinema! Neither a razzie nor the
best that cinema has to offer, "Daredevil" is an absorbing 96
minutes that borrows concept from Matthew Winner's "Death
Wish," choreography from Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man," uniform and
mentality from Tim Burton's "Batman." Since I came of comic-
book age before the first appearance of Stan Lee's 1964
"Daredevil," and while my real heroes are Captain Marvel, Mary
Marvel, Superman and Wonder Woman, I cannot with authority
spout the cliche that the book is better than the movie. I can say,
however, that if this is true, the Daredevil comic series must have
been a knockout of a read for its targeted audience.
Speaking of targeted audience, Mark Steven Johnson's most
fascinating creation, one that meets every test of cartoon
character (which is how we should judge the performers in a movie
like this) is Colin Farrell. He's bald but still handsome and he's
enjoying himself, I'd wager, more than he did in "The Recruit,"
especially since for the most part he's not n real danger and is
almost always in control as Bullseye, the guy who never misses.
Hitting the eponymous bulls-eye six or seven times on a saloon
dart board, he converts everything he touches into a lethal
weapon: paper clips, shards of glass, pencils; all of which he
utilizes with the precision that gave him his name. His campy,
Mad-Max character is a relatively minor one running in the orbit of
its titled tragic hero, Daredevil purveyor of almost instant justice in
a New York neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen, that thanks to his
nocturnal vigils and, more important, his conflicted vigilantism,
has recently turned into a gentrified artist colony.
"Daredevil" was not always the masked guardian of the Big
Apple. Director Johnson takes care to develop his hero by
opening on the man's youth. Matt Murdock (Scott Terra in the
role of the youthful hero), DD's alter ego, was blinded in a freak
accident at about the age of 12 when dangerous chemicals
splashed into his eyes, casting his other four senses into tools far
more acute than those of his fellow mortal beings. Having
witnessed his father's death at the hands of thugs, he vows
vengeance though he states later on that revenge does not bring
closure. Taking the advice of his prizefighter dad, Jack Murdock
(David Keith) to hit the books and not his neighbors, he emerges a
lawyer who swears to defend only the innocent. (His frustrated
partner, Franklin Nelson [Jon Favreau] is understandably
concerned that this manifesto does not do much for the
company's books.) By day, then, Matt uses the law. By night,
however, he tosses the Constitution aside to act as a thorn in the
side of criminals in the Hell's Kitchen area. When he meets a
resistant Elektra (Jennifer Garner), who engages him in combat
that could of landed them roles in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon," the two fall in love--Elektra as much in the dark as Lois
Lane about her hero's other self. While Matt now fantasies better
ways to spend the wee hours of the morning than in a flotation
tank, he and Elektra are targeted for elimination by Bullseye
(Colin Farrell), who is in the employ of the 6'7" 450 pound Kingpin
(Michael Clarke Duncan he's the fellow who was fried in "The
Daredevil differs from Spider-Man in at least two ways. For one,
he's conflicted about being the champion of Manhattan's few right-
wingers, dispensing eye-for-an-eye justice through violence. From
time to time he visits a church to confess his sins to Father
Everett (Derrick O'Connor) who insists that he disapproves of
Matt's activities while on the other hand wishing him luck. For
another, unlike Spidy he's deadly serious about his mission, so
much so that an example of his wit (when he throws a punk onto
the tracks of the 50th Street subway) is, "That light at the end of
the tunnel is not heaven. It's the 'C' train."His only weakness
(aside from being tone-deaf to clever sayings) is not krypton, but
loud noises, which the psychotic Bullseye uses dramatically by
knocking on the bells of the church
Action scenes abound, with Daredevil's defying Newton's laws
through the use of a rope that swings him from building to
building, while from time to time he dispenses with such crutches
to cast somersaults as he leaps from tall buildings with a single
bound. Ben Affleck does nicely in his Clark Kent guise,
impressing juries more than he does the young women and
staring into space to delineate his blindness. Affleck is so
credible in his daytime role that one cannot be blamed for wishing
the sun to descend less rapidly, giving us in the audience
breathing time for Matt to pursue the one love of his life, the
Happily the open-ended conclusion projects the certainty of
sequels, when Kingpin is due to emerge from Rikers--pretty
quickly judging by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki's desire
to spend less on the city's jails during these financially troubled
Rated PG-13. 96 minutes. Copyright 2003 by Harvey Karten at
You can appreciate the work - the stunts and special effects - that
went into transforming Daredevil from the comic book to the screen.
However, it's not a movie you can embrace.
Daredevil is dark, brutal and bloody. And though the character comes
from the Marvel comic stable, the movie's tone and mood is more attuned
to Tim Burton's Batman as well as Frank Miller's graphic novel The Dark
Not surprisingly, Miller also composed a series of Daredevil stories
featuring two of this movie's protagonists, Kingpin and Elektra.
Screenwriter-director Mark Steven Johnson (Simon Birch) has created a
nightworld dominated by thieves, murderers and rapists in which a lone
vigilante fights the good fight.
Daredevil prowls the rooftops and alleyways of New York's Hell's
Kitchen, battling to keep it safe for its honest, downtrodden residents.
By day, Daredevil is Matt Murdock, an idealistic lawyer who defends the
helpless. By night, Murdock transforms himself into Daredevil to
brandish his own style of justice.
Daredevil, known as the man without fear, is not a superhero, even
though he acts like one. Blinded as a young boy, his other senses have
heightened to such an extent that they compensate for his lack of
vision. He utilizes the skills he developed in his singular quest to
make a difference.
Daredevil is one of those films in which the obvious questions pop into
your head as you are leaving the theater. For example, if he's only a
poor lawyer, where did Murdock get the money to acquire all the cool
gadgets he has in his apartment? And how can he afford such a place — in
New York, no less — on the little he purportedly earns representing the
poor and defenseless?
OK, OK, that's just nitpicking. This isn't reality, it's a comic book.
Get a life!
All true. Bottom line: Daredevil does entertain. The fight sequences
and stunt work are first-rate, the film shows flashes of humor and for
the most part - at least according to the fans of the comic at a preview
screening - the character remains true to his comic book source.
The movie's main drawback, ironically, is its star Ben Affleck.
Physically he seems built for the part, all buff and square-jawed, but
Affleck is too bland, too white bread, carries too much of a nice-guy
persona to be believable.
Affleck lacks the charisma, the danger and the toughness required to
make believers of the audience.
Jennifer Garner, while eye candy in a variety of outfits, also cannot
reach the level of magnetism and menace needed for her revenge-minded
Elektra to be taken seriously.
Colin Farrell hits the mark as Bullseye, the hired assassin for whom
any object can be transformed into a lethal weapon, while Michael Clarke
Duncan retains the right amount of menace as the crime lord, Kingpin.
Daredevil is not a family friendly adaptation such as Spider-Man. Its
violent quotient is rather intense. This moody excursion is the
forerunner for a posse of comic book characters due on the screen this
year. Still to come, the X-Men sequel, X-Men 2, and The Incredible Hulk
and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette,
IN. He can be reached by e-mail at bbl...@journalandcourier.com or at
bobb...@iquest.net. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at
www.jconline.com by clicking on movies.
Bloom's reviews also appear on the Web at the Rottentomatoes Web site,
www.rottentomatoes.com and at the Internet Movie Database:
Like so many other superheroes, DareDevil's
(played by Ben Affleck) origin stems from a
traumatic childhood involving bullies and the
death of a parent. Meanwhile, his preternatural
abilities arise as a result of a freak accident
that leaves him blind. However, his other senses
have become tremendously magnified. This is
captivatingly illustrated to us as a sort of
radar in which sound waves and odor particles
create ghostly yet oneiric images. It's a
blessing that allows him to much more aware of
his surroundings. But, it is a nuisance because
the inside of his head must sound like a radio
receiver that is picking up every station and
playing them simultaneously.
We always welcome heroes into our midst; however,
can someone please save us from these
one-dimensional men of daring-do? I ask that not
because I don't like superheroes. After all, I'm
one of those whom, at the age of 7, woke up at
the crack of dawn on Saturdays to my parents
chagrin to catch Superfriends on television. Now
in my mid-thirties, I still tune into the Cartoon
Network now and then to catch that same show.
However, while action speaks louder than words on
the pages of comic strips and Saturday morning
cartoons, in a feature length film, words are
what define your actions.
Unfortunately, DareDevil doesn't say very much,
although he spends a lot of time rappelling from
building to building, listening to the sounds of
the city while perched upon some skyscraper
ledge, and questioning himself if one man can
really make a difference. The answer to the last
question is 'yes' and that person would be the
Here, the storytelling is too loose. While the
lighting looks good, the atmosphere evokes a
comic strip world come-to-life, and a maniacal
character called Bullseye (Colin Farrell) are
real joys, "DareDevil" will leave you indifferent
and even numbed. Partly, it's a story about
DareDevil's origins. Partly, it's a love story.
Partly, it's a story of vengeance. Partly, it's
a story to determine the identity of a criminal
mastermind known as Kingpin (Michael Clarke
Duncan). Thank goodness Kingpin had the smarts
to send his personal guards home early so that
the finale didn't have to be unnecessarily
prolonged. The film is mired in inertia and
doesn't seem to have an underlying purpose.
While the film seems eager to please, more help
is needed. Most of the fighting scenes were too
quickly edited and are fought in dark locations.
This made it very hard to follow. The only
well-lit melee was in a playground where our hero
meets up with a firecracker named Elektra
(Jennifer Garner). However, after watching that
Jackie Chan film, these two seem like they were
in slow motion. The acting is serviceable but
not remarkable, although you'll enjoy the
scenery-chewing Bullseye and Kingpin. Meanwhile,
the death of a major character midway through the
film seemed ill-advised and the slow pace will
start to make you edgy.
What was more disturbing, at least to me, was
that this superhero seemed to be one of the more
brutal ones. His brand of cruel justice moves
him to throw people off of buildings or to knock
them in front of an oncoming subway. Because he
is heavy on brute and brawn but light on brains,
I'm not sure if this is a hero that I would hail.
But, I know that this is a film that I would not
S: 1 out of 3
L: 0 out of 3
V: 2 out of 3
Rated PG-13; running time 102 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Seen at: Uptown Palladium 12 (Birmingham, Michigan)
Official site: http://www.daredevilmovie.com/
IMDB site: http://us.imdb.com/Details?0287978
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Directed by: Brian Helgeland, Mark Steven Johnson
(based on the Marvel comic book)
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan,
Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, Erick Avari, David Keith,
Joe Pantoliano, Leland Orser, Scott Terra
Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003
Wow, so there really *is* a Movie Star who's even stiffer than Keanu
Reeves after all. "The Man Without Fear"? More like The Actor
THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
As a young boy (Scott Terra) growing up in Hell's Kitchen, Matt
Murdock was blinded in a freak industrial accident; but the
radioactive materials he was hit with somehow served to develop his
other senses drastically, and even under certain circumstances, allows
him to "see" through a kind of radar. By day, the adult Matt (Ben
Affleck) is an Attorney For The People, along with his partner
Franklin Nelson (Jon Favreau). But Matt decides to Use His Powers For
Good at night, along the way avenging the murder of his boxer father
(David Keith) and taking on mobster Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan)
and his sidekick, Bullseye (Colin Farrell). Things get complicated
for Matt when he becomes involved with the mysterious and beautiful
Elektra (Jennifer Garner), who proves to be more than a match for Matt
and Daredevil alike.
How bad is DAREDEVIL? Let me count the ways. Who'm I kidding; I
can't get past the first, worst way. DAREDEVIL learned all the wrong
lessons from the BATMAN franchise, and none of the right ones from
that franchise, THE MATRIX, SPIDER-MAN, ad nauseam. DAREDEVIL is
completely humorless; painfully so. Unlike SPIDER-MAN, DAREDEVIL
didn't have the good sense to not take itself seriously; and Affleck
pays the price for this faux pas. Many audiences reportedly supplied
the "humor" DAREDEVIL so desperately lacked. I liked the audience's
version of DAREDEVIL, better.
I once promised myself that one movie soon, I'd raise up off'a Ben
Affleck. This is not that movie. What I found astounding was just
how incredibly wrong Affleck was for the part of either Matt Murdock
or his SuperEgo. To say that Affleck makes a poor superhero, is a
vast understatement. As Daredevil, he runs like a girl, fights like
he has a stick up his ass, and Emotes in all the wrong places. I kept
wishing for Bartleby (his snarky DOGMA character) to show up; instead,
we got the boring Matt and the unintentionally funny Daredevil. I
especially got a kick out of what was probably meant to be Affleck
stretching his Inner Conflict thespianic muscle, that instead reminded
me of the scene in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN when Gene Kelly and Donald
O'Connor learn to enunciate properly: "I am not the bad guy. I AM not
the bad guy. I am NOT the bad guy. I am not THE ba..."
As with most Rilly Bad Flicks, DAREDEVIL didn't become Bad all on the
shoulders of one person. Michael Clarke Duncan's considerable
shoulders can take some of the burden. The casting controversy
involving Duncan aside (many comic book fans protested that Kingpin
was written as White), there was little for Duncan to have shown up on
the set for, besides spouting bad lines badly, and flexing himself
only at the end. I wept for both Jon Favreau and especially Joe
Pantoliano, the latter of whom should have a law written for him
stating that he should never be wasted in a Rilly Bad Flick (though it
looks to be too late for the upcoming BAD BOYS 2 to get that
legislation going). All this can be traced back to writer/director
Mark Steven Johnson, another on my list of people who shouldn't be
allowed to write and direct the same movie. For some of these guys,
it's like chewing gum and walking at the same time: they can't do
either well enough separately, let alone simultaneously.
While I did enjoy Colin Farrell as Bullseye (the Bad Guys always seem
to make a Rilly Bad Flick somewhat more tolerable, don't they?) and
strangely enough, Jennifer Garner as Elektra (at least early on, until
she went into Warm Place mode), overall DAREDEVIL is one movie I'd
like to forget I'd ever seen. Looking at the box office receipts,
though, I doubt that'll happen anytime too soon.
3BC IN THE MOVIE HOUSE
I think I've already found this year's best theater experience, and
it's only February. The grandeur of the Uptown Palladium 12 almost
made it worth it to sit through a Rilly Bad Flick like DAREDEVIL. The
theater house is laid out beautifully, inside a grand building. But
the Premiere Entertainment Auditorium, with its soft leather chairs
and spacious seating, was a cut above. I didn't do the Dinner And A
Movie thingy there, but I'd be sorely tempted, even at $25 a pop.
BAMMER'S BOTTOM LINE
ewww, that was actively bad. I reckon there's one good thing that can
be said about DAREDEVIL, though: it made me look forward to the
upcoming releases of the two THE MATRIX followups all the more.
DAREDEVIL rating: flashing redlight