Saturday, June 4, 2011

Daredevil: Missed the Bullseye

Marvel dared us all to take a leap of faith in the 2003 summer big screen debut of DareDevil. With successful Marvel franchise movies like The Fantastic Four, X-MEN & Blade, 20th Century Fox looked to the crimson leather-clad knight of the night to get audiences to buy into Ben Affleck as the man without fear.
Continuity with the Marvel (Comic Book) Universe
ARTH VADER (AV): Ok, Ponty, I gotta say, this movie had real promise... when it was a trailer! While not the hugest Daredevil fan, I love the concept of Daredevil. Unfortunately, this movie downgraded this character for me. He's cool, a thief-in-the-night kind of guy that beats up New York's worst baddies and turns them into true believers. As a Marvel movie, it simply missed the mark by being so horribly out of step with the original comic books that there were times I almost forget who and what I was watching.

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): As we know Vader, there are always elements of the comic that make it to the silver screen just as there are always elements that never do. The only question is do the omissions hurt the movie or should some source material have been left out. In the case of Daredevil, omissions hurt it more than keeping anything from the book could help it. To start...where was Stick? Instead of finding a way to incorporate his contribution to the character, he is simply cut out altogether and we’re to believe that young Matt Murdock acquired all his martial skill along with his powers. It may seem like a minor issue, but I’m making it because I just don’t see someone reaching that level of skill without training...especially when that training process is such a huge part of who the character really is.
Wilson Fisk a.k.a. The Kingpin
AV: Daredevil is a classic case of having too much fantastic source material – and ignoring every bit of it. DD continues the FOX trend of taking deeply developed, personality-rich characters that took decades to establish and applying a kid-in-a-candy-store story-telling technique that just flat lines. Matt Murdock himself could have written a better script (sorry about that one). I hated that, again true to FOX form, they stuffed four great characters; DD, Elektra, Bullseye and Kingpin-into 100+ minutes of pointless, in-cohesive dribble that leaves me staring at my watch-less wrist, looking for some clue as to when this pointless nonsense would end.
TP: I’m sure you’ll mention this later Arth, but changing the race of a character is usually grounds for groans of dismay because such changes are glaring beacons of leaving continuity. It can go either way depending on the performance. Nick Fury and Heimdall are changes that are not missed because the performances are solid. Here, I was missing the Wilson Fisk of the comics.
Casting, Directing and Acting
PONTIFICATOR: Everything that was wrong with this movie started with the casting, exacerbated with the acting, and culminated with the directing. Ben Affleck is a decent actor, but couldn’t be more wrong for Daredevil, although he played at being blind very well. A wiry red head with a fighter’s demeanor and moves like a lethal ballerina – Ben is not. Jennifer Garner is also a decent actress, but doesn’t even begin to capture the allure and danger that makes a man quiver when just looking at Elektra. Michael Clark Duncan has done many roles...but none of them prepared him to fill the awesome shoes of Wilson Fisk a.k.a. The Kingpin. I never once felt his presence to be menacing or inevitable in any way. The only bright spots were John Favreau as Foggy Nelson, as he brought the only levity to the film, and Colin Farrel, who may not have captured Bulllseye as fully as the books present him, but delivered an entertaining performance anyway.
ARTH VADER: Colin Farrel's Bullseye and Michael Clarke Duncan's (MCD) Kingpin were both odd for me. I just can't wrap my mind around the Kingpin being a black guy, sorry. For me, Wilson Fisk will always be a big doughy white guy. Collin's Bullseye? Too charismatic and hip. This is a guy who is supposed to be an ace psychotic killer, not a wise cracking funny man with clever quips. Dear friends, this casting just didn't work.
TP: Many things didn’t work in this film Vader. Where casting and acting put this movie on the precipice, the directing sent it tumbling over the edge. I’ve said it before and will say it again...tight camera angles are terrible for great fight scenes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the constant strobe effect and overuse of shadow, particularly with the bar room fight scene, is just a waste of opportunity to hook us with DD’s fighting skills. It is, however, perfect to hide the fact that nobody took the time to train Ben in any. At least the film was consistent because nobody trained Jennifer either. What are your thoughts on Jennifer as a super-heroine Arth?
Duncan as Fisk
AV: Oh yeah, those strobes drove me nuts. Jennifer Garner makes for a terrible super heroine. Garner is a beautiful, charming intelligent and commanding actress – except for her role as Elektra in Daredevil. (She also stars in the oddly intriguing but equally pointless spin-off film, "Elektra".) I think M. Clark Duncan would make a terrific Rhino or maybe Bishop (my personal favorite hero!), but he just fell flat as the Kingpin. Finally, there's big Ben. I don't know gang, he just... he just didn't pull it off. It is true that over the years I have grown quite fond of my fellow Bostonian, but this whole performance was trite, forced and flat. I'm afraid Ben's just not the man without fear.
Special Effects
ARTH VADER: In a word... "Meh". Sure there are some great fight scenes. The opening bar room brawl has some cool moments, for sure. But it all left me with a general sense of 'so what'. That's pretty bad for super duper movie. Now don't get me wrong, the flips and tumbles were all cool but even that wasn't quite handled right. Look, if we buy into DD as an avenging shadow in the darkness, I really don't think we should see very much of him. The fact that I saw him, in full light, so much onscreen was disheartening and cast doubts on his mythos as a ranger of the night. There are even times we are treated to the sound of his leather making that annoying leather sound when he moves. Ugh. The CGI was transparent, which is ideal, but in this case, it was probably because there wasn't very much of it.
THE PONTIFICATOR: There were special effects in this movie? Really though, the effects weren’t very special at all...and while I agree with the Vadermeister that there wasn’t very much CGI, what little there was of it was anything but transparent. It was obvious and poorly done and the incredible leaps and fluid motion of it was so sharply in contrast to the stiff choppy movement of Affleck, that I had to chuckle every time I saw it. On a positive note, the way they portrayed DD’s radar sense was very interesting, if not entirely accurate.
Taking A Deeper Look
THE PONTIFICATOR: I like to look at the overall balance of a movie but this movie was so much of a task to watch that it really doesn’t matter...but I’ll share anyway. What little comedy there was came from John Favreau’s portrayal of Foggy Nelson and, admittedly, he’s a funny guy and his injection of humor into this train was a relief. I never took the film’s attempt at drama seriously because it was so badly done and while some of the action was interesting, too much of it was not and left me feeling robbed of an opportunity to have a good time.
ARTH VADER: Ok, so at this point, it's no secret that this movie was a disappointment to us – I just don't understand why. With the special effects available even as of the shooting of this movie back in 2002, this is the best you got? Really guys? C'mon Hollywood, there are millions of fans waiting to boost these movies on our shoulders with pride waiting for you to just get it right. If we can agree that comic book heroes are - in a way - a new host of urban myths, then why does this movie suck so bad? And how the heck did it make $78 million?!
TP: Arth, for the answer to your question of why this movie sucked so bad, please read our blog “The Boxed Office” where we, self proclaimed experts on the subject, give a very detailed analysis on the best and worst in super hero and science fiction movies. Oh wait...I don’t have to plug the blog, our readers are already mistake. The answer to your other question as to how this movie made $78 million is easy, we were all robbed!
AV: I'm filing a police report! Its sort of like the prominent excelling student that gets a full ride scholarship to an Ivy League school and then drops out to become a stoner. Ok, to each his own, but man, what a lost opportunity for greatness.
Looking Ahead: Sequels
ARTH VADER: Can anyone say "reboot"? As of the writing of this blog (June 2011), David Slade is slated to direct the Daredevil reboot utilizing Frank Miller's "Born-again" seven-issue story line at it's core. I'm willing to give it another nod, (us comic guys, we do that) but we must establish some ground rules. First, no Ben Affleck. B-Dog, I love you buddy, you're just no Matt Murdock. You go do you. Next! Second, loose the tight, expensive-looking leather outfit. It's dumb. He needs to be more like a devil and less like a guy trying to look cool dressed as a devil. Blood red, not maroon. Lastly, I should see very little of him when he becomes DD, he needs to be like those fish photos we always see when they catch those weird things from the bottom of the ocean; a curious, erie and terrible sight to behold, yet oddly fascinating. Make me believe!
THE PONTIFICATOR: Wait! didn’t like the costume? That was one of the few things I did like about the film. The transition of comic costumes to film is always a tough sell, but if a man decided to dress up like a devil and fight crime, he’d probably have to go with leather and anything brighter would make crime laugh...not stop. There was so much wrong with this movie that I have to agree with my heavy breathing colleague...reboot! I don’t usually advocate this way, especially because there is an ongoing trend now to reboot everything. Even movies that were excellent are being rebooted...and I think that’s dumb. In this case though, it would be dumb not to reboot Daredevil and make it, at least, a movie worth watching.
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Daredevil: Where do I begin? A good measure of any experience is to ask yourself if you would recommend it to a friend. I think in this case, if you’re considering this movie for a recommendation, the real question is do you want to keep your friend? Vader, we’re friends...would you recommend this movie to me?
ARTH VADER Rates Daredevil: Recommend Daredevil? I just can't, 'cator. I want to but even in watching this move (that I shamefully admit I own), I can't wait until it's over. As one review put it for this movie "Daredevil is 103 minutes I will never get back!". The most merciful thing thing about this flick is the closing credits, not even worth the classic Marvel studios wait-until-the-credits-are-over sneak peak. *SPOILER ALERT* I'll save you the suspense; Bullseye's not dead.
So I give DareDevil two busted blocks. One for effort, one for not making two hours. (You may now return to your yawning, already in progress.)
TP: Thanks Vader!...for keeping me as a friend by not recommending this film to me. Daredevil had all the potential in the world to be a good movie and chipped away at that potential by poor casting, a departure from good material, and shoddy directing. The special effects couldn’t save the film because they weren’t there and the only fix now is go back to the drawing board...literally!
I’m giving this movie a block for effort, a block for the Stan Lee cameo (always a pleasure to see) and a block for the music score...for a total of three busted blocks. Granted, I’m being generous, but that’s just the fanboy in me.
Daredevil: 2.5/10 Busted Blocks
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1 comment:

  1. Watching the trailer...even after having seen the movie, is still more exciting to watch. I wanted so much for this film to be an extension of the giddy feeling the trailer instilled in me.

    Oh well...maybe next time.