Daredevil
Grade: C+
Year: 2003
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Writer: Bill Everett
Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13

"Daredevil" falls victim to its own screenplay, overachievement, and the work of inexperienced filmmakers. Marvel fans will support the movie through the thick of it, but even diehard fans of the classic comic-strip series will have conceded by the end.

Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck- Scott Terra as young Murdock) lives a hard life, especially after he gets hosed by a barrel of toxic waste as a child (welcome to Marvel) while witnessing his father live a life of crime. The accident causes him to go blind, but gives his other four senses super-human abilities. After some dramatic sequences unwillingly forced upon us, take place, Murdock vows to fight crime as the Daredevil.

But like all superheroes, Murdock has a day job. He's a lawyer, but it's unclear what type, as in the beginning he is prosecuting a villain, yet later he says, "I only defend the innocent." He's a bad lawyer, because he can't get anybody convicted, therefore he must take the law into his own hands after the jury sets 'em free. Murdock follows one free man into a bar, where everyone pulls a gun and begins firing at him. This was a terrible way to start Daredevil's crime fighting spree.

Because he can't see, Murdock relies on all of his other senses to dodge bullets and outmaneuver the bad guys. We often see how Murdock sees, through a wavy black and blue filter. This technique is the only praise-worthy special effect of the movie.

Sophomore director/contributing screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson got too excited behind the camera and in the script. What this movie needed most, was something for the audience to grab onto. Scenes where Daredevil is falling from a skyscraper shows potential, but the camera can't keep up. We are forced to squint our eyes as Daredevil performs breathtaking stunts and aerial maneuvers from building to building, but no one is there to watch. In "Spiderman," we followed Parker closely as he swung gracefully from building to building; in this movie we are left on the fire escape. Poor camera directing resulted in little inspiration, a dangerous trait for the superhero genre.

Johnson was going for, and succeeded at making "Daredevil" as dark as possible for PG-13. While "Spiderman" was on the up-side, this one compares better to the original "Batman." I appreciated the dark and gritty Gotham City-like atmosphere, but it didn't mix well with many of the characters who proved to be more comical than scary.

The dialogue is lame and pitiful. Daredevil/Murdock is often reduced to one-liners or passionate expressions best left in the soap operas. When asked why he has arrived, he replies, "Justice," in a tone so serious that the audience couldn't help but laugh. But you can't blame Affleck. He tries hard from behind his leather mask, but he is obviously given too little to work with. I wondered if he expected to play a serious role. He acts like it, but this silly movie doesn't deserve his long expressions.

At less than two hours in duration, "Daredevil" is one of the shortest comic-book movies to surface, and it clearly suffers from it. There is very little character development; how unfortunate because the cast is very likable. Super sexy Jennifer Garner plays Elektra Natchios, the blade-twirling vengeance fighter with a mission of her own. But she is on-screen for only a fraction of the movie.

Franklin (Jon Favreau) is Murdock's colleague attorney. He supplies the humor in the script, but he is the least important character of the supporting cast, yet we see more of him than anyone else. Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano) is a reporter for the New York Post, and is the one who discovers Daredevil's real identity. But Ben is likable, which is rare for reporter-type characters. Most of them are cold, selfish, and will do anything to print a page-one story. Ben is sincere. It's too bad we don't see much of him.

The two villains are Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Bullseye (Colin Farrell). Again, we see little of them also. Bullseye spends more time on an airplane arriving from Ireland than using his dart-throwing talent against Daredevil and Elektra.

We never learn Kingpin's true purpose. He's a business man of some sort. Even when asked why he killed so-and-so, he simply replies, "Business." He lets Bullseye do most of the dirty work, but Kingpin does show his strength in some scenes.

Here’s another downer for you. The special effects are sub-par and highly disappointing. When the camera does decide to be kind enough to show us a fighting sequence, the rhythm is choppy and the cuts are rough. When Murdock is young, he has to fight off a group of bullies. He uses his cane, but we don't see the smacking, tripping and the contact it makes with the attackers. As for the CGI, some of the building-climbing scenes look worse than 1978 "Superman." In the short "The Hulk" trailer, a scene where the Hulk throws a tank, looks better than when Kingpin throws Daredevil during the final showdown.

The soundtrack is the best thing going for this movie. Recognizable voices by many acclaimed artists bring some kind of life into the movie, but they break their backs while doing so. The surprisingly short length of the movie kills the little momentum "Daredevil" comes close to picking up. We see Electra preparing for battle to the awesome song, "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescene, whose voice is so haunting that it fits perfectly to the mood, but Electra doesn't get enough fighting time. She doesn't get enough time to make us say, "wow," and frankly, neither does Daredevil.

The story is rushed and there aren't enough action scenes to keep audiences engaged, ergo I cannot recommend "Daredevil." I wanted a movie that would make "Spiderman" sweat; I guess I'll have to wait. You'll be able to count all of the good fights using one hand, and that doesn't cut it, especially with the rise of Marvel in Hollywood. With more superhero and comic-book movies on the way, Daredevil will quickly be forgotten.

When the movie ended, I was coming up with ways to improve it. Yes, the potential is there. This could have been a great movie, but it is too short and takes too much damage from the bad script. We are left with the idea that a sequel is coming. But for part II to be successful, audiences must forgive the makers of this one. Let's just call part I the practice run.

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