There are a couple of reasons why the new comic book flick Daredevil was released in the dead of Winter. One is that the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, obviously did not want the film to compete with its other comics-based films, X-Men 2 and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, both due this Summer. The other reason would be that Daredevil is a weak movie. I can’t compare the film to its comic book origins, but if the Marvel Comics series is this lacking, I find it hard to believe that it would have any sort of fan following.
Daredevil is Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck), New York City lawyer by day, superhero by night. When Matt was a young boy, living with his washed-up boxer of a father in Hell’s Kitchen, a freak chemical accident left Matt minus his sight but with four other senses, hearing, touch, taste and smell, greatly enhanced. When pop Murdock (David Keith) is murdered after he refuses to throw a fixed fight, Matt vows revenge and a superhero is born.
As fate would have it, the person who dealt the fatal blow to Matt’s father has now become the man who controls the criminal underworld in NYC, Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan). In between courts of law during the day and vigilante court at night, Matt falls for Electra (Jennifer Garner), a beautiful woman whose father is a business partner and future murder target of Kingpin. When Kingpin’s assassin, Bullseye (Colin Farrell), makes Electra’s father’s death look like Daredevil perpetrated it, she vows revenge. Yes folks, it’s Death Wish with visual effects and a terrible soundtrack consisting of bland pop tunes.
You don’t go into a superhero film seeking a deeper meaning of life. You want an interesting hero, a clever villain and, more importantly, a ton of great action and fun. You also want enough character and plot development to make it feel like you’re watching a film, not a videogame. Daredevil is so underdeveloped and under whelming that in the end it feels like nothing more than a collection of “cut scenes” found between levels in a videogame.
Director and writer Mark Steven Johnson delivers one-dimensional characters that lack empathy of any sort, a story thinner than Lara Flynn Boyle and poorly choreographed and shot action scenes (why does Hollywood insist on shooting action so close up?). With a 100-minute running time, one could argue that you don’t have much of a chance to develop the essentials. Then again, it didn’t seem to hinder the creative success of X-Men or The Crow.
Ben Affleck was quite good in Changing Lanes, Good Will Hunting and Chasing Amy. Someone, however, should really tell him that he is not action hero material. Laughable in Pearl Harbor and boring in The Sum of All Fears, J-Lo’s boy toy comes off as blank as a fart as Daredevil. Jennifer Garner, looking great as Electra and is the best visual effect of the film, delivers a performance as ho-hum as Affleck’s, while Joe Pantoliano and Michael Clarke Duncan aren’t given enough screen time to really make any sort of impression and Jon Favreau has a few choice comedic moments as Matt’s law partner.
The only time Daredevil really comes to life is when Colin Farrell is onscreen. Farrell’s acting career has left me a bit unimpressed so far, but his completely over-the-top performance, all ten minutes of it, is great fun.
I’ve been told that Daredevil is one of Marvel’s lesser-known characters. Daredevil the movie, once the tsunami of hype subsides, will definitely follow in its characters’ shoes.