The following confession was prompted in part by the news that Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman, and everyone seems (quite unfairly) to be using his previous portrayal of a superhero as a reason why it’s the worst decision in history.
I have a confession to make…I like DAREDEVIL. I don’t love it, but I like Ben Affleck’s first foray into the superhero movie genre.
I fully accept that Daredevil has problems, big problems. The script could be more polished. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner could be better. Daredevil’s suit could look a little less gimpy. Let’s not even start on Colin Farrell. But, for some reason, I always seem to enjoy myself whenever I revisit it.
What’s the appeal for me? The action is decent – not stellar by any means – but decent. There’s a far few good gags, and a bit of pathos in the flashback sequences for balance. Affleck and Garner have chemistry (even if both are getting by on charisma rather than good performances) and Michael Clarke Duncan makes an imposing and entertaining Kingpin (and anyone who still insists Kingpin shouldn’t be black needs to get over themselves) and Joe Pantoliano is funny, and excellent as always as an investigative journalist. Matt Murdoch/Daredevil is also an engaging, layered and unusual protagonist, and it’s always refreshing to see a lesser-known comic book hero making it to the big screen.
I know, I know – Colin Farrell’s campy projectile flinging villain Bullseye is awful, but at the same time I’m never bored when he’s on screen.
There’s a lot of people who blame writer-director Mark Steven Johnson for mishandling the material, but I think he does a respectable job. Apart from a few jokes that fall flat (mostly involving Bullseye’s depravity) and a few scenes that could be cut or shortened, the screenplay is serviceable, and MSJ is mostly creative in visualising Daredevil’s world. The director’s cut is well worth a watch particularly for a removed murder-mystery subplot that emphasises Matt Murdoch’s abilities as a detective and tireless crusader for justice. You also get more of Jon Favreau’s bumbling Foggy Nelson which is no bad thing.
I’ll always be fond of a few key scenes in the film. I love the fun, tongue-in-cheek Murdoch/Elektra fight in the playground. I like the emotional punch of the flashback involving Murdoch’s boxer dad who pays the ultimate price for shady dealings. I think the beautifully atmospheric final confrontation between Daredevil and Kingpin in the gangster’s sprinkler-showered office makes for an impressive, dramatic (but not overblown) finale.
As much as I enjoy watching Daredevil, I can acknowledge its flaws in performance, pacing and tone. These nagging issues could easily have been ironed out if it prompted a sequel (I’d have loved to have seen a full courtroom drama with superheroics to break it up), but that was not to be. It’s probably for the best in hindsight, as Affleck may not have made the interesting career choices he has in recent years had he become part of a franchise. Also, it’s probably for the best he left his co-star and director to make their own bad career choices with ELEKTRA and GHOST RIDER respectively.
If you’re in the mood, give Daredevil another go. Regarding Mark Steven Johnson’s take on the source material it’s just serious enough, but knows when to lighten up. As a superhero film it’s a perfectly serviceable, if sometimes unremarkable example focussing on a complex character who really should have had more screen outings by now. And yes, I was devastated when Joe Carnahan’s gritty reboot was shelved.
Keep an eye out for future film confessionals – what other widely hated films do I have a fondness of? SSP