11/21/2012

I have a confession to make: I love the movie Daredevil. I didn't realize this movie has a bad reputation until years later, and I still don't understand why. Some critics complained about how dark it was, which to me is a good thing. It fits the comics. Daredevil's life makes Spiderman's look like My Little Pony. Maybe it's because I've always been a fan of Daredevil in the comics. I know it has its flaws, starting with a mediocre performance by Ben Affleck, a story focused more on Elektra than Daredevil, and some gaping plot holes. Still, I think it's one of the best and most faithful comic book adaptations we've gotten from Hollywood. Here are seven reasons why.



1. The Costume - X-Men started the trend of getting away from the spandex bodysuits superheroes wear in the comics. I thought Daredevil made a great compromise between keeping the iconic look of the costume without looking silly. He wore all red leather with leather gloves, pants, a leather jacket, and a leather hood as a mask. It looked like something someone could put together on their own, unlike Spiderman. It also looked totally bad-axe.

2. The Apartment - In two brief scenes, we saw an amazing glimpse of how Murdock had adapted to his life. The part where he got dressed, including how he sorted and folded bills according to denomination, showed how he navigated independently as a blind man, something most movies and TV shows never address. The part where he spun and opened the combination locks showed how (much like Superman's giant key for the Fortress of Solitude) Daredevil used his powers to make sure only he could get in. And it was cool. The sensory deprivation tank was such a great way of showing how Murdock's powers could be a curse with the tank being the only place to escape the bombardment of his enhanced senses. Honestly, I wish they made the tank canon in the comics.

3. The Radar - A big part of why I loved this movie is Daredevil's radar as depicted in this movie. Not since Sam Raimi's bullet-time spider-sense have we seen from a superhero's POV so well. Plus, the pulsating, overlapping, and shimmering imagery just looked so cool. You really get a sense of how Daredevil sees the world. It also addressed something I never understood in the comics, where they just showed some lines coming from Daredevil's head. Up until this movie, I wondered why Murdock complained about being blind. He has radar - that's better than sight! But the shadow-world in the movie really brought his disability to life. We saw how sounds could interfere with and overlap his radar, and how a lack of vibrations coming from an object could render it invisible to him. The part where it rained and he saw Electra was so incredibly poignant, as was the moment when the umbrella cut her out of his "view." It also showed how his radar lacked the ability to show colors and writing. In short, the radar was cool, but a poor substitute for real eyesight, making his life all the more tragic.

4. Kingpin - The Kingpin is Daredevil's nemesis in the comics, a huge man whose bulk is often mistaken for fat, but is really powerfully muscled. To find someone to play him, the director went with Michael Clark Duncan. Apparently, there was some controversy because Kingpin is white in the comics, and Duncan is black. I thought Duncan delivered. With his size, Duncan didn't get many chances to wear a suit and play the man of power and intellect, and clearly relished the opportunity to play against type. Yet the moment when he took off his suit coat, tie, and shirt, and fought Daredevil hand-to-hand was incredible - Duncan's physical prowess was undeniable. You really felt like Daredevil had met his match. I thought Duncan was highly underrated in this movie,  and was glad to see that when he died, numerous obituaries referenced his performance in Daredevil. It was truly an iconic role.

5. Bullseye - As powerful and understated as the Kingpin was, Colin Farrell really chewed up this movie with a suitably manic performance as Bullseye. We got to see him kill with pencils, paper clips, even Daredevil's cane, and loving every minute of it. Every time he walked on screen, he was like chaos personified. The symbol branded on his forehead was the perfect touch to bring his character to life. I've seen Colin Farrell in a lot of movies, but rarely as great as this one.

6. The Physical Consequences - One thing we rarely see in the comics, and certainly not in comic book movies, is the question of consequences. What would a life of beating people up do to you? In Daredevil, they actually took a moment to show us. In one scene, we see Murdock come home from a fight, bruised and bloodied, covered with scars, spitting out a tooth, and popping pain medication like candy. It wouldn't be until The Dark Knight Rises that another superhero movie showed the physical toll combat has on our heroes with Wayne's need to walk with a cane and put on a leg brace. Daredevil did it first.

7. The Morality - Unlike most superhero movies, this one actually tried to address the morality and consequences of becoming a vigilante. In one scene, Daredevil is beating a criminal for information, and turns to see a child watching him. When the child recoils from him in terror, Daredevil says the haunting words, "I'm not the bad guy, kid," but later is telling himself the same thing, left to wonder if he's crossed the line. The movie also asked what would happen if the hero went too far. Daredevil isn't perfect in the way he carries out justice. In the opening, he allows a rapist to get run over by a train, showing his willingness to kill, but by the end, learns the value of mercy and spares the Kingpin's life. Compare that to Tim Burton's Batman where he kills with impunity, and Batman Begins where Batman doesn't kill, but allows someone to die in a sort of loophole. It's either one or the other. That kind of character arc from killer to non-killer hasn't been in a superhero movie before or since.

Honorable Mentions:
  • The Backstory - Murdock's origin story was very well-portrayed. The scene of Matt huddled over his father's body tugged my heart more than all of Bruce Wayne's angst. This wasn't a kid who's left a billionaire by his parents' accidental murder, but a poor little blind kid orphaned because his father valued honor over money.
  • Jennifer Garner - I admit, I had a crush of Garner from Alias, and I thought her performance as Elektra rocked. But her solo movie Elektra, less so.
UPDATE: Added links and videos

What did you think of Daredevil? If you hated it, did any of this change your mind? If you loved it, what else did you like about it? Let us know in the comments.

Bonus: The image on this page came from an article on panelsonpages, by a fellow Daredevil movie lover who also defended the film. Unite!

16 comments:

George Beremov said...

I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it either. I thought it was decent at best, and didn't find the execution to be particularly good. Maybe that's its problem.

Tony Laplume said...

Elektra is the main reason this movie rocks. Colin Farrell is a close second. David Keith is a close third. That dude gets no respect. And Joey Pants!

Nigel Mitchell said...

Elektro did take it up a notch, Tony. I understand in the director's cut that Pantaliano has a bigger role

Pat Dilloway said...

I liked it too for pretty much all those reasons you mentioned. I think it had the bad timing to come out around the time Affleck was hooking up with J. Lo and so it got caught up in the backlash.

Nigel Mitchell said...

i agree, Pat. Too much talk about Affleck, not the movie

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I actually liked Daredevil. Thought it got panned unfairly.

Nigel Mitchell said...

Thanks, Alex, me too

remo4711 said...

I liked the movie in the theater - then really enjoyed the director's cut on the DVD even more - I agree with all of your points, but I would slide Affleck a little higher up the scale - thought he was pretty good. Hell, I didn't hate Rex Smith as Daredevil in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.

Nigel Mitchell said...

You know, Remo, I liked Rex too. Favorite part was when he read what Banner wrote with his fingertips.

Nigel Mitchell said...

Can you believe it? True. To be honest, I've been afraid the director's cut would ruin it. But you guys have convinced me to take the plunge.

Nigel Mitchell said...

Fair point, George.

Nigel Mitchell said...

That's one of my favorite sequences in the movie, ind3lible. It's like a music video on its own, it's edited so well.

Jean Morel said...

Well it's one of those director's cuts where even people who hated the film in theaters ended up loving it (like also Troy, Kingdom Of Heaven, Alexander,....) so I don' think you can go wrong here.

Tony Laplume said...

It also features Coolio!

Jakob Free said...

Delusional

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