Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

There are two sides to this film about a mild-mannered kid who gains super powers but at the cost of his sight - what we do see, and what we don't.

The story, the characters and the acting are all satisfactory, as is the tough crime-ridden version of New York unpacked here. Ben Affleck in the title role of Matt Murdock / Daredevil is okay, but for me the film's real gems are the supporting cast.

Jon Favreau as Matt's partner-in-law is so bold in his abuse of his best friend's 'disability' that he sparkles in every scene he's in. Likewise Joe Pantoliano fleshes out the perpetually cameraless reporter Ben Urich as a man of depth, integrity and compassion. Even Colin Farrell as Bullseye turns his black-hearted deeds into opportunities to make us laugh, partly because he's such a lovable Oirish scoundrel, but mostly because of his proiceless facial expressions.

Oh, and Derrick O'Connor appears fleetingly as Father Everett, but even he refuses to dumb down his position into a stereotype. Everett is a priest with attitude. Well, in a way everyone here is. Apart from maybe the priest bit.

And yet the story that these characters enact is so simple and by-the-numbers that it does miss a certain sense of there being much else going on in these guys' heads, or indeed in New York. While writing of this simplicity, I'm intrigued to learn that an additional character played by Coolio had been completely cut from the final edit, perhaps contributing to this. I guess his scenes must still take place in this story, but leaving no evidence for us to pick up on.

Although I'm afraid that, for me, the character who suffers most from the realisation's baldness is Jennifer Garner's Elektra.

Even before she has appeared in the movie, just ahead of her in the coffee shop Matt is suddenly blessed with the additional power of either telepathy or foresight. Super hearing or not, he cannot possibly know that she is about to turn into this shop. Unless of course she's outside telling someone, but she enters alone.

A few minutes later, when she and Matt play-fight each other in a local playground, neither of them seems to realise that they are both somewhat blowing their secret identities. (actually I'm not sure whether she even has one of those) When it rains on her face, enabling Matt's super-hearing to construct a picture of her in his mind, well, it's not raining on her face. Just look at it. When Bullseye murders her dad using Daredevil's cane, it really isn't enough to implicate the man without fear, but she assumes his total motiveless guilt anyway.

Later, when she sets up all those timed bags of flour to descend in her apartment just so that she can stab them as part of training for her misplaced revenge, in so doing wrecking her apartment, you have to wonder just how sky-high her cleaning budget must be. To do this workout, has she in fact broken into a bad guy's flat?

When she then captures Daredevil and unmasks her pa's murderer, only to discover that underneath the pointy mask is the man she loves, her enormous turnaround over his guilt is instantaneous. No incredulity, no dawning of realisation, nothing. Hmmm, no.

Even when she dies, entirely because she has just thrown her weapon away by giving Bullseye so much time to dodge it, she gets pierced right through her body twice, and her heart is shown to explicitly stop. I hope when she was later revived for the spin-off Elektra, she duly had scars.

Not that I don't like Elektra or anything, but come on. Fictional characters have to behave in a way that makes sense. If they don't, then you literally don't have a story. I just find it ironic that a movie about a man who has to daily construct the a bigger picture from such subtle clues around him, paradoxically discourages this attitude in its audience.

By the end of the film, even Daredevil himself has lost something under the surface, as he is beaten to a pulp, before getting up and... presently just forgetting about it. Like I said, not much depth to the story here, but at least there is one, and one which for the main part works, when Matt isn't hearing things that he could not possibly hear. (eg. the three spinning combination locks on the roof of his apartment, or that no-one is watching him when he takes off his mask in front of a cityscape)

Good movie though, I thought they did a nice job with this one. Matt's sleeping in a sensory deprivation tank to 'turn off' his powers a nice touch.

In 2003, despite a few effects that haven't dated so well, Daredevil secured Marvel's successful fresh foray into the cinema. From today's perspective, it's actually a surprise that they never made any sequels to this.

But hey, Ben Affleck is still bankable. So maybe they will.

We'll just have to wait and

(available here)

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