This is the fourth article in the ongoing series looking back at the impact, quality and importance of Superhero films in since 2000. I've already covered X-Men, Blade II and Spider-Man. Now onto 2003, and another Marvel movie. Daredevil.
The Film: Daredevil (2003)
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Producers: Avi Arad, Gary Foster, Amon Milchan
Distribution: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan, John Favreau, Joe Pantoliano
Plot: Blind attorney Matt Murdoch is also a vigilante, Daredevil, by night. He has to fight the Kingpin and his assassin Bullseye, as well as deal with the vengeance-fueled Elektra.
Daredevil was an untested property. It's in interesting test to see how interested people are in seeing non A-Grade hero (Like Spider-Man or X-Men). Daredevil, whilst he has a good cult following based on some really well written story arcs, is not a big name. Daredevil also tried to hit a middling tone, not as comedic as Spider-Man but not as dark as the Blade films. Ultimately though, this was it's downfall, it bored kids and was too tame for adults.
Daredevil is not a good film. It has it's fans and isn't an abomination, but it's not good. As I said earlier, it's trying to be dark and true to the source material, but then wants to stay light enough to appeal to kids and families. And it really fails badly on both accounts. The cartoon-like action scenes are pretty terrible and anyone with a discerning brain is just taken completely out of the action. They also lost the distinction between dark and humourless. No comedy doesn't necessarily mean a dark film, and without a strong plot it just makes a boring one.
Look, there are some good things about it. Michael Clarke Duncan is superb as the Kingpin and Affleck is miscast but does a decent job. The nods to well known comic book moments (death of Elektra) are handled fairly well. However, I still feel like the positives are overshadowed by the negatives.
Now, I'll be honest, I haven't seen the directors cut. People say that it's much better, and I don't doubt that it is. Apparently it makes the character more rounded and improves on the tone. Here's what I say though, does it still have that weird playground dance-fight? Then it still isn't good.
Rotten Tomatoes: 45% Rotten (25% Top Critics, 36% Audience)
Budget: $78 Million
Box Office: $179.1 Million
Daredevil cops a lot of flack, and it's almost all deserved. It fails to pick what tone it wants, jumping between light and dark, and abysmally failing at both. The film's direction is mishandled and the main character is miscast and badly written. The film takes one of Marvel's most interesting, if not popular characters, and tries to make a generic superhero flick, whilst halfheartedly trying to reflect the comics' darkness. The film made a decent amount of money (enough to spawn an even worse spin-off) but it wan't a commercial hit on the level of Spiderman. And whilst I'm sure the director's cut is better, I don't care. This film has been largely forgotten by mainstream audiences (particularly after the infinitely better Netflix show) and I think that's good for everyone.
3 Lessons from Daredevil
1. Pick your tone. Go dark or go light, don't try to make a film that switches between them. It doesn't work.
2. Kingpin changed race for the film, and was the best character, people don't care if the colour of skin is different if the actor fits the role.
3. Daredevil, whilst not a A-Grade hero, and also not being a good film, made a profit. An unfortunate lesson here, people will see a mainstream superhero film regardless of quality.