Throwback Thursday: Daredevil (2003) Review
Original Post on NerdTraffic – “I Want a Fucking Costume.”
It’s time for Throw-Back Thursday and this week, I take a long, hard look back at Daredevil – The Director’s Cut.
There are a few staple superhero films that transcend their expected legacy. By this, I don’t mean they always achieve historical status as world renown favorites or studio making financial hits. These few select films leave a taste in people’s mouths that tends to linger beyond what might be considered normal or average for bad films and for that, they shall ever remain upon a pedestal.
I have recently taken it upon myself to revisit these long lost treasures, but Daredevil most of all. This comes after the announcement Marvel and Netflix will be making a video-on-demand series based on certain b-list super heroes. These would consist of Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones, ultimately leading up to a Defenders miniseries. Under the supervision of Marvel Studios, I feel this could be the next televised wave of superhero stories we’ll see emerge. They are no stranger to paving the way when it comes to media exposure for their characters and I expect no less when they arrive.
Daredevil, as those may remember, stars Ben Affleck in the title role of Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer of Hell’s Kitchen. This is where people will first state their presumed issues with the film are, however their unsettled nerves may be more at the entire film rather than just the casting choice for iconic role. Instead, the movie falters over it’s imitation of the superheroes that have christened the silver screen before it, while failing to have the audience relate to Mr. Murdock and his tragic life style.
The film can be described as a superhero film in its awkward formative years, where it doesn’t know if it wants to be a rebel and stand out or just blend into the crowd and play it safe. Most of the visual style and elements seem to be borrowed heavily from Blade, the Marvel vampire hunter. I find this most apparent in Daredevil’s leather outfit, his decisive actions to kill, and the damp, dark style that the film is shot in. This may work for Blade, but several years later, that style only feels redundant and works against the film, making it feel cheap and early 90’s. Bullseye says it best during the film, “I want a fucking costume.” This gives me reason to believe Daredevil was only made so they could show that it was possible to put the superhero on the movie screen in a world that could exist in real life.
Not only does the film feel like it was low-budget and perhaps rushed through production, but the script is overly ambitious for its time as well. Daredevil, in its short amount of time, attempts to give us the creation of Matt Murdock’s illness and superpowers, introduce his law firm and friendship with Foggy Nelson (a pre-Happy Hogan John Favreau), his love interest in Elektra Natchios, a visible villain in the form of a overzealous Bullseye who has the cheesiest catchphrases, and an ominous mastermind in the shadows in The Kingpin. That sentence alone feels too long to even run together, so how do you think someone would feel watching it? Like they were being dragged along a paved road covered in salt. I understand they want to enrichen the world of Daredevil and get as much in as possible for the film, but at a certain point you sacrifice the character’s growth and relatability. The film gives the viewers too much of Murdock’s world to digest within the time frame allotted, thus confusing and alienating the audience at hand. Especially those without more backstory into the universe of Daredevil. My firm belief is that Elektra should have been introduced in this film, while Bullseye remained the sole antagonist. The Kingpin could have lurked in the shadows for another film, leading to a more meaningful end to the films, rather than this jam packed clusterfuck.
“It’s a shame you came here wounded. I would have loved to fight you in your prime,” the Kingpin says to Daredevil near the film’s conclusion, and for once I entirely agree. This movie tries so hard to get the world to take Daredevil seriously, but can’t even seem to be grown up about itself. As the post-90’s grunge rock plays over almost every scene, it seems like the film is a regurgitation of the most action packed parts of Spider-Man and X-men. Daredevil also doesn’t do itself justice early in the film, as we see a quick montage of Ben Affleck gearing up to go out into the city and play hero. Its quick cuts on a grey background, with the super awful quick zooms on each part he puts on. The editors also deemed this part so worthy, they would use the same footage again (over a modern rock ballad by Evanescence) towards what was supposed to be an emotional confrontation. These bad choices in music and editing composition tend to remove the emotion from the film, making me not care about what is going to happen next. At all. To anyone.
A decade later and Daredevil loses all the (mildly) positive associations I have from watching the film when I was 15. Back then, the world was different as I myself was awkwardly transitioning to an adult (still haven’t reached there yet) and the film world of superheroes was trying to find its foothold as well. Looking back and seeing all the little mistakes add up into the final total for the film, I can’t say I hate Daredevil, but I wish it a better future and legacy than it has been given. Had it been released in 1994, the film would have fit right into the grunge, damp, and dirty films released in that time, but as I can now see what difference a decade makes, Daredevil missed its bullseye.
Summary : Daredevil asks us to turn a blind eye to its mistakes and believe that this superhero can exist in red leather and kick ass to post-grunge rock anthems. I think DD needs a new lease on life after spending 10 years for crimes it has obviously committed. The saying goes “Justice is blind”, but you may soon wish you were after watching this movie.
Rating : 1.5/5 Stars – You need to be double-dog Daredeviled into watching this.