Before we begin, let me say up front that Daredevil had clear failings, especially in the theatrical cut, but I really don't think it is deserving of the vast amounts of hatred that it gets. It is by no means a perfect, or on a lot of levels, even a good movie, but it was an enjoyable movie. A lot of people want to place it in the same category as Batman and Robin, and I really think that's unfair. Most of the failings, I think, were the fault of Mark Steven Johnson, the writer/director of the film. I think he had two separate and distinct visions for the film, and those visions were in conflict, yet he tried to visualize both of them and it just didn't work. Some, but certainly not all, of the failings were rectified in the director's cut, so that is the cut of the movie I will be looking at for the purposes of this article. So, knowing exactly what we're getting into, let's take another look at Daredevil.
The Story- The storyline of the film, which was unfortunately pretty much deleted from the original theatrical version of the film, was actually really interesting. With all of the Director's Cut elements intact, it really kind of watches like an episode of Law and Order, but with a superhero, and with Matt Murdock being a lawyer, that is an excellent direction to go with it. I actually really hope that is something that they explore a little further with the upcoming Netflix series. Seeing Matt Murdock investigating a case during the day and investigating the Kingpin at night as Daredevil, and seeing how the two cases merge, leading Daredevil right to Wilson Fisk's door for the climax, that was just great storytelling.
The Tone- Two years before Batman Begins, Daredevil gave us a more grounded superhero than we've ever seen before. It was dark, it was gritty, Daredevil really seemed to exist on the street and in alleys. They had the great scene that showed Matt Murdock having to sleep in a tank full of salt water, to drown out the constant barrage of noise his superhearing was constantly picking up, and they had the other great scene of Matt Murdock in the shower and you could see all of the scars he had all over his body from years of crimefighting, and he even pulled out a tooth that had been knocked loose in the fight we had just seen him engaged in. The film did a great job of showing just how tortured the soul of a street level vigilante would be in a real world kind of scenario, and on that front it was even more successful that Christopher Nolan's Batman films. I know, I know, some of you out there are crying foul and wanting to scream about the tonal things the film got wrong, don't worry, we'll get there. Unfortunately, tone is something we will have to go back to when we talk about what the film did wrong. So stay calm, we'll get to it.
Ben Affleck- I don't care what anyone says, Daredevil had a lot of issues, but Affleck wasn't one of them. Affleck has a lot of haters, and people don't on him because he's a bad actor, they hate on him because he's made a lot of bad movies. Even now, with Affleck turning in wonderful performances in movies like The Town and Argo, many of those haters are backpedaling and saying, "Well, his acting has gotten better." No, folks, that's not true. He's making better movies, but he has never been a terrible actor. And his performance in Daredevil was good. He had a failry decent Batman voice that he used for Daredevil, a voice that Christian Bale could have taken pointers from, and he did a great job of conveying that tortured soul aspect of the story I talked about earlier while also doing a good job of being light-hearted and cheerful as Matt Murdock, but still giving that impression that there was more beneath the surface that he was keeping back. Watch this movie again with an open mind, Affleck might surprise you and you might just be a little more excited about him playing Batman.
Michael Clarke Duncan- There were a lot of people complaining when MCD was announced as the Kingpin, but I ask you, skin color aside, was there a better actor for the part? Would you rather have seen John Goodman in the role? Or maybe John Rhys Davies reprise the role he played in Trial of the Incredible Hulk? I like Vincent D'Onofrio, and I think he'll do a fine job in the Netflix series, but I don't think he would be a better choice over MCD. Duncan had the stature, the voice, the acting chops... everything. Skin color aside, he was the perfect choice. He was the Kingpin right off the page, and I don't think anyone will ever be able to be for that character what Michael Clarke Duncan was. I would really have loved to have seen what he could have done with the character in an adaptation of Born Again, but alas, we lost this fine actor much too soon. Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin was probably the best casting of a comic book character ever. Or at least until Michael Clarke Duncan as Kilowog.
Comic Relief- This is all on Jon Favreau right here. He had some of the best bits in the film, and most of that was do to his great comic timing. Rambling on about aligators in sewers and trying to argue a case on his own while Matt is off doing whatever the hell it is Matt does and showing himself to be completely and utterly incompetent as a lawyer, rambling on about clients that pay in fluke and have their office looking "like the set of gaddamn Sanford and Son" those were all brilliant scenes that could have fallen flat with another actor, but Favreau brought the character of Foggy Nelson to life and made him a really lovable character in a way that I don't know if any other actor will ever be able to again.
Here it is! The part of the article everyone clicked on it for! The part where I mercilessly bash the movie for everything it did wrong. So, without further ado, here we go!
The Tone- Ok, for everything the film got right tonally, it got just as much wrong. This is where Mark Steven Johnson's two different tones for the movie really ruined the film. He couldn't decide if he wanted to make a light-hearted romp or a dark, gritty, real-world examination of what a superhero in real life would be. So he did both, and you really can't do that. I think a big part of what people hated about Daredevil was that it just didn't know what it wanted to be, and I completely understand that. I mean, seriously, what was with all of the wire work? So, which one of Daredevil's enhanced senses allows for him to leap twenty feet in the air flat-footed and do a backwards somersault? And what was the deal with that playground scene? Way to protect that secret identity, there, Murdock. Unfortunately, the Director's Cut doesn't do much to erase these cring-inducing moments.
Bullseye- Bullseye is a great character, and probably one of Daredevil's most dangerous rogues, so why is he so laughable in this movie? I mean, seriously. Collin Ferrell has some great scenes as Bullseye, like the death of Elektra, but for most of the film he is way too over-the-top and kind of just silly. Why? I really wish Mark Steven Johnson had ran with the grittier tone, especially where Bullseye was concerned, because I think Collin Ferrell could have done a lot with a darker and more serious villain.
CGI- The CGI is horrible, even for the time. Spider-Man had come out a year before, and the CGI was so much better in the Sam Raimi film. The CGI was pretty laughable, and it is made even worse when you take into account that the story should have been crafted in a way that Bullseye, who has no discernable superpowers, and Daredevil, whose superpowers shouldn't have allowed for most of the feats needing the CGI assist in the first place, would have been fighting on the ground and not leap around like they had each been bitten by radioactive spiders in some deleted scene we never got to see.
As you can see, most of the bad things can all be attributed to the tone of the film, and the fact that Mark Steven Johnson couldn't choose between gritty and dark or light and campy. Daredevil was by no means a great film, and the theatrical cut was, unfortunately, a damn near unwatchable film. However, the director's cut does, while still have most of the failings as the original, makes up for it once you actually get to see the actual story of the film and not just the incoherent bits they spliced together to get the theatrical cut released. The director's cut does lose a few good moments too, though. For instance, the confessional scenes are cut and replaced with much less poignant scenes in which Matt and the priest are just chatting, and the priest no longer knows Matt's secret until he pulls the mask off in the church, and you lose a lot of really good character stuff when you take that out. I wish they had left those confessional scenes in, but on the who the director's cut is a much better movie than the theatrical version, and I would recommend everyone who has not seen the director's cut take another look at Daredevil. It really isn't as bad as we remember it, once you get to actually see the entire movie.