Written by David Holland
The early 2000s were a time of great experimentation in comic book movies. Sometimes those experiments paid off and spawned giant franchises. Other times they did well enough to get a sequel or two before fading away. And then there were the one-offs that, for what ever reason, never came back. Today we are considering a movie in the last category, one that never got a sequel (although there was a spinoff). And I happen to think we missed an opportunity to see another adventure from the Man Without Fear.
“Daredevil” is a straightforward story, helpfully interspersing the hero’s origin with the tale of his fight against Bullseye and Kingpin. The movie came out in 2003, but it intentionally took on a darker tone than some of its contemporary films, which works well for the character. While the Fantastic Four are being a goofy family of superheroes and chewing the scenery, Matt Murdock is pulling broken teeth out of his mouth in the shower and chowing down on painkillers. The only scenery chewing that happens in this movie comes from Colin Firth’s Bullseye, the manic foil to the stoic Daredevil.
The performances are all well done, even if we don’t get enough screen time with Jon Favreau’s Foggy. Despite its dark tone, there’s lots of subtle humor in the film to keep it from becoming oppressive. Murdock’s Catholic faith is central to the comic book character, and the movie doesn’t shy away from the religious iconography. The action scenes are well done, particularly the well-choreographed fights between Daredevil and Elektra. I wanted more from Kingpin, but there just wasn’t enough time spent on a fight that probably could have been saved for a sequel. Then again, Affleck hated “Daredevil” so much that the sequel was cancelled, so it is probably best that Kingpin’s story got wrapped up in this movie.
I don’t have a lot of specifics to complain about in “Daredevil”. I think it is a fine entry into the genre, and it actually might be an underrated one given the time period. It is weird that Elektra and Daredevil meet by chance in a coffee shop and they only become an item after Murdock specifically ignores Elektra’s very clear desire to be left alone which, just to state this clearly, is a desire that should always be respected. If a woman says “No” and then you follow her to the point that she feels the need to fight back physically, you should take that as a sign that she is definitely not flirting with you.
The relationship between Elektra and Daredevil seems to move forward because the plot needs it to instead of developing at a reasonable pace. Like I said above, I think “Daredevil” is underrated for the time it came out. This is in the post “Batman & Robin” era when comic book movies were still trying to rediscover themselves. While “X-Men” were shying away from the traditional costumes and other installments were cartoonish, “Daredevil” was made by people who clearly understand and like the character and wanted to tell a story for Daredevil. That said, it’s not what it could have been. “Daredevil” pulls straight from Frank Miller’s comics to tell a story that has already been told. It doesn’t challenge or inspire, it simply entertains. It is watchable, but it could have been better.
It’s better than you remember, but the character has more potential.
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