With the new Netflix original DareDevil series now live (I’m already 5 episodes in) I rewatched DareDevil (2003) recently and is another movie that I didn’t want to completely review, but I did want to point out some of my favourite parts, because yes I have some.
My personal opinion is that DareDevil is often wrongly maligned. There were aspects of it which made the whole weaker – arguably it would have been stronger without Bullseye and Electra or if the love story had been a bit less prominent. But people shouldn’t be too quick to discount the entire movie, because actually there are some real gems in there!
My first and only exposure to DareDevil as a character before this movie was the 1989 TV Movie “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk“. I loved this as a kid and would like to have seen more of Matt Murdock, which is why I went and saw DareDevil as soon as it hit cinemas. At the time I loved it, on repeat viewings I still love it, but over time I have learned to appreciate things about it that I think are even more impressive as the genre of superhero movies has flourished.
The Casting –
When I first heard that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, I didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t really have a strong reaction either way, unlike much of the internet. I wasn’t surprised by the reaction, after all big casting like this always unleashes the internet feels. What I was surprised about was how many people held up DareDevil as an example of why he shouldn’t have been cast. I’m not a massive Affleck fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in this.
There are some weaker moments, as with the movie overall, but he plays both Matt and DareDevil well. Personally there’s only one actor who I feel has captured my perception of Batman so far and that was Michael Keaton. With Keaton you can feel the traces of insanity bubbling just under the surface. Some thing that I feel has been sadly lacking in other portrayals, and certainly in Christian Bale’s, who I thought was terrible as Batman. I’m totally happy to give Affleck a go as Batman, he will undoubtedly be better than many of his predecessors having already played (arguably) Marvel’s version of Batman.
There were some people unhappy with the casting of Michael Clarke Duncan as the original character is white. All such people need to get over it, you can read more here on my views on the updating of race and gender in comic movies. Not only should it not matter about the colour of his skin, what we should be looking at how he embodies the role, and he does a great job, at times giving a menacing performance. Weaker elements of the movie, such as the inclusion of Bullseye, sadly detract from Duncan’s performance.
Comic Book Framing
For the majority of the movie the tone is fantastic – fittingly neo-noir. In some ways superior to its contemporaries, X-Men and Spider-Man, in terms of creating the atmosphere of the source material. What it certainly has over the others is it’s framing. Some scenes especially stand out as being incredibly well thought through and set up to appear like the panel of a comic book – with scenes taken shot for shot from the source material. This is rarely used in the movies, the other big example being 300, and it works incredibly well for this movie. It is something that sets the movie apart from many other comic book based movies.
DareDevil has the fortune, unlike say Superman, of having a reasonably good costume in the source material. Other than being a bit deeper red than some of the version in the comics, it is pretty faithful and it does the job. If anything it is even more effective than any incarnation of the Batman costume in being the right side of believable and not just kind of kooky (who dresses up as a bat?!).
Limited Origin Story
Something more recent Superhero movies can learn from perhaps. Matt Murdoch the lawyer and DareDevil the vigilante are introduced well. DareDevil gets to the point quite quickly and assumes the audience can keep up. In the beginning of the movie we learn as much as we need to, avoiding the whole movie being taken up as his origin story. Instead we focus on his life as he arrives at a time where he can avenge his father’s death – the whole reason he is DareDevil.