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First things first: I would have liked to have put up a review of DAREDEVIL last week, but I decided to hold off on the review since I figured our very own Bobby Jones would be a lot more qualified to comment on the film. Before I had seen it, he dropped me a line stating that he was working on a review. However, he later followed up saying that he wasn't happy with what he had, so I decided to post one of my own. Maybe I'll drag what he has out of him and use it in some capacity here. He's been the biggest fan of the DareDevil comic for as long as I've known him, so I'm sure he's just being overly critical of his own work.
But I also saw the film last weekend, and while I'm by no means as big of a fan as he is, I am familiar enough with the story to look at the film from the perspective of a comic fan. Of course, I'm of the belief that when I go to see a film, I'm seeing it as a film first and as an adaptation second. I hold that assertion with stuff like LORD OF THE RINGS: I'm there to see a movie, not to see a book adapted scene-for-scene. The mediums work differently, so there's a need to adjust accordingly. I could give a shit about the other chapters that were not in the movie version A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, because that movie is nearly flawless. You want a better adaptation, go make it yourself. But while I do think in that vein, I'm also a big stickler when it comes to casting choices.
The big thing a lot of people were up in arms about was the choice to put Michael Clarke Duncan in the role of The Kingpin. Those folks who have followed him in Marvel comics might be a bit shaky on the idea of them casting a black actor in a role that basically amounts to "The Man™", the idea grew on me due to the fact that other than the whole skin color thing, he seemed like a pretty perfect match for the role. Then I started thinking about how Jennifer Garner looks pretty waspy to be playing the Greek goddess Elektra, a trait they played up in the film quite a bit. I'm still kind of unsure on this one, but they didn't really do much with her in the movie so I can let it slide. Ben Affleck has always kind of irritated me, but that's more of a matter of personal preference rather than illogical casting choices. And Colin Farrell pretty much rocks, and I wasn't quite aware that they were planning to make him Irish in the film. But this actually worked for some odd reason. DD was never my comic book, so I wasn't as taken back with certain casting choices as I was for, say, Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent in BATMAN, but I got over that pretty quickly.
Well, getting the casting out of the way, it's time to look at the movie from as an objective a viewpoint as humanly possible. Again, DD wasn't my favorite funny book, so I'm less likely to be a stickler for continuity than I would be for other adaptations, but this was adapted fairly well. They pretty much nailed the backstory, and while they took a few liberties with the Matt Murdock/Daredevil character, they really did a good job of keeping the dark tone that the comic has established for the story. Unfortunately, the film is quite flawed in a lot of ways, and much like the initial fight sequence between Matt and Elektra on the playground, I find myself teetering between opinions on the movie as a whole. So I'll do a pros and cons list, and see if that doesn't give you more of an idea of how I really felt about the movie:
1. Casting. I was skeptical at first, but I really found the casting to be superb, primarily the villains. Michael Clarke Duncan has become the Kingpin in my eyes. He had the size, the bulk, the brooding voice, and the cigars. Colin Farrell is amazing as Bullseye, at least with what they gave him to work with. Jennifer Garner was also ok with what she had to work with. Ben Affleck was passable as DareDevil but I thought he was a little too aloof as Matt Murdock. John Favreau got fat but he was fine as Foggy.
2. The Fight Scenes. Notice this category appears in both the Positive and Negative categories. The good part is the choreography. Sure, it's campy movie stuff, but that's what's so fun about it.
3. The dark tone. DareDevil ain't Spider-Man. He's not some giddy, goofy kid. He's a tortured soul who comes from a rough neighborhood. DD has been called Marvel's answer to Batman, and while that's kind of a broad statement, it kind of works here. Hell's Kitchen is about as Gotham as you can get.
4. The similarities to the comic. I know It's secondary to the movie as a whole, but it helps if you at least make an attempt to keep it real.
5. DD's "vision". The blind DareDevil "sees" by creating a sonar-like effect with sound, often by tapping his club across something. I was kind of skeptical of them pulling it off in POV form, but it really worked. The rain sequences were sort of cheesy, but the action scenes made up for it.
1. Character Development. Or, should I say, lack thereof. The back story on Matt Murdock was pretty well done, but lacked for everyone else. Why would I be led to believe that Elektra would be so adamant about seeking revenge? How did Kingpin get to where he is and where is his character? What led Bullseye to become a sharpshooter? The villains were made to be pretty one-dimensional and paper-thin. The Joker was so cool because we knew his backstory, but they didn't develop the villains at all here.
2. The Fight Scenes. See above. The bad part is the direction. Mark Steven Johnson isn't an action movie director, and it shows. The shots are sloppy and often look lazy, and seem to take away from what could be really cool what with the neat choreography and all.
3. DD as a Vigilante. Sure, he's a dark and troubled soul, but I'm not sure if the spirit of the character was established right by having him leave a baddie to get hit by a subway train. No, he's not Superman, but I still think this seemed out of character, and established him all wrong from the getgo.
4. Plot structure. The movie starts off well, with some nice action scenes and then the backstory. Then it slips into a dull period that goes on for like 45 minutes and includes some love story mess and some weak character introductions. The pace picks back up just in time for the premature climax, and kind of left me feeling like the whole thing was empty and contained a lot of filler.
5. Under/overuse of villains. This is what really bothered me. I guess, fearing that there would be no sequel, the filmmakers decided to go ahead and blow off the DD/Kingpin battle at the end of the film. As a result, Bullseye got underplayed and really looked like a pussy when he got his ass handed to him by a crippled DD. They should have kept Kingpin more in the background and maybe even have had DD not be sure of who he was at the end. Make the blowoff with Bullseye more meaningful. Maybe even kill him off. Save Kingpin for later. Of course, there may not be a sequel, so I guess they wanted to get it out of the way just in case.
Well. we've got about an equal number of pros and cons, and that's pretty much the way I've felt about the movie since I first stepped out of the theatre. I really liked the movie much more than I'd ever expected to, and probably more than it deserved. But then again, it had its problems that were pretty apparent at face value. It's nowhere near as offensive as the Marvel movie crap that was getting put out a decade or so ago (PUNISHER and CAPTAIN AMERICA, anyone?) but I didn't think it was nearly as fun as X-MEN or SPIDER-MAN were. And here's where my theory on adaptations gets tested: I liked both of those movies a lot more than DAREDEVIL, and both took a lot more liberties in changing the story to accomodate the movie. So making a perfect adaptation isn't necessary. If you're going to see a movie, you want to see a good movie that stands up on its own. Not just one that appeals to the fans of the source material.
It's definitely worth seeing, and I think in the long run it will fit in nicely with other Marvel titles like THE HULK and FANTASTIC FOUR and the others I mentioned before in comic movie lore. And I implore Bobby to let me know what his thoughts were on the piece as well, because he's a bit more of an authority on DD in general.
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