Daredevil (2003)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 2/14/03
Music: Greame Revell
Fight Coordinator: Jeff Imada
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell

After losing his sight in an industrial accident, Matt Murdock discovers that his other senses have become extraordinarily acute. After his father gets murdered by the notorious Kingpin, Matt (Ben Affleck) decides to dispense justice by becoming a lawyer by day and the costumed vigilante known as "Daredevil" by night. After a chance meeting with Elektra Nachiose (Jennifer Garner), Matt's dreams of bringing down the Kingpin come to fruition, with tragic results.

Having no knowledge of the comic book and no expectations for the film, I was quite pleasantly surprised. The film has a dark and gritty edge and doesn't shy away from Matt's flaws and moral ambiguity. He keeps telling himself he's not the bad guy, but does anyone believe him? Does he even believe himself? The film also captures the darker and more human side of vigilantism, with Matt's addiction to pain killers and his increasingly violent behavior. While Ben Affleck's delivery may be a little flat, it's never annoying and doesn't detract from the movie. He does a lot of his own stunts, and his exchanges with Elektra are quite satisfying.

Of course, the real reason I wanted to see this movie was to see Jennifer Garner kick some butt. She handles the role of Elektra adequately, and her fight scenes are fun and energetic. She's an intense, tragic loner just like Matt, so it's inevitable that their paths would cross, and that their mutual thirst for revenge would drag them both down. Fashion-wise, she could use a little help, though. At the black and white ball, she decides to dress up and be beautiful for Matt, but it's a good thing he's blind because the dress she wears is truly hideous. What were the filmmakers thinking? Her love scene with Matt is also completely unnecessary and long-winded, serving only to get the two leads naked in front of the fireplace. Oh please...

The stunts and visual effects are a mixed bag. The "blind vision" effect is actually quite good and lends a considerable amount of credibility to the whole blind superhero premise. While a lot of the fight choreography is quite good, choppy editing obscures most of it and makes it difficult to follow. Easily, the most impressive sequence is when Matt and Elektra duke it out in the playground, which has an unmistakable Hong Kong feel to it. The visual effects are visually quite impressive, but are physically unbelievable. Much like "Spider-Man" (2002), Daredevil is mostly a CG model that bounds around town as if it were his own private jungle gym. As such, he seems light as a feather and doesn't have the mass or mobility that you would expect from something the size of a human. However, most of this happens in the dark, so it's pretty easily forgiveable.

As a comic book adaptation, it's pretty good and is complete with the requisite amount of over-the-top villains, moral angst, adolescent wish fulfillment, and melodrama. It's a fun diversion that doesn't treat the audience like children, and for that, I'm thankful.