Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Joe Pantoliano
The progression of comic book films from where they stood in the early 2000s and what see now appears to be one of the biggest trajectories any genre has ever seen. From the standalone features to the large connected universes, the shift has been monumental. Daredevil displays a relic of a time where these films were not taken seriously at all, but I wish the filmmakers did the same with this unfortunate mess.
Blinded from a young age by toxic chemical exposure, Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) had his other senses increase in function to a supernatural level and fights as a vigilante getting justice for what he cannot achieve as a lawyer during the day. Things get shifted when it becomes evident someone in Hell’s Kitchen circulates all of the crime, known as Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan).
As 2000s as any superhero film ever felt, Daredevil demonstrates a lack of readiness to put this type of story forward. Rationalizations of its time cannot be considered when seeing what X-Men achieved a few years prior. Through its horrid CGI and strange moments, this film relates more to Catwoman than any other film. Yes, the CGI had its similarities in its awfulness, but they both feature a strange scene where the lovebirds have a performative athletic endeavor in front of a bunch of New York adolescents. In the feline movie, they play basketball but in this one, they simply spar as a bunch of children shout for them to continue fighting. Obviously, the combat falls more in line with flirting than actual malicious intent but the similarity of scenes between these two films could not be ignored. Oh, they both also serve as terrible movies as well.
Daredevil found itself in a strange position where the subject matter and character carry a level of seriousness to it with a filmmaking style appearing to be cartoonish in its action and dialogue. Matt Murdock has always been a fascinating character to follow because he battles with his religion and his vigilantism. Getting into the internal battle makes for some fascinating exploration, which this film cannot do because it has so much to accomplish in a limited time. This film must introduce Murdock, how he got his powers, the love interest, the villain, the boss of the villain, his profession, and his entire belief system of justice. Something possible through capable hands but it never fully comes together, thus leaving every single aspect feeling underdeveloped and rushed as a result.
Removing the balancing act and analyzing this film for what it provides shows some extreme deficiencies with the script delivering cringe dialogue throughout. Now, I enjoy some cheesy material at times, but the self-seriousness this story has does not match the corny dialogue the filmmakers decided to employ. It makes for an overall confusing experience because several moments made me unsure of whether or not I should laugh.
Stepping up as the villains, we have Kingpin, of course, but the person by far having the most fun is Bullseye portrayed by Colin Farrell. Boasted as a person who never misses his target, Farrell knew exactly what this character needed and provided the goofy and treacherous performance necessary. Listen, I understand the character’s design in the comics and the significance of having his name present on his body, but having a tattoo on his forehead indicating his name will forever make me chuckle. Once again, a conflicting feeling because I cannot take this guy seriously, but he can do some incredible damage in a very serious manner, as we see when he takes on our hero. Everyone else puts in a serviceable shift but I did feel for Affleck, who obviously wanted this film to work so badly but unfortunately, the material could not muster anything even if he gives it his all as this vigilante.
With Evanescence songs, tight leather costumes, and horrid CGI, Daredevil fits the bill for the terrible comic book movies the early 2000s had to offer. It fails in so many aspects because it cannot lock down a tone and refuses to focus on many of the interesting threads it can follow. Instead, they tried to have it all with this story and it fell flat on its face. An unfortunate reality for a richly dense character to explore, but this film sought to be an action spectacular but its aging looks worse as time goes by and it rightfully gets teased for its sheer lack of quality.