Saturday, April 19, 2014

Give Us Your Worst, Part 24: Daredevil

Daredevil opened on February 14th in 2003, which is when I saw it with my girlfriend (who was cool enough to go out to see a superhero flick on Valentine's Day). Jumping ahead eleven years, I just re-watched it for the first time since it opened. This time I did so alone - my wife still remembers the movie well enough to have decided it wasn't worth seeing a second time.

The surprising thing about Daredevil isn't that they got so much wrong; it's that, given how bad the movie was, they actually got quite a few things right. Murdock's relationship with his father was portrayed well, and Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin was fantastic. Likewise, I respect the movie for trying to go dark, though the results were... uneven.

These days, there have been so many good and bad superhero movies, it's difficult to find commonalities or good rules of thumb, but back in 2003 it was pretty easy. At the time, bad superhero movies were almost universally made by directors who didn't like or respect the material. In that respect, Daredevil broke new ground for bad comic book movies - I think it's pretty clear Mark Steven Johnson loved the source material; he just didn't understand it.

He certainly didn't understand the characters. Daredevil is too dark here, Elektra too light. Elektra is not a kind, gentle person burdened with a violent life. She's essentially a sociopath with a code. Also, she's not a pushover. Bullseye takes her out without effort in this movie: that pisses me off as much as anything else here.

The film's tone works against it more often than not. They were going for operatic noir, and I appreciate the attempt. Unfortunately, the result was mainly just boring. The characters were written far too inconsistently for any emotional connection to form, and the action was - like so many things in this movie - ambitious but not successful.

Unlike a lot of what I've seen for this series, Daredevil wasn't unwatchable, just really bad. Even Duncan's Kingpin can't make it worth sitting through, though he comes surprisingly close. In a movie filled with characters who acted nothing like their comic counterparts, he actually delivered something close to authentic. The only thing hindering him was the script, which failed to appreciate the resources and power the character is supposed to have at his disposal.

I've said otherwise in the past, but after re-watching them both I'm ready to admit this wasn't quite as bad as the Elektra spin-off. It's close, but this was slightly less boring. Slightly.

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