Judge Ryan Keefer firmly believes there's only one dare devil, and his name is...EVEL!!!
Our review of Daredevil, published June 2nd, 2003, is also available.
When the streets have gone to Hell—have faith in the Devil.
So let me get this right; Daredevil made a ton of money (in the basic sense), spawned a Director's Cut version of the film on DVD, a spin-off film for one of the characters in it, and now there's talk of a possible reboot of the franchise, without its star? Sounds like we've got ourselves a franchise, whether we like it or not. There was a scene in Seinfeld where Jerry questions George about whether or not he was in a relationship, and he reluctantly admitted the truth. It's kind of like that now. So on Blu-ray, does it all look any better?
Facts of the Case
Mark Steven Johnson wrote and directed the film based on the Marvel comic. He also wrote and directed Ghost Rider, which might be a more recent frame of reference for you, one way or another. For those unfamiliar with the story, Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck, Mallrats) grows up being raised by his father, who's a professional boxer. One day though, when attempting to visit his Dad at the construction yard, he's blinded by some toxic waste, but it does give his remaining senses extraordinary clarity. His Dad is killed by henchmen who work for the notorious Wilson Fisk, known to some as the mysterious Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan, Sin City), boss of the criminal business underworld. He enacts vengeance through two different ways; as a public defender in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York with his friend Franklin Nelson (Jon Favreau, Iron Man) during the day, and as the crime fighter known as Daredevil during the night, and while his alter ego is stalked by New York Post reporter Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano, Bad Boys), it is targeted for revenge by Elektra (Jennifer Garner, Catch and Release), whose father was killed by Kingpin's hired assassin known only as Bullseye (Colin Farrell, Alexander), but her perception is that Daredevil did this. Yes, there will be a quiz on this later.
I never really had a horse in the race, aside from a on/off fondness for Affleck, but I've never seen either cut of Daredevil leading up to this release, and after seeing what is supposed to be the definitive cut of the film, what is it that I'm supposed to care about here again? Affleck plays a guy who makes himself out to be a loner, with no close friends or allegiances outside of work, and Elektra is made to be a person with mutual interests, who share the same shades of darkness.
That darkness is what plagues the first and by setting the film in it, and bathing himself in that darkness, Affleck doesn't give people a chance to see what could possibly make the character likable. I know that many of the elements of the character are supposed to be noir influenced and dark in general, but Affleck comes off as some sort of Bruce Wayne-lite interpretation of Murdock. Johnson apparently uses Batman as an influence here, but it's lacking in many emotional tones which don't have the viewer identifying with the protagonist all that well. But not giving them that emotional investment, Johnson takes a lot of conventional story devices and makes them routine walks through the park. They become tedious and boring. They make the protagonist take a hit, physically or otherwise every so often, but walk through the steps rather mundanely. Who cares?
Also, the biggest part of the film that people went away from (Garner) was severely compressed into the story, and used as a bit of a co-star, when one shouldn't have been necessary. If she was going to be a supporting player, then say so, otherwise don't put her in the position where she's got to carry some of the film, so the story can focus more on Murdock. It's like Elektra was a Catwoman in reverse. As far as the villains go, Duncan and Farrell handle the material given to them, and like other comic book villains, they have fun in doing it. Never mind that Farrell's bullseye is branded into his head, and Duncan screams at everything, or smiles, or stares, which is pretty much all he does anyway, right?
They certainly have loaded up the extras on Daredevil, whether you like it or not. Johnson and Arad join up with a commentary where they speak quite candidly about the changes they made to get to this cut, and other information on the production that is loaded with detail. It's definitely worth listening to, even if you've seen the film for a minute. A trivia track can be enabled as a text commentary of sorts, and along with that, an "Enhanced Viewing Mode" is Fox's version of a picture-in-picture track that includes shots in various stages of production. From there, "Beyond Hell's Kitchen" is an hour-long look at getting the production off the ground, including some pre-production stuff with Affleck as he gets molds done for the costume, and thoughts on the wire work from the cast. The cast and crew discuss their thoughts on the story, each other and the director, and even the post-production stuff is covered. I might be oversimplifying it, but this is an excellent piece. Screen test footage with Garner is next, along with a look at Duncan in character, both of which are a couple of minutes in length apiece. The HBO First Look piece on the production follows, with some footage being duplicated from the earlier "Beyond Hell's Kitchen" feature. Narrated by Garner, it covers a lot of the same ground but is a nice complement to things. "Moving Through Space" is a ten-minute look into the life of Tom Sullivan, the visually impaired entertainer who was the technical advisor for the film. His wisdom and how he carries himself is actually very inspirational and worth checking out. "Giving the Devil His Due" examines the differences between the Theatrical and Director's Cuts, with interviews from Johnson. Multi-angle footage on the dailies follows, along with three trailers, three music videos and several stills galleries. Wrapping things up is "Men Without Fear," an hour-long look at the character himself, featuring interviews with comic book figures Frank Miller, Stan Lee and others as they describe the allure and mythology of the man without fear.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While the film is bland and disappointing, at least the disc looks and sounds good. The 2.35:1 widescreen presentation uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec and it's another excellent looking film. Color-timed in post-production, the skin tones are pushed a little on the white side, and the blacks are excellent. With that said, they aren't the most consistent things I've seen, and film grain tends to be more prevalent in some scenes than others, but it looks good. The DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 soundtrack is awesome. Every scene has some sort of subwoofer activity, directional effects and speaker panning are smartly done and effective. I had a problem with the dialogue being a little on the inconsistent side, but this was minor. If you liked the film before, you'll love how it looks and sounds now.
I honestly don't know why the thought of a Daredevil reboot is crossing anyone's mind. This film seemed to take a lot of convenient liberties in the story, and the others are just lazy and uninspired. I'm not sure what a crappy movie did to earn such outstanding technical and supplemental treatment, but if you liked the character in the theaters at all, you'll enjoy all of this material. But in a world where Iron Man and The Dark Knight have rewritten the book on comic book adaptations, Daredevil feels like it was made for the sake of getting it made.
Guilty as charged.
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