I remember those lazy summers just before the teen years hit when I would sit on the porch of my friend and we would read comic books. This was fortunately for us the time when Marvel comics were experiencing their golden age. With characters like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk, X-Men and Daredevil I was drawn away from the more typical faire of DC such as Superman and Batman. As a young boy what attracted me to the Marvel comics were the inherent flaws of their super heroes. They were not perfect and all powerful like the DC heroes. Spider-Man couldnít get a date, the Hulk had what would be called today anger management problems and Daredevil was blind. So many decades before political correctness became common place there was a super hero that was physically challenged. It also didnít hurt that the backdrop for most of these adventures was New York City, my home town. Matt Murdock (Ben Afflick) was struck by a truck filed with radioactive material which took his sight but left him with amazing enhancements of his other senses. He also received a type of extra sense that more than compensated for his lack of vision. He trained his body to match the power of his new senses, looking to fight the crime he was powerless to fight as a lawyer a new hero was created. New York is in the grip of a powerful crime boss (so what else is new?) The Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan), whose physical size reflects his political might and super human strength. Okay, purest will argue that Kingpin was originally a Spider-Man villain but true to the Marvel play book villains and heroes lived in the same world and often crossed over to each otherís comics. As Matt and his law partner refuse to represent Kingpin, Mattís alter ego Daredevil sets out to put an end to his foeís reign of terror. You can use phrases like this only while reviewing a movie made from a comic. Of course there has to be a femme fatale and his film has one of the screens greats. Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) is a young woman who lost her parents. She is trained in every deadly art know to man and is on a mission to avenge their deaths. Of course, through machinations perpetrated by Kingpin Elektra is convinced that Daredevil was responsible. This does server as the major focus of the plot and provides the required sexual tension between these two genetically perfect actors. What really counts here is the story is one that remains true to the comics but is consistent enough to carry it for those not familiar with the source material. Like the recent hit Spider-Man this film does not rely on the special effects but a real story to drive it.
The most important aspect of this genre of film is the actors have to sell their characters as real people rather than just comics brought to life. Fortunately for the audience the producers assembled a cast that not only met the challenge they exceeded it. I have always felt that Ben Afflick was an uneven actor. I greatly enjoyed some of his films but found myself bored at others. Now this is not his fault but he is often miscast in his films. Here he is at the top of his game. He works better as an action star than in most of his romantic comedies. While not the best presentation of a blind person he does allow the audience to believe and that is all that really matters. Garner is perfect for her role as Elektra. She plays an enhanced version of her break out TV role on Alias, a lithe powerful young woman bent on revenge. Along side Affleck there is a screen chemistry that booms off the screen. Their fights seem more like a kind of deadly foreplay leading to a touching PG-13 resolution. Duncan is an incredible actor. His physical size houses talent that few can match. As Kingpin he dominates the screen completely believable as a man who could control the most powerful city in the world. One of my favorite character actors is present in this film, Joe Pantoliano as Ben a reporter for the New York Post. He brings his quirky style to this film providing a real touch of this city to the movie. He also seems exactly what a Post reporter has always been in my mind, reporting for a real newspaper yet slightly on the seedy side.
Mark Steven Johnson is one of the new cadres of directors who have worked his way from screen writer to director. Having written such films as Grumpy Old Men, Simon Birch and Jack Frost; he has paid his dues and obviously paid attention during the filming in order to gain the chops to direct this big budget flick. While this is only his second time in the directorís chair he shows he has the innate talent to handle the task. He has an eye for camera angles that will keep the interest with of the audience. Johnson blends the required action for this genre with a human pathos that provides a stage for the actors to flesh out their comic book characters as real people the audience can identify with. Although this film is concerned with a slight impaired central character the movie it is visually stunning. It seems obvious that Johnson is a true fan of the comic. He shows a respect for the medium that translates to the screen. Rather than trying to make a live action comic he uses the comic characters to tell a realistic story. One notable improvement in this film over some recent comic flicks is the improvement in the CGI virtual stun man. Unlike Spider-Man and Blade 2 it is a lot more realistic, there is finally a bit of gravity to the movements. There is still some work for this process but this is a fairly major step forward.
This two disc DVD set shows how a film should be mastered and presented. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 audio tracks are flawless. The whole set of six speakers will get a workout; this is a film to show the neighbors to make them jealous of your home theater. The anamorphic video holds up with only a few glitches during the darker scenes. The extras are extremely well done. The director's commentary track is better than most out there. Johnson reveals the production flaws in an honest portrayal of how the film was made. There are enough featurettes to keep the viewers interested for hours after the film is over. In fact it is best to revisit the film after viewing the extras; you will actually get a lot more out of the movie. There is even a DVD ROM history of the comic as well as a look at the Hellís Kitchen setting of the film that takes you from preproduction to the final film. This is a keeper not only for fans of the comics but also for someone that enjoys a reasonably good film.
Now Fox has come up with the definitive way to enjoy this film. They now have the Blu-ray edition of the Director's cut of the movie. This is the way that Johnson intended you to see it. Unlike the theatrical version which was rated PG-13 this this one garnered an 'R' mostly for extra violence. Not only were several of the action sequences extended but the character development and story all have a new direction. This is actually a much better telling of the story than previously shown. For those out there who are fans of 'Grey's Anatomy' look for Matt's secretary Karen Page; she is played by Ellen Pompeo and this cut restores her short performance in the film. The now famous fight between Matt and Elektra in the playground is extended. This also holds for the climatic battle between Daredevil and Bullseye. The love scene between Matt and Elektra has been removed but the biker bar fight is now much more intense and longer. The sub plot with Daunte Jackson is expanded and plays a more important role in the overall story. the ending battle between Daredevil and Kingpin is now much more violent.
The Blu ray edition features a sharp 1080p video and a fantastic DTS-HD lossless audio that will simply blow you away. You will see and hear details that you never knew were part of the film. There is also a great number of extras to give you all the background information you could ever want. Even if you have the DVD this is the edition to get. It will be perfect for showing off your Blu-ray system to your friends.
Posted 04/24/03 (DVD)
Posted 09/19/08 (Blu-ray)