Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Daredevil (2.14.2003)

Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Ben Affleck, Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Garner
Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Favreau, Colin Farell
Watch for: Kevin Smith, and characters named after writers of the comics.
Editor(s): Dennis Virkler A.C.E., Armen Minasian
<-- The version I own.

My first date back in high school was an interesting one. I called her up one evening and asked her what movie she'd like to see, and while I still think she was trying to appeal to my tastes more than seeing something she wanted, her first choice was Daredevil. Of course I readily agreed, and so off we went.
The fun part about this that I never really pieced together until now is that this was a blind date. And we went to Daredevil.

Come on. That's classic.
However, despite the focus on the titular character and his loss of vision, the most impressive thing to me has always been the sound.
I forget who said it first, but it's stuck with me ever since. Daredevil is a rock anthem. We get so much good rock in this movie. The score, or the lyric-free tracks from the soundtrack's artists, I was definitely jamming during this movie. Plus we got the now-famous Evanescence performing their breakout track, "Bring Me to Life". On Friday, I saw the movie, on Saturday I bought the soundtrack.

This film has a very strong introduction. A nice and moody score accompanies 'cooler than Spider-Man' credit graphics (I love that the music goes evil for a second when we see "Colin Farrel as Bullseye"), leading right into an immediate comic cover homage with the very first shot of our hero.
If you're going to do an origin story, sometimes it can get a little dull waiting to see the hero. Flashing forward to him being already in trouble somehow works very well, though the melodramatic voice-overs always felt like a little too much. Obviously, he's not going to die. This is a potential franchise here.

Visually, I don't know what the proper term is for the lighting, grading, film they used, whatever, but this film looks just like a Daredevil film should. Even daylight seems dim and moody somehow. That's not a blind reference, I mean that Daredevil has always seemed to be the dark, noir (and sometimes abstract) counter-part to Marvel's flagship Spider-Man titles.

Well, he seemed this way once I started reading him, anyway. I didn't get into DD until after I saw the movie, but that's part of the reason we have these films, isn't it?

Matt Murdock, the boy, is excellently portrayed. He seems like one of the ones who was smart, fairly casual, you'd probably get along with unless you're a bully. Stuck in a bad part of town with his has-been father, but hardly a naive child.
The actor here is very convincing, I never once stopped and thought about his performance, I just accepted it. Well, except for one unconvincing move during his brawl with the other kids, and no, I don't mean the flip.

In one of my early film courses where we discussed story and shot elements and what they mean, I remember being taught that one of the possible meanings of a crooked angle is evil. Mark Steven Johnson seems to be familiar with this as well, as there are all sorts of thematic uses of camera angles, but most prevalent seems to be the evil angle.
"I'm not the bad guy."
Daredevil spends much of this film establishing exactly what kind of hero he's trying to be. There's a fine line between fighting criminals and brutally attacking them, and DD spends much of the first half of this movie on the dark side of it.
Red is also prominently displayed, though I haven't decided exactly what it stands for yet. Anyone who's watched bonus feature for The Sixth Sense knows that it meant something bad was going to happen, but in Daredevil I believe it has to do more with passion, or some sort of rooted emotion that you'd do anything to hold onto.
That's just my theory though.

There are a couple flaws in the style of this film, as it does lose it for a few moments.
One thing I might've done differently is the Matt/Elektra battle early on is, well, not make it so ridiculous. While the first fight in the bar does feature quite a few flashy moves in an eccentrically lit environment, trying to pull this same style in a playground in the middle of the day doesn't really flow as well. The scene is trying to be playful, yes, but perhaps is just a little too playful.

DD's confontation with Quesada (a nice nod to one of the comic writers, btw) in the subway was excellently planned. From the shot of DD hoping onto the pool table, having his reflection show up in a puddle which he then jumps into, plus the slow stalking down into the tunnel, well. Wow.
I still get chills, it's just a good sequence.
You don't get the happy feeling one gets watching Spider-Man pound the baddies. I watch this scene and even without thinking about the ending, you just see that DD hates this man. This one man who did these bad things is all of DD's anger, vengeance, and I'm sorry to say it, but for this moment, his warped sense of justice, personified. And he unleashes it, without hesitation.

We see this again with the loan shark scene, who DD takes out his frustrations again, this time without realizing a young boy (the shark's son?) is sitting there watching the whole time.
"Please, please don't hurt me," the boy says, shaking in fear.
"I'm not the bad guy, kid."

Oddly, despite the higher stakes in the first battle with Bullseye, Daredevil does seem to be handling it with a little more finesse. Easily dodging a ninja star (man, look out behind him. We hear it hitting metal, but Bullseye so easily could've taken out Elektra or her father if they'd been standing at this point). Then with minimal effort, DD dismounts him from his bike. However, he seems to have underestimated his foe, and while he doesn't lose the fight so to speak, he does fail both himself and his new love, whether she knows who's under the mask or not.
Elektra somehow doesn't see Bullseye (or the bike's massive explosion, but eh. For all she knows DD blew up some random guy's bike) and assumes DD killed her father.

What I like about the ending of the movie is just how many fights we get here, without it feeling like it's running on. I mean, by the time DD realizes who the Kingpin is, there is a moment of "Wow, he's going to go do that now?" The boss fight at the end of a long level, I suppose.
It works for me though.

Aside from the fact that movie Elektra at this point feels like a rank amateur compared to comic Elektra, which might be the point, the fight are all just as visually interesting as the rest of the movie. I get sucked right into them every time.

Bullseye is just pure evil. Colin Farrel rocks, I don't care how much you (or I) didn't like Alexander. However, as evil as he is, the moment of him giving the 'padre' a warning to leave is a moment which showcases he's not entirely ruthless.

I'll have more to say when I review the Director's Cut, I was trying hard not to make comparisons the whole time in this review. I'll get to it later, I've got a few films that come up between DD and the Director's Cut, which was put out basically as a promo for Elektra.

I'm still waiting for my Daredevil sequel.

Sure, it hasn't been even talked about on any respectable news site in years, but I like to hope. It's a solid film, and doesn't at all deserve the crap it gets. I have friends who just plain hated it, and I turn and look them right in the eye and simply ask "Why?"
I think the biggest problem with this movie is that somebody thought it was a good idea to release it on Valentine's Day. If this was a mid-spring or even summer release, it would've done much better.
Just like Ghost Rider, but I'll get to that later.

What a good movie. There are days I'll even rank this above even Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins. This is by far one of my favorite superhero films.

Well well. Ask, and thou shalt recieve.
I was browsing the Marvel film list on Wikipedia today, and found out a very exciting piece of news.

Daredevil 2 has been announced!!
According to the article, Marvel Studios is waiting for the unused rights to revert to them, and then they'll get on it. I'm not sure how long this takes, but it's been around five years since the last film... so maybe that's all it is. Could be a few years yet, but I'm so excited to finally have some news on this.
The article also mentions Affleck has repeatedly said he's not interested, however Michael Clarke Duncan has expressed interest.
Mark Steven Johnson stated he'd also like to return, using one of Frank Miller's storylines from the 80's.

Sounds good to me. I hope they talk Affleck into it, but if not, I'm sure there's another Matt Murdock out there somewhere.
The fact that the director is wanting to come makes me feel safe that it'll be true to the first film in style, which is what I really want.

1 comment:

*_*Antoine*_* said...

Yeah, I guess it's an alright film but I would never put it over Batman Begins or either Spider-Man 1 or 2.