So, Daredevil. Yeah. The Man Without Fear. Mari, Doug and I saw it this afternoon. It was good for a few laughs, most of which were probably not intended by the film’s creators.
Is it a bad movie? Well… not entirely. Clearly a number of people worked very hard to make this as good-looking a movie as they could. There are three major problems that sabotaged months of hard work.
One. The script. It’s bloody damned awful. When it’s not trite, it’s overwrought. When it’s not trying too hard for a laugh, it’s earning the kind of laughs you get when the audience is trying to shrug off severe psychic trauma. Oh yeah, and it so shamelessly rips off from Spider-man that it’s painful. (The stupid-as-all-hell “backflips to dodge thrown projectiles” sequence was done better in Spider-man and I didn’t like it there, either. Puh-leeze.)
Two. Jennifer Garner. I’m probably going to earn a lifetime of flames from Alias fanboys for this, but as near as I can tell she can’t act. If she can, great. It’s entirely possible that the script simply gave her nothing to work with. Then again, if Colin Farrell could work with the miserably written role of Bullseye, Ms. Garner should have made a similar effort. There are a few moments when she actually looks like a living, breathing human being, but for the most part her face is a blank mask. (Yes, I was looking at her face. I don’t distract quite that easily, thank you.)
Three. Ben Affleck, but not for the reason you might think. Oddly enough, I did believe him in the role. His mannerisms, facial expressions, all of that physical acting stuff worked. What failed were the words coming out of his mouth. The script, again, is mostly to blame for this. The writers put the stupidest words on his tongue, and poor Mr. Affleck had to spit them out. As Matt Murdock, he was glib and easygoing and quite convincing. As the costumed vigilante, he had to mouth absurd garbage. What’s worse is that he doesn’t sound like a superhero, instead coming off as a suburban yuppie trying to cop an attitude.
And you thought Tobey McGuire had problems sounding like a superhero. Oi vey.
There are lesser problems with the film, including a string of connected absurdities (“Gee, he fights really well for a guy with a nasty stab wound.”) and the trademark leaping-from-a-building scenes (“That’s the longest standing leap I’ve EVER seen!”). Oh, did I mention the “homages” to certain anime? Watch for the “Kaneda Jumps Onto The Bike And Kicks The Rider” scene and the “Spike Falls From The Broken Stained-Glass Window” scene. I’m not saying those scenes are bad or wrong, but it certainly distracted this little grey anime fan.
Let’s not forget the handful of cameos and in-jokes placed solely for the benefit of comic book geeks. I probably didn’t get half of them, really, but I got enough of them to notice the effort. (Check out the name of the fighter Matt’s dad is in the ring with.) Like the anime homages, they were just a bit distracting. In a better movie they might have been more enjoyable, while here they’re simply a reason to perk up and pay attention for a few moments.
What, if anything, saves this film? As I said in the beginning, a number of very talented people worked very hard to make this film good. Set designs are quite good, as are almost all of the outdoor locations. You never have a problem with the authenticity of a given location. The “DD-vision” technique is inspired and effective. Michael Clarke Duncan, for all that he’s given very little to do, makes just as good of a Kingpin as I expected. Colin Farrell, for all that he’s given the same crappy copy of the script everyone else got, wrings an enjoyably intense performance out of the material.
Yes, I do believe that’s it. The bad guys, the production values, and a scant handful of clever bits. I can only hope that the rest of the year’s genre fare is better than this. You’d think, perhaps, that it’s inevitable, but that trailer for League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen didn’t exactly leave me begging for more…