Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Man Without Fear
This Marvel superhero movie is not as bad as people may think it is.
In February 2003, the movie ‘Daredevil’ was released at cinemas. I saw the theatrical version of the movie in its 2-disc Special Edition DVD in October 2005. I was getting into the Marvel superheroes by this point and was curious about what Daredevil was like, as he was grittier than other superheroes.
I became interested in Daredevil from watching the ‘Daredevil vs. Spider-Man’ DVD – a compilation of animated series ‘Spider-Man’ episodes featuring the two-parter ‘Framed’/’The Man Without Fear’. The ‘Fantastic Four’ animated series episode ‘And a Blind Man Shall Lead Them’ was included.
The character Daredevil was created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel comics in 1964. Over the years, Daredevil has evolved by many comic book writers and artists including comic book legend Frank Miller. The ‘Daredevil’ film takes its cue from the Frank Miller comics of that character.
‘Daredevil’ was written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson. It stars Ben Affleck as Daredevil/Matt Murdock and Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios with Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin/Wilson Fisk and Colin Farrell as Bullseye. ‘Daredevil’ isn’t regarded as one of the greatest superhero movies.
The story is about a blind man named Matt Murdock who is a lawyer by day and a crime-fighting vigilante named Daredevil by night. He meets and falls in love with beautiful martial arts master Elektra whilst having to stop the exploits of crime boss Kingpin and his evil assassin named Bullseye.
I admit; I don’t know much about Daredevil as a character from the comics having not read many of them. But I enjoyed seeing the movie in its theatrical cut on DVD. I could tell there was passion in the making of the film, especially from watching the special features in its 2-disc Special Edition DVD.
Over the years though, I can see why people don’t regard ‘Daredevil’ so highly as there are flaws to this movie whether you’d like to admit that or not. Even director/writer Mark Steven Johnson admits the movie is flawed in the theatrical cut during the ‘making-of’ special feature for the director’s cut DVD.
But having seen the movie countless times before seeing the director’s cut, ‘Daredevil’ is not really that bad. It’s not anything spectacular but at least the people who made the movie were passionate about the source material they based the movie upon. It’s a flawed passion, but it was still a passion.
I probably would’ve done the movie differently to what it actually ended up being, but the creative choices were interesting to say the least. This is especially concerning how Matt Murdock handles his crime-fighting as Daredevil, especially since he’s blind and has his other four senses heightened.
I have been able to appreciate the ‘Daredevil’ story more in the director’s cut of the movie, which is an extended version of the film. I purchased the director’s cut of ‘Daredevil’ along with ‘Elektra’ on DVD in 2019 before watching it in 2020. I’ll share how the director’s cut is a better version of the film later.
And yes, I know about the ‘Daredevil’ Netflix series that’s been shown recently. I can’t comment on that as I haven’t seen it yet. I have heard positive things said about the series and from what I’ve seen in clips/trailers, it does look to be a grittier and darker version of ‘Daredevil’ compared to the movie.
Ben Affleck plays Daredevil/Matt Murdock in the film. Like director/writer Mark Steven Johnson, Ben Affleck is a dedicated Daredevil fan himself. This was him playing a superhero before he became Batman in the ‘DC Extended Universe’. And to be honest…I found his performance as Daredevil fine.
(sighs; annoyed) Okay, okay! Hear me out! (Pause) I’m not saying Ben Affleck’s performance is great. It’s not. It can’t be denied there are flaws in how he plays Matt Murdock/Daredevil. But to be honest, I don’t think Ben Affleck’s at fault. It’s down to how the script’s written and the film’s edited.
In the theatrical cut that is. Like I said, the director’s cut is better. I’ve not seen many films with Ben Affleck and I know people criticise his acting. But judging from what I’ve seen of him in ‘Daredevil’ and the ‘Batman’ films he’s done, I think he is okay. And at least he gives an enjoyable performance.
It was interesting how he played Matt Murdock in being a blind man tortured and haunted by everything that goes on around him with living in Hell’s Kitchen and being Daredevil. The choices he makes as Daredevil and his self-doubt on whether he’s the good or bad guy were intriguing to watch.
And for those who doubt how Ben Affleck plays the blind aspects of Matt Murdock’s character, at least they had a blind consultant in blind man Tom Sullivan to help them during the making of the film. It might not match to how Sarah Sutton played Diana in ‘The Moon Stallion’, but it’s something.
Jennifer Garner stars Elektra Natchios, the love interest for Matt Murdock in the movie. Elektra was created by Frank Miller for the ‘Daredevil’ comics he did. Now, the movie puts across this notion that Elektra loves Matt Murdock whilst hating Daredevil. That is true in the context of her father’s death.
There’s no doubt that Jennifer Garner is a ‘hot’ lady and her interpretation of Elektra is intriguing in the ‘Daredevil’ film of a woman ranging from passion to revenge, due to her Greek descent I believe. But the character choices for Elektra are questionable, especially when she interacts with Daredevil.
I was hoping for Daredevil and Elektra to team up and fight Kingpin and Bullseye in the movie. Instead, Elektra goes out to kill Daredevil for the murder of her father (which he didn’t do) before getting killed by Bullseye in the film. And yes, that occurred in the ‘Daredevil’ comics by Frank Miller.
I did find the first meeting between Matt Murdock and Elektra strange, especially when they had that fight together in a kids’ park. Love at first fight, I guess? There were some nice tender love scenes between Matt and Elektra in the movie, which I enjoyed. A shame they did seem pretty rare.
The kissing scene in the rain between Matt and Elektra doesn’t match to how MJ kissed Spider-Man upside down in the first ‘Spider-Man’ movie, but it’s a sweet moment. Who knew Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner fell in love and got married after making this film? (Pause) Which is what they did! 😀
The late Michael Clarke Duncan stars as the Kingpin/Wilson Fisk. Now I must admit, I was surprised the Kingpin was appearing in the ‘Daredevil’ film, having known him for being a ‘Spider-Man’ villain beforehand. I was also surprised the Kingpin was played by a black man instead of a white man here.
But after thinking about it, I was okay with Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin. He too was a dedicated Daredevil fan as well as a Kingpin fan. It clearly shows in his performance that he loved playing the Kingpin in the movie. He gets to ooze some quiet menace while I was watching him here.
I admit, he could be a bit over-the-top during the moments when he’s beating people up, especially in the director’s cut. But I forgave him for that, especially when the Kingpin was being manipulative in having associates like Elektra’s dad killed off. I’m disappointed there wasn’t enough of him in this.
In fact, I’m disappointed Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin didn’t get to face Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man in one of his movies. Imagine how that would’ve turned out. The Kingpin in a ‘Spider-Man’ movie would be amazing! He did play Kingpin again in a ‘Spider-Man’ new animated series episode though.
The other ‘Daredevil’ villain that is certainly way over-the-top however is Colin Farrell as Bullseye. This is before he played the dad in the 2019 remake of ‘Dumbo’. This was the first time I’d seen Colin Farrell in anything. I never found him to be way over-the-top as a villain in anything else than this! 😀
It’s so clear Colin Farrell is having a ball playing this hit-man assassin who never misses a target in Bullseye. Bullseye is so gleefully evil when he’s hired to kill Elektra’s dad and Elektra herself. I couldn’t help enjoy Colin Farrell playing Bullseye. He is into the role, despite having not read the comics.
The look for Bullseye is different compared to the comics’ version of the character, as he has a ‘bullseye’ target shape imprinted into his forehead instead of wearing the mask. He’s also more biker-like here and Colin gets to use his Irish accent as Bullseye, which wasn’t featured in the comics.
Once Bullseye realises he’s unable to make his mark on Daredevil after he misses his target, he becomes very angry and is determined to wipe out his enemy here. Bullseye wants to put the fear into ‘the man without fear’. He may be able to do that when he fights Daredevil at a Catholic church.
The film also features Jon Pantoliano as Ben Urich, an investigative journalist who works for the New York Post (I would’ve had him work for the Daily Bugle to connect Spider-Man and Daredevil together). Ulrich does articles about Daredevil and the Kingpin and is closer to the truths about them.
David Keith stars Jack Murdock, the father of Matt Murdock. In the film, Jack ‘the Devil’ Murdock is in the scenes when Matt was a boy, played by Scott Terra, before becoming Daredevil. Jack was a boxer before he got murdered by the Kingpin when he refused not to take a full during a boxer fight.
There’s also Jon Favreau as Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson, Matt Mudock’s legal partner and best friend in the movie. Jon Favreau is also a film director and this was before he directed ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Iron Man 2’ and played Happy Hogan in the ‘MCU’. For me, Jon also directed the films ‘Elf’ and ‘Zathura’.
The cast also includes Leland Orser as Wesley Owen Welch, Fisk’s number two; Lennie Loftin as Detective Nick Manolis; Eric Avari as Nikolas Natchios, Elektra’s father; Ellen Pompeo as Karen Page and Derrick O’Connor as Father Everett. There are also cameos of Stan Lee and Frank Miller in this. 🙂
The direction by Mark Steven Johnson is good, especially in the fight and stunt scenes. The movie does have an adrenaline-fuelled vibe to it, especially when Daredevil is jumping from rooftop to rooftop with a dare and his stick as well as fighting off thugs with loud rock songs in the background.
The set design for the movie is equally good. The action is well set-up is some scenes especially the Kingpin’s office where Daredevil fights the Kingpin in the climax. It was also interesting to see how Murdock arranged his Daredevil hideout in terms of where he sets outfits and artillery in being blind.
There are some CGI effects moments during the film, especially when Daredevil swings and jumps across from rooftop to rooftop with a dare and his stick. The stick is used as a baton weapon; a grappling hook and a boomerang when he’s Daredevil and as his cane once he’s going blind as Matt.
The DVD special features on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s the enhanced viewing mode which features specifically prepared multi-layered behind-the-scenes sequences to watch during the film, narrated by visual effects producer John Kilkenny. There’s also the DVD audio commentary with director/writer Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Foster and there’s the text commentary.
On Disc 2, there are two sections looking into the ‘Daredevil’ film and the comic book. In ‘the film’ section, there are special features including ‘Beyond Hell’s Kitchen: Making Daredevil’ which also has an enhanced viewing mode. There’s an Easter Egg to look out for on there too. There’s also a Jennifer Garner screen test; multi-angle dailies; a ‘Featured Villain: Kingpin’ interview with Michael Clarke Duncan; the ‘Daredevil: HBO First Look Special’ and ‘Moving Through Space: A Day With Tom Sullivan’. There are also three theatrical trailers for the film; three music videos including ‘Won’t Back Down’ by Fuel; ‘For You’ by The Calling and ‘Bring Me To Life’ by Evanescence featuring Paul McCoy of 12 Stones; and a still gallery. In ‘the comic book’ section, there’s the ‘Men Without Fear: Creating Daredevil’ documentary; a ‘Shadow World Tour’ and modelling sheets.
Now let’s talk about the director’s cut of ‘Daredevil’ which was released on DVD in 2004. Apparently the director’s cut was meant to be the version of the film shown at cinemas. But the executives of 20th Century Fox requested changes made to the film and for it to run at least under 100 minutes length.
The director’s extended cut includes 30 additional minutes of material not seen in the theatrical cut at cinemas. It also includes a subplot that could’ve made the film a whole lot better to explain how Daredevil/Matt Murdock was able to unveil Wilson Fisk’s crime activities as the Kingpin in New York.
This subplot involved the character of Coolio as Dante Jackson, a man put on trial for the murder of a prostitute involved with the Kingpin’s crime activities. This was something I liked in the director’s cut, as it showcased Matt Murdock’s daytime job as a lawyer more than the theatrical cut ever did. 🙂
There are scenes that are omitted in the director’s cut from the theatrical cut, including love scenes between Matt and Elektra as well as confessional scenes with Matt. Instead of Matt having sex with Elektra in the theatrical cut, he goes and deals criminals in the director’s cut since scenes were re-shifted.
There’s also the inclusion of a nun that might be Matt Murdock’s mother. The director’s cut of the film is more story-focused compared to the theatrical cut. There’s also more graphic violent content and fight scenes in the director’s cut compared to the theatrical cut, making the 15/R rating verified.
The DVD special features for the ‘Daredevil – Director’s Cut’ DVD are as follows. There’s a DVD audio commentary by director/writer Mark Steven Johnson and producer Avi Arad. There’s also ‘Giving The Devil His Due: The Making of Daredevil – Director’s Cut’. The Blu-ray edition of ‘Daredevil’ has most of the 2-disc Special Edition DVD special features on it, but only the director’s cut of the movie.
‘Daredevil’ the movie is not a great Marvel superhero movie. But I will say this! The director’s cut is better. Yeah, there’s no getting away from the flaws the movie has, both in its theatrical and extended versions. But I can’t help have a soft spot for this movie as there’s clearly passion behind it.
The passion behind the making of the movie is from people who are dedicated ‘Daredevil’ fans. The fact that director/writer Mark Steven Johnson wanted his own version of the movie released on DVD and Blu-ray rather than the one shown at the cinemas indicates he had a passion in making the film.
It’s a shame ‘Daredevil’ didn’t win people over as it could’ve been a winner. I do recommend the director’s cut on DVD/Blu-ray rather than the theatrical version. But I’ve seen both versions to know what’s good and bad in both of them. I’ve also become more aware of Daredevil’s character. 🙂
I wish ‘Daredevil’ matched in being a fantastic superhero movie compared to the likes of the ‘Spider-Man’ film trilogy and the 1989 ‘Batman’ film. I know it had flaws, but I’ve enjoyed it countless times in its theatrical cut compared to the director’s cut. It’s a bad superhero movie, but it’s pretty enjoyable.
In fact, I’m surprised ‘Daredevil’ never got a sequel as it could’ve had. It did well at the box office, didn’t it? I mean, it’s not like they did a spin-off film from ‘Daredevil’ featuring one of the characters who died and it became a critical and commercial failure, preventing ‘Daredevil’ getting the sequel…
(realises) It’s exactly what happened, isn’t it?
‘Daredevil’ rating – 8/10
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