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Daredevil - Widescreen Edition


Reviewed by: Ryan Cragun
Genre: Action
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Language: English, French, Spanish
Subtitle: English, Spanish
Length: 103 min
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: 07/29/2003
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Commentary: Enhanced Viewing Mode with behind-the-scenes look at visual effects and commentary by visual effects producer John Kilkenny; Feature Commentary with director/screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Foster; Text Commentary with additional information
Documentaries: 2 60-minute documentaries - "Men Without Fear - Creating Daredevil", "Beyond Hell's Kitching - Making Daredevil"
Featurettes: 6 production featurettes - "Shadow World Tour", Jennifer Garner screen test; Kingpin featurette, HBO first look special, 'Moving Through Space - A Day with Tom Sullivan'
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Theatrical Teaser, Trailer A and Trailer B; 28 Days Later Theatrical Trailer, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Theatrical Trailer
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: Multi-Angles Dailies
Music Video: 3 music videos - Fuel: "Won't Back Down"; The Calling: "For You"; Evanescence: "Bring Me to Life"
Other: DVD-ROM content; still gallery, modeling sheets
Cast and Crew: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Collin Farrel, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano
Written By: Mark Steven Johnson
Produced by: Avi Arad, Stan Lee, Arnon Milchan
Directed By: Mark Steven Johnson
Music: Graeme Revell
The Review:

Matt Murdock's (Ben Affleck) day job is as a lawyer, mostly for pro bono clients. He is trying to help the victims that live in Hell's Kitchen, a run down part of New York City (read 'Gotham') where he grew up under similar circumstances. But at night, Matt Murdock is Daredevil, a superhero that can be hurt, but still has super powers. Apparently Matt had a run in with biologically hazardous material when he was a young man and, as a result, he's blind. However, all of his other senses have compensated for his blindness and the result of the exposure to the biohazard is a sort of sonar that allows him to see using sound waves. Somehow this translates into him being able to jump from rooftop to rooftop like spiderman, fight like Bruce Lee, and sense things better than most people with normal vision. But, of course, no one is supposed to know that. ***

One day, kind of out of the blue, Matt meets a woman named Elektra Natchios, Jennifer Garner, who Matt has to fight to find out her name. The next day they make love and have developed a very serious relationship (I'm actually not leaving anything out here, this is how it happens). As it turns out Elektra's father, Natchios (Erick Avari), is involved in some dirty business with THE crime boss of New York (he's the only one in the movie) who goes by the name 'Kingpin' (Michael Clarke Duncan). When Natchios tries to sell out, Kingpin orders him killed by an evil henchman named Bullseye (Colin Farrell (I)). Of course Daredevil tries to stop him, but fails and is actually mistakenly believed to have been the one that killed him. ***

Now Elektra has to avenge her father's death. Having been trained in all sorts of martial arts she comes after Daredevil. Daredevil tries to convince her that it wasn't him, but to no avail and she ends up stabbing him in the shoulder (important plot point) before removing his mask to find out that it is her lover, Matt. He finally convinces her that it wasn't him just as Bullseye shows up. Weakened by his wound from the fight with Elektra, Daredevil can only watch while she is skewered by Bullseye. ***

Just as Elektra is killed the police show up and Daredevil has to escape. He finally collapses on the floor of the Catholic Church where his confidant, the one person that knows his true identity, Father Everett (Derrick O'Connor), can help him. But before he can receive medical attention for his wound Bullseye shows up wanting to finish what he started. So, Daredevil is now faced with fighting Bullseye and also decides to finish the whole thing with Kingpin that very night, resulting in a show down with Kingpin in his office. ***

Even given the 'suspension of belief' leeway of a comic book story, this has to be the most ridiculous movie I have seen in a long time. It was so bad I'm not even sure where to begin. ***

Ben Affleck is a terrible actor. I've seen him in two decent roles - 'Good Will Hunting' and 'The Sum of All Fears'. In both he was a supporting actor coupled with a great actor that was able to carry him (Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, respectively). With only Jennifer Garner to support him in this film, whose only contribution was her looks, he was simply in too deep. Ben Affleck cannot carry a film. He is not a leading man and I don't know how many horrible films it is going to take before someone powerful enough to keep him out of leading roles realizes this. He is an 'ok' supporting actor, but he needs someone to push him or you get something like this movie which can only be described as a cinematic disaster. ***

As much as I hate to admit it, Michael Clarke Duncan is in an identical situation. He is not a crime boss, he's a henchman. Crime bosses need to be smart, not bodybuilders. No offense to Mr. Duncan (I loved him in 'The Green Mile'), but he just doesn't come across as a highly intelligent crime boss. His perfect role was in 'The Whole Nine Yards' - a big, beefy henchman. Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he's better off when he doesn't have to speak, unless he is playing a slightly less-intelligent actor. ***

So, who does this leave? Well, I already said that Jennifer Garner's only contribution was her looks, so she's out as a decent actor. That leaves only Colin Farrel and Jon Favreau. Though some may disagree, I think Colin Farrel has potential and, despite his character being rather corny in this (killing someone with a paper clip is corny, not cool), he wasn't too bad. However, the favorite actor of the film was Jon Favreau, who was probably only in 10 minutes, but they were undoubtedly the best 10 minutes of the film. He was funny and delivered his lines well enough that he was a convincing sidekick. Overall, most of the major names attached to this movie (Affleck, Garner, and Duncan) but were horrible. The casting director for this film should be blacklisted forever!!! ***

So, the acting sucked. What about the rest of the movie? Well, the story fared no better. Instead of revealing Daredevil's past throughout the movie the first 20-25 minutes are dedicated to his backstory (his relationship with his dad, losing his eyesight, developing his abilities, etc.). Sure, they did this in Spiderman, but it was much shorter and much more interesting. ***

Then there is the relationship with Elektra. My summary of the relationship may seem kind of superficial, but what makes this incredible is that my summary was completely accurate. There is no reason for them to meet - she just walks into a coffee shop one day while he's sitting inside. Their introduction turns into an absolutely pointless 10 minute fight scene that is almost completely computer generated, and it is all just to find out what her name is. Two minutes later (the next day in the movie) they have somehow developed this 'deep' relationship and, bottabing, Matt Murdock scores. Shallow, pointless, and lame. There is no relationship and no relationship development. He's attracted to her looks (that's the only nice thing he ever says to her) and apparently that is enough to drive the next 30 minutes of fight scenes in the movie. ***

Skipping a bunch of other absolutely ridiculous points in the movie I'll just talk about the final confrontation in the movie. Daredevil, who has been stabbed by his lover (remember I mentioned that in the summary) is now in his third major fight of the day (1st - Elektra, 2nd - Bullseye) with Kingpin, who is about four times bigger than Daredevil is. Of course, Kingpin has to admit to having killed Matt's father, which is always the absolute worst thing a villain can do. Just mention that you were responsible for the one thing that has been their motivation for the majority of their life and you're bound to lose; it's like giving them the gun to shoot you. This gives Daredevil the energy he needs to defeat Kingpin, despite his bum shoulder, which actually doesn't affect him at all. The fight ends with Daredevil/Matt taking the rose on Kingpin's desk, which is Kingpin's 'signature', and dropping it off the building where his father was killed. I've never been much of one for tribute's, but dropping a rose off a building onto the street has to be the most ridiculous tribute I've ever seen. ***

One last thing that goes hand in hand with Ben Affleck being a horrible actor and the story absolutely sucking - the computer generated sequences. Did Affleck ever actually do any of his own fight sequences? Every time he was supposed to do anything there wasn't a close up of his face and most of his 'amazing' stuff - like jumping off buildings and bouncing up the sides of them were blatantly bad computer generation. Which reminds me, why don't superheroes ever just take cabs? But anyway, I much prefer action sequences where the actors are actually doing the fighting (Jet Li, Jackie Chan, even Matt Damon). I'm sure Ben Affleck is a nice guy in his own right, but he really doesn't belong in film. Not only is he a horrible actor but a pathetic athlete, resulting in the absolutely horrendous computer generated fight sequences that made up at least 30% of the movie and 90% of the fight scenes. ***

Overall, the acting and story are about as bad as they come (two actor exceptions noted above). I don't know that this will ever get to the studio and production executives, but I've got to try, "If you didn't lose money on this film, you should have. If you didn't lose your jobs, you should have. Don't ever, ever cast Ben Affleck in a leading role again."

Image and Sound

The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is very clear with absolutely no compression artifacts. Despite the overall dark feel of the film, the colors are still very vibrant. There is also lot of variety from scene to scene, employing different lenses for different environments; for example, the court room scene gives a very green, 'flourescenty' feel as though you are really inside a nauseating courtroom. Of course, the image is important to this film because it is used to help express the sonar-type vision that Daredevil has. A number of sequences are made up entirely of the sonar-type visuals which are intentionally blurred because that is how Daredevil sees the world. Despite some computer generated sequences that come across as obviously computer generated, the picture is generally very clear and the computer generated sequences that are designed to illustrate Daredevil's view of the world are impressive. ***

The sound, also a very important element of the movie, is excellent, but only for the English Dolby Digital 5.1 version. The French and Spanish tracks are not as clear and nuanced. Great detail has been given to the sounds because of the abilities of Daredevil and the overall result is a very crisp, clear production. --

The Extras

This 2-disc set is chock full of extras. Offering both commentary and footage of the movie-making process, the majority of the extra features focus on how the film was created. However, there are also a number of additional features looking into the comic book story, music videos, and even some DVD-ROM games and storyboards. The extra features will offer the moviephile several hours of additional entertainment. ***

There are, however, a couple of things that need to be pointed out. First, for all of you Jennifer Garner fans, there isn't much to see here. Her screen test is short, not very sensual, and even kind of silly, with her cracking up half the time. If you're looking for fantasy footage, you'll just have to keep pretending. The Kingpin featurette, highlighting the 'bad guy' of the film is really more of a rehash of the other featurettes (the HBO first look featurette in particular). It doesn't really offer much more information, just a few minutes of additional interview with Michael Clarke Duncan, though he does kind of poke fun of Ben Affleck, which I liked. ***

The short featurette with Tom Sullivan seemed strangely out of place. Admittedly it was interesting to see some of the extraordinary things he has been able to do (Tom is the blindness consultant on the film), and I guess the featurette serves as something of a tribute to the blind, but when everyone else on the DVD is talking about the DVD and the story of Daredevil, this just didn't seem to fit as it focused on Tom's life and his daily activities (jogging, playing golf, going to the gym, etc.). Don't get me wrong, the content is very interesting and of course I wish Mr. Sullivan the best, I just wonder why this ended up on the DVD. ***

The music videos are combinations of clips of the band interlaced with clips from the movie. I must admit that I'm not particularly familiar with any of the bands, but the music was pretty good. ***

With short interview clips from all of the major contributors to the film, the HBO first look special worked fairly well as a short, behind-the-scenes look at the movie. Narrated by Jennifer Garner and including some nifty special effects of its own, the featurette is well done. However, I was kind of surprised when the actors and production crew begin repeating themselves by the end of the featurette; apparently they ran out of footage but still had room to fill. If they had cut this just five minutes shorter they could have avoided the repetition and turned out a great additional feature. ***

The "Men Without Fear" 60 minute feature includes interviews with most of the artists and story writers of the Daredevil comic. Each interview lasts between 4 and 8 minutes and covers what they felt to be their contributions to the storyline and the Daredevil legacy. It is also interesting to see the evolution of the Daredevil artwork from its inception in the 1960s to the present. This extra feature was particularly enjoyable to watch and is almost worth buying the DVD if you were ever a fan of the comic book. ***

I do have to point out one final problem with the extra features and the DVD layout in general - the menus to navigate between the features of the DVD use visuals that are supposed to represent Daredevil's sonar-type vision interlaced with brail characters. This makes the menus difficult to read and maneuver. It's kind of a cool concept, but more annoying than entertaining. ***

Overall, very few DVD's can compete with the sheer number of extra features. The extra features are a great addition, but, alas, they can't make up for a horrible movie. --

Commentary

The numerous commentaries offer enormous amounts of additional information, not all of it positively reflecting on the movie. The director/producer commentary is a lively give and take between Mark Steven Johnson and Gary Foster, each offering their particular insights. Interestingly, some of the director's commentary points out problems with the production process as well as some of the errors that remain post-production. ***

The behind the scenes look at the visual effects with John Kilkenny is also very informative; definitely a wonderful feature for anyone interested in how it all comes together in the end. The text commentary tends to focus on adding backstory/comic book information as the movie progresses, at times highlighting story elements that were left out of the movie; for example, knowing that Matt Murdock's mother left him and his father to become a nun. Because of the information covered, the commentaries are not only informative but entertaining as well. --

Final Words: The additional features of the DVD are stunning. The sheer amount of additional footage, featurettes, and comic book information are almost too many extra features. However, a full extra DVD of extra features can't really make up for a horrible movie. Perhaps the extras compensate by exploring how so much time and money could turn into a pathetic film, but this is a tough one to recommend to anyone.


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June 24, 2003