Better than I expected in some respects, disappointing in others, Daredevil is a plain vanilla comic-book adaptation of a much darker source. Or at least that’s what everyone keeps saying; I’ve never really read the comic book. I bought an issue or two once because I wanted to practice drawing in the art style used, but I don’t think I ever read them; I just looked at the pictures. Still, the art style was dark and gritty, and while the bulk of this movie occurred at night and the hero killed and killed and killed the bad guys, it was not a movie that i would describe as dark.
A lot of reviewers are saying that Ben Affleck was a disgracec, creating a character that was less interesting with the mask off and dialogue flowing than with the mask on and silently fighting. I will say that several of the fight sequences were impressively choreographed, and that the initial meeting/fight sequence bewteen Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) and Electra was not just well-choreographed but genuinely entertaining, funny, and endearing to both characters. The problem with that is that that was probably the only scene in which the idea that any of the characters featured had any depth of character whatsoever.
Sure, yeah, Matt’s father was killed by Kingpin, which lead him to become a vigilante in the first place, and yeah, it’s too bad he has those annoying super senses that give him perceptions superior to regular human beings, what with casual noises at a distance keeping him up nights (unless he’s just had sex, apparently), but I didn’t really care one way or the other about Matt Murdock as a person. Electra’s father was killed suddenly and unexpectedly and when I cared about his death it only made me notice that I didn’t care about Matt’s father, Electra, Matt himself, or anyone else in the movie. Which meant that my liking the movie was left in the hands of the writers’ ability to come up with clever riffs and the choreographers’ ability to come up with interesting fights.
There were some very funny and entertaining conversations in the movie. Jon Favreau was excellent and Matt Murdock’s law partner. Joe Pantoliano shined in every scene he was in, even when they were weak scenes. Colin Farell was exactly the right amount of cocky SOB to be Bullseye, yet his best moments appeared to be Colin improvising within a weak, cliched screenplay. The funny or romantic scenes between Matt Murdock and Electra were appropriately funny or romantic. Their fights (after that first one) were not, unfortunately, compelling or entertaining or especially believable.
I just want to mention one more thing about the fights, and I’ll get on with a summary: As I watched the best of the fights (the initial one-against-thirty fight and the Bullseye v. Daredevil fight in the cathedral) I was entertained and excited and drawn in by the film’s action and off-again-on-again choreography, but I kept thinking “I can’t wait to see The Matrix Sequels. They are going to blow this movie totally out of our memories.” They’re good, fun action sequences, despite DD’s tendency to move uncannily like Spiderman, but I know something better is right around the corner.
So overall I would say that Daredevil is acceptably entertaining as a vanilla comic book movie, with excellent performances from the supporting cast despite an over-worked and too-many-cooks screenplay. Kudos to the director for allowing the actors to work around it from time to time. Ben Affleck was not among those who rose above the level of the material and we do not feel his struggle – it is forced down our throats. The ‘romance’ amounts to a couple of cute-but-not-really-emotional scenes and a sex scene, and when Electra dies it seems like DD is reacting because that’s how he believes he’s supposed to react, not because he actually cares. Not a summer blockbuster or a movie I’d bother to buy, but certainly worth my time and the matinee price I paid to see it.