A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Daredevil

April 29, 2011

Daredevil

I have a fondness for Daredevil. Not for this movie – for the Marvel comic series about a man with no fear. Before I discovered Daredevil, and the Frank Miller Daredevil in particular, I had a general disdain for Marvel. It came from years of The Incredible Hulk and Spider Man cartoons in my youth. In my mind Marvel was a technicolor world of crazy magical hijinks – the kind of thing that gave comic books a bad name. DC on the other hand was the home of Batman and Swamp Thing and the Watchmen. In the nineties DC – through the Vertigo label – became the source of all that was cool and awesome about comics. Dream and the Endless. Tim Hunter. John F-ing Constantine. Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman were in DC’s court. Then again, Frank Miller had started out over at Marvel, and around a time when I was collecting everything he had ever written I picked up a bunch of his Daredevil stuff. Sure, okay, Daredevil is a blind man whose super power is that he can see, but he’s also super cool.

As a result of my love for the comics I was looking forward to this movie, and also as a result my reaction to the film was slightly more vitriolic than it might have been if, say, an Aquaman movie had been disappointing. I have said in the past that this is an awful movie, but the truth is that it’s simply a fairly mediocre movie. It’s just a little bit less than adequate, really. But I found this to be profoundly disappointing in a Daredevil movie.

The plot is a kind of amalgam of several of the Frank Miller story lines. It has an abbreviated origin story about how the bookish young Matt Murdock was blinded (this time by liquid hazardous waste instead of a glowing green bar of radioactive waste.) We get to see his father, the washed up prize fighter who is working as muscle for a small time crime boss in Hell’s Kitchen. After Matt is blinded he discovers that his other senses have become ultra powerful. When his father is killed for refusing to throw a fight Matt becomes obsessed with justice – becoming a conscientious lawyer by day and a masked vigilante by night. We see him meet and clash with Elektra, the love of his life, and we see her swear vengeance on Daredevil because she believes that he’s responsible for the death of her father. There’s a bunch of fight scenes, some pretty cool special effects, and a very disappointing showdown between Daredevil and the Kingpin.

Part of the problem with this movie is that it can’t seem to settle on a single tone. It wants to be a serious story of a man obsessed with vengeance for his father’s death. It also wants to be a sort of romance story. It also has a lot of pure cheese – mostly on the part of Colin Farrell as Bullseye – a villain apparently more obsessed with witty one-liners than with all the casual killing he does. The movie very quickly touches on a number of iconic moments in the general Daredevil story arc from the books but doesn’t stick with any of them long enough to flesh them out. So like the digital representation of Daredevil himself in the movie the plot leaps implausibly about and looks fairly fake as it does so.

Ben Affleck is not awful in the role of Matt Murdock. He actually does a convincing job of portraying a blind man some of the time. This is one of the better aspects of the movie – it realistically portrays a blind man in a sighted man’s world. I appreciated seeing things like the braille printer in Matt’s office and the way he folds his money to distinguish denominations from each other. He has a watch with a flip top so he can feel the hands. He walks convincingly with a cane. Clearly, a lot of research was done here. Then he goes and spoils it all by having a very public fight in a playground with Elektra. (At least in the comics when Matt and Elektra battled for the first time in college he was wearing a scarf over his head as a disguise.) Really there’s not much attempt made to hide Daredevil’s “secret” identity in this movie. By the end of the film I think the only major character who doesn’t know who he really is is his old friend Foggy Nelson.

Another thing I give this movie credit for is the wonderful “sonar” effect showing us how Matt sees the world using his hearing and sense of smell. It looks cool and is entirely plausible in the world of the movie (if you can accept that Matt can somehow dodge bullets as he hears them coming.)

I just wish that the rest of the film could live up to that. It doesn’t though. It’s a bit of a mess, really. I has a great deal of narration at the start telling us what we’re seeing, which always pisses me off (except in Creeping Terror, where it makes me laugh my ass off.) It is packed with supposedly symbolic imagery which has no relevance to the film. (I dare you to count the crucifixes and angels.) If you want to drag religion into your comic book movie that’s fine with me, but at least have it make sense for the character instead of being window dressing. It ends up feeling like writer/director Mark Steven Johnson wants to make an epic film but doesn’t quite know how. There are hints at the paradox of a lawyer turned vigilante and how laws cannot be upheld by vengeance, but they, like so many little tidbits in the movie, aren’t fleshed out at all.

It frustrates me that it feels like this movie is such a near miss. It does some things right, and it has some intriguing things to say about the character of Daredevil. It is absolutely packed to the gills with homage and reference to the comic books. All the same, it falls flat and feels shallow and unfulfilling. The best thing in the entire movie is Jennifer Garner as Elektra. She’s cool and flawed and fascinating. It made me with there were a movie with just her in it – and then there was. We’ll review that tomorrow.

April 29, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: