Friday, February 14, 2003


(Note: this review is based on the Director's Cut of the film, not the theatrical version)

As a twelve-year-old boy, Matt Murdock is blinded when toxic waste splashes in his eyes. However, his other senses develop to a superhuman degree, including a sonar-based "radar sense." When his father is murdered by criminals, Matt spends the rest of his life training to be a skilled martial artist and acrobat, eventually becoming the devil-themed crimefighting vigilante known as Daredevil, "the man without fear." Matt has also become an attorney, using his heightened senses as a lie detector.
Matt meets Elektra Natchios (who is both the daughter of a billionaire and trained in ninja-style martial arts), and the two begin dating. When Elektra's father comes into trouble with Wilson Fisk, the "Kingpin" of crime in New York, all manner of tragedy ensues, ending up in a three-way battle between Daredevil, Elektra, and "Bullseye," the deadly assassin who never misses.

This movie's plot, for the most part, is basic and not very well-developed. Most of the characters suffer from the same lack of development, and it really hurts the movie overall. Aside from Matt and Elektra, no one else in the film really has much to do other than "their jobs." Even though the Kingpin and Bullseye are excellently acted and highly entertaining to watch, they don't "develop;" they simply stay the same and play straight-up bad guys. This isn't necessarily a problem in itself, though it does place the focus of the film squarely on the leather-clad hero couple. That wouldn't be a bad thing, if not for the fact that they don't quite shine in the limelight.

The romantic story between Matt and Elektra isn't quite given the time it needs. Their relationship jumps from curious flirtation to deep affection too fast for the audience to emotionally follow along. In the beginning of the film, their story actually feels like a bizarre type of celebrity worship, as though the audience is supposed to fawn over the sheer spectacle of seeing Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck on-screen in a flirtatious action scene together.

Elektra is never given a real reason for learning such deadly martial arts, other than merely for self-defense (which doesn't make sense, considering that she's clearly trained with the skills of an assassin).

Fortunately, Matt is very well-developed in this movie. He may be slightly miscast with Ben Affleck, but not to a terrible degree. We get the most time with him, we understand what makes him tick, and we get why he's attracted to Elektra (and why he comes to care deeply for her).

Unfortunately, there's a certain level of silliness that permeates much of the film. Too many stunts involve entirely unbelievable wirework or extremely stiff fight choreography. Even worse, there are dozens of shots with obviously CGI versions of the characters doing ridiculous acrobatic stunts. No one in the film has actual superhuman strength, so why can characters sometimes leap 20-30 feet at a time? It all only serves to bring the film down.

The last twenty minutes of the movie, however, are excellent. The entire narrative switches from a slightly cheesy superhero crime story to a dark, tragic drama filled with powerful gothic imagery. It's these final moments that manage to elevate Daredevil to a seriously deep and enjoyable level.

Were the entire film like the last section, it would flat-out be a great dramatic superhero movie. As it is, it's just decent fun. Not worth raving over, but certainly worth watching.