Daredevil (2003)

A little over 20 years ago, in a whole different cinematic era, they made a movie of the Marvel Comics super hero Daredevil. It was a strange, in-between period for comic book movies – they were neither the exciting novelty they’d been in the BATMAN-inspired ‘90s or the dominant cultural force they would soon become with the MCU. BLADE, X-MEN, BLADE II and SPIDER-MAN had come out, so Marvel finally had a track record of successful movie adaptations. But none of these took place in the same world, and there was even a famous outtake from X-MEN where a guy in a Spider-Man costume ran into a scene as a prank, and it seemed hilarious at the time.

DAREDEVIL was a test of what The Ain’t It Cool News and other self-declared “geek” voices on the internet had been preaching. In fact, Harry Knowles wrote a rave review of the script more than a year before filming started. It’s meant to be a dark, gritty and faithful adaptation of a character beloved by comics fans, but not very well known to civilians. Sure enough it was a hit, though only enough to get a spin-off and not multiple sequels like Blade, the X-Men and Spider-Man got.

I always thought it sucked though. I’m not sure why I didn’t review it at the time. I remember people swearing the director’s cut (released on DVD a year later) was great, but I never believed them, because the overall style and tone and vibe were more my issue than anything that could be improved by adding or rearranging scenes. It was not something I had the inclination to revisit.

Until MADAME WEB. That not-good-but-kind-of-amusing off-brand Marvel movie had me nostalgic for the wilderness period of the aughts. It’s set in 2003, so it had me comparing it to the Marvel movies actually released in that year, and I got it into my head I should see how DAREDEVIL plays for me now. Turns out it plays better.

Here is this movie set at night, in a loud, dangerous New York City. Shadowy alleys, steam coming off streets, sirens in the distance, sounds coming from all around, even for those of us without super-powered hearing due to being splashed by barrels of “biological waste” from a truck accident. I was surprised how exciting it felt to see an urban, street level super hero movie again. I guess we haven’t gotten many of those since the rise of the MCU, THE BATMAN being an obvious exception.

But this one has film grain! I’m not saying that sarcastically. The look and feel of the opening drew me in immediately. There’s a kind of laughable CG city, but it can pass for stylized since it’s integrated with the credits, and I like the score by Graeme Revell (THE CROW, MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE), which gathers steam until it becomes a loud explosion with the title, then gets quiet and builds again as we move up a model (I think) of a big church to find Daredevil (Ben Affleck right before a run of GIGLI, PAYCHECK, SURVIVING CHRISTMAS and JERSEY GIRL), Christian name Matt Murdock, on the roof holding onto the cross as a police helicopter passes. He lowers himself inside and falls, injured, to the floor, where a priest (Derrick O’Connor, LETHAL WEAPON 2) tries to comfort him as his life flashes before his eyes. He tells us about it in hard boiled narration that’s corny but mostly works.

He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. As a kid (Scott Terra, EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS) he’s bullied because his boxer dad Jack “The Devil” Murdock (David Keith, WHITE OF THE EYE – great casting) is “a bum,” a former contender who’s now a drunk working for a crime boss named Fallon (Mark Margolis, THE COURIER), kinda like Rocky at the beginning of ROCKY. He tells Matt that’s not true, but when the poor kid sees him on the job he runs away, upset, and causes the accident that blinds and super powers him. Through a training montage (set, I’m afraid, to Hoobastank), Matt learns how to live as a blind person, Jack rededicates himself to a comeback in the ring, and Matt begins to do acrobatics and fight training on top of a building as “the city itself became my playground.”

I’m not sure what the time frame is supposed to be here – surely many months have to have passed, but the bullies run into Matt in an alley and say “Hey Murdock, round 2!” as if their previous scene happened yesterday. That’s the magic of the movies, I guess. If it was following logic they’d be growing mustaches now and not remember who the fuck he is, but cheating allows him to go Zatoichi on their asses.

Fallon orders Jack to throw a fight, but he doesn’t do it, hearing Matt’s encouragement from the crowd, and Fallon has him murdered. So when we cut to Matt now grown up he’s decided to pull a Batman. Or kind of a Blade, actually! His lair is a dank, utilitarian loft full of weapons, and he sleeps in a sensory deprivation tank that looks like a big metal coffin. It is specified that he never brings girlfriends there.

Unlike Batman or Blade he holds down a legitimate day job as a lawyer. His partner Foggy Nelson (Jon Favreau, who had only directed MADE at that point, but in five years would kick off the MCU with IRON MAN) doesn’t seem to share this, but Matt is an idealistic crusader trying to use the system to help the downtrodden. Unfortunately the only thing he seems to have going for him is his ability to detect lies by hearing people’s heartbeats. In the court room he seems to have no idea what the fuck he’s doing, maybe because he’s satisfied with his method of losing every case and then at night putting on his red leather Daredevil costume to hunt down and murder the defendant. Like some sort of punisher. Sometimes he doesn’t even hide his identity – he terrorizes a corrupt cop who lied on the stand by commandeering his BMW and ramming it into parked cars.

Here’s one of the most fun parts of the movie: after spectacularly losing an easy case and making the excuse that “the kingpin” must’ve funded the defense lawyer, Foggy wants to get drunk.

“Not tonight. I got work to do” says Matt, and it zooms into his sunglasses, which then dissolve to a similar shot in the dark with the glasses reflecting his cane extending into a weapon and then a RAMBO-style suiting up sequence followed by spinning of nunchakas and shit. This all seems very BLADE-inspired, and more things should be BLADE-inspired. Then he dives off a building and that part seems like BATMAN FOREVER, except actually cool, in my opinion. It quickly establishes that in this world you can parkour high above a city without Spider-Man powers, and Daredevil can spin and flip off of poles and street lights and things like a gymnast. Straight out of the comics. I love it.

Daredevil finds serial abuser Quesada (Paul Ben-Victor, RED SCORPION 2) celebrating his not guilty verdict at a bar that’s so rowdy bikers ride in and burn rubber next to the stripper cage. The camera floats up to reveal Daredevil crouched high up in the rafters watching Quesada. A thug played by long time Dwayne Johnson stunt double Tanoai Reed happens to notice him up there and points him out. Quesada asks, “Is that guy for real?” and then “Whadda you want?”

Unfortunately Daredevil grunts “JUSTICE!” in the first moment that really made me embarrassed for the movie, but then there’s a fun fight scene where he runs around doing flips, leapfrogging across ceiling fans, running up the cage, sensing bullets enough to dodge them. After eliminating everyone but his target he stands flexing in front of two burning pool tables, sparks spilling from above. I will forgive the soundtrack (apparently the song is by Nickelback) because the dorks who hang out here probly do think that shit is awesome.

I like the energetic style of the camera work – lots of boom shots climbing up tall structures (see also BATMAN, DARKMAN), CG-zooming into Daredevil’s eyes and ears, using ghostly animated figures to represent what he senses from his echo powers. I love the shot where Quesada is running away, falls to his knees next to a puddle, the camera stays on the puddle so we see the reflection of tiny Daredevil on a building above, leaping out and then his feet land in frame, splashing the puddle away. The cinematographer is Ericson Core (PAYBACK, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, the POINT BREAK remake [which he also directed]).

The tone of the movie changes when Matt senses a pretty lady (Jennifer Garner, MR. MAGOO) coming into a coffee shop and hits on her. He follows her, pisses her off and grabs her wrist when she tries to leave, so they start doing kung fu, and are impressed by each other’s skills, so it turns into a flirtatious duel. They throw off their jackets, the guitars start rocking out, the drum machine kicks in, they’re leaping and balancing on seesaws and shit, children gather around and cheer them on. It’s extremely corny but choreographed by the great Cheung-Yan Yuen (IRON MONKEY, TAI CHI MASTER, FIST OF LEGEND, THE RED WOLF, CHARLIE’S ANGELS) with a bunch of wire work, so what can I do? I kinda like it. Some of the other fights are choreographed by Jeff Imada (THE BOOK OF ELI, HANNA, stunt coordinator of many John Carpenter movies), Affleck’s fight trainer is BATMAN fight double David Lea, and other stunt legends who worked on it include Kane Hodder, David Leitch, Al Leong, J.J. Perry, Jonathan Eusebio and Brad Martin. So it’s more of a legit fight movie than most non-BLADE super hero joints.

It turns out the lady is Elektra Natchios, daughter of Greek billionaire Nikolas Natchios (Erick Avari, ENCINO MAN). Also I should mention Joe Pantoliano (RISKY BUSINESS) plays a New York Post reporter named Urich who’s trying to prove that “the Daredevil” isn’t an urban legend, exactly like Robert Wuhl’s character Knox in BATMAN, except with a backwards Kangol instead of a fedora.

I did watch the director’s cut, which is 30 minutes longer, rated R instead of PG-13, and widely agreed to be way better than the theatrical version. I didn’t remember the original enough to notice any difference, but apparently the biggest addition is the subplot about Murdock defending innocent murder suspect Coolio (CHINA STRIKE FORCE). I appreciate the sentiment, but man are they not good scenes.

This fuckin guy

Still, here I was so happy to be experiencing one of those rare cases of a movie I thought was dog shit at the time that I watch years later and discover I like it now. Then, just under 50 minutes into the 133 minute director cut, it lost me. I had rolled with the Elektra kung-fu meet cute, I had forgiven the wackiness with Coolio, but then they turn the movie over to a character I gotta put near Jim Carrey’s The Riddler as one of the all time worst comic book movie villains. I’m fine with the main bad guy Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan right after THE SCORPION KING), a cartoonishly gigantic businessman who’s also the mysterious crime lord known as The Kingpin. My beef is with the assassin he hires, Bullseye (Colin Farrell, DEAD MAN DOWN), the evil master of throwing stuff.

Farrell was kind of the hot new guy, still pretty fresh in his stardom after his critically acclaimed performance in Joel Schumacher’s TIGERLAND got him parts in MINORITY REPORT and THE RECRUIT and Schumacher had him star in PHONE BOOTH. Here he goes mega, doing lots of ridiculous strutting and posing. I found it very annoying at the time, now it plays as parody. But I think it’s less about the performance than the fact that there is no humanly way for an actor to make this interpretation of this character seem cool. Steve McQueen couldn’t do it. Richard Roundtree couldn’t do it. Prince couldn’t do it. Nobody could.

He’s introduced in a comedy scene where a House of Pain song is used to signal that he’s Irish and he kills a guy by flicking paper clips at him. A few minutes later there’s another comedy scene where an old lady sitting next to him on the plane talks too much so he kills her by flicking a peanut. Later projectiles include a throwing star belt buckle, a playing card, a collection plate, and two giant pancake-style stacks of glass shards he catches mid-air after swinging up and kicking out a stained glass window.

Come on, man!

And here’s the biggest problem – he’s supposed to be ExXxTREME! Sometimes he wears a beanie, when he takes it off he’s bald with a target carved into his forehead. He has seven earrings in one ear, two on his eyebrow, the most 2003 sunglasses ever created, a bicycle chain necklace, and a ludicrous lizard-skin-type duster that makes whoosh sound effects when he puts it on or swings it around. He looks like Bono’s loser cousin who thinks he’s edgy, or a guy who got kicked out of the worst band on the soundtrack for this movie.

Which reminds me that all of this is made ten times more stupid by the chunka chunka guitars constantly trying to tell us that Bullseye is soooooo awesome you guys. Personally, I’m not convinced. It’s a relief whenever the movie forgets about him for a bit.

Elektra finds Matt one night (as she promised) and I do kinda like the romance between them. I disapprove of him abruptly ditching her on dates when he hears crimes that he really doesn’t have a duty to get involved with, but movie characters don’t have to make good decisions.

The first time Bullseye is in a non-comedy scene he stands up in a Jesus pose riding a motorcycle through traffic as an original track by Drowning Pool ȵṻ-ḿễⱡǻȴȿ us in the face.

Daredevil hears the guitars and megaphone vocals from above and tries to stop Bullseye from attacking the Natchios’ in their limo. Elektra doesn’t see Bullseye roaring around doing awesome wheelies on his cool guy motorbike, or throwing Daredevil’s cane and impaling her dad, she just sees Daredevil nearby and thinks he’s the killer. After the funeral she decides to redirect her unexplained heavy duty martial arts training toward killing him, and we know she’s ready when she spins her sais and kicks a bunch of hanging sandbags to the dramatic rock ’n roll stylings of Evanescence, with strings arranged by Revell.

Elektra’s quest for vengeance only lasts maybe five minutes of screen time. Now wearing a black leather halter top she attacks Daredevil on a rooftop, and he says, “Wait – it wasn’t me! It was a hitman named Bullseye!” She calls him a liar and does some cool flips and shit. She throws a sai so hard it sticks into a brick wall, then runs up said wall as she pulls it out and gives Daredevil the wound he’s suffering from at the beginning of the movie.

Then she unmasks him and I actually like that she immediately realizes she was wrong and also shows the respect of putting his mask back on him before she turns to duel Bullseye (who shows up right then and whistles at her).

I genuinely like that Daredevil, Elektra and Bullseye all take full advantage of the wire rigs to leap off tall things and toss people around and stuff. And when Bullseye doesn’t bother with his asinine object-throwing shtick, just stabs Elektra with her own sai, lifting her off the ground (in a direct reference to the comic), then tosses her off a roof, it’s pretty effective. Suddenly he’s less joke, more threat. (An hour and 44 minutes into the movie.)

I also like that Kingpin just stays in his penthouse office as a rain storm batters the windows, waiting for Daredevil to show up for a boxing match/cane fight. And that it plays by action movie rules that because he’s large he can just pick up Daredevil, toss him at the ceiling, pick him up with one hand and throw him ten feet into a wall, etc. We get shattered glass, sprinklers going off, the works. Then Daredevil shows he’s learned his lesson and knows murdering is for meanies. That’s the followup to a part I liked earlier where he’s beating up a criminal and a kid who’s there starts crying and saying “Please don’t hurt me.” Daredevil has to stand on a roof in the rain muttering “I’m not the bad guy. I’m not,” to himself. Now he proves it.

So the story ends on a pretty good note – not counting another wacky Coolio scene and one where Urich writes an amateurish article called “DAREDEVIL REVEALED.” After typing Matt Murdock’s name he hovers his finger between the “print” and “delete” keys (are we not supposed to know what those keys do?) and then decides not to go through with outing him, but rather than closing the document without saving it he holds down backspace to watch the whole thing delete one letter at a time. I also want to note that this guy puts two spaces between sentences. Is he new at computers? Everybody sucks at their job in this movie.

The characters that is. The actors are fine. Both Affleck and Garner will seem a little more comfortable in later action roles (THE ACCOUNTANT and PEPPERMINT for example), and Affleck will have more super hero gravitas by the time he’s playing Batman. But they have many good moments in this and not that many bad ones. They don’t seem as smooth with the martial arts as, say, Keanu, but they definitely put alot of work into it. On the blu-ray extras we learn that they did the whole playground fight without doubles, and there are a bunch of outtakes of Affleck in another scene doing a wire assisted jump over and over until he gets it right, even though he’s wearing the mask and could surely let somebody else do it.

By the way, I always thought this leather Daredevil costume looked dumb, but what they made the poor little guy in the TV version wear taught me to appreciate it. Affleck looks sleeker, his mask is much cooler, his jaw and expressions look way better. So it didn’t bother me anymore.

This is the rare comic book movie from a writer/director, but Mark Steven Johnson had only directed SIMON BIRCH and his other writing credits were GRUMPY OLD MEN, GRUMPIER OLD MEN, BIG BULLY and JACK FROST. (He would later write and direct GHOST RIDER.) I will say this for him: he does way better than that filmography would imply.

20+ years later I was not fully won over by DAREDEVIL, but I don’t hate it anymore. I mostly just hate Bullseye. And the soundtrack. But I was almost 30 when this came out, I’m supposed to hate that shit. (Daredevil: The Album was certified gold and made it to #9 on the US Billboard charts.)

If DAREDEVIL and I can’t be allies, at least we’re not enemies anymore. I promise never to flick paper clips at it or anything.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 29th, 2024 at 12:01 pm and is filed under Reviews, Action, Comic strips/Super heroes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “Daredevil (2003)”

  1. I don’t think anybody ever called the director’s cut “great”. It was more of an ALIEN³ situation, where the longer version made the movie better, but still not good. (Plus: someone releasing a much longer version of any movie is always a plus among movie fans, even if the results still suck.)

    The biggest difference between the two versions, outside from the Coolio subplot, was a scene where Daredevil hears someone cry for help while he is on a date with Elektra, but decides to ignore it and then they fuck. In the director’s cut he instead ditches her and helps, which is kinda weird, if you think about it. One would think that the theatrical cut would have the “safe” version, where the hero doesn’t listen to his dick and instead does hero stuff, while the autheur cut would reinstate the scene that could make the hero look like a selfish dick. Also if I remember right, in the director’s cut Leland Orser betrays Kingpin in the end, while he just disappears in the theatrical version and the police shows up for no good reason

    I really didn’t get the Colin Farrell hype by that time. I thought it was awful in everything. Until around 2006 or so, when he suddenly became…good! Even his non-dramatic SCRUBS guest spot made me go “Woah, what happened to that motherfucker? He stepped up his game!” And then of course IN BRUGE came out and I became a fan.

    It was really an odd time for superhero movies. BATMAN & ROBIN was still a punchline. But we also had 2 X-MEN movies and Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN, which even got lots of love from “serious” critics and were huge smash hits. Then DAREDEVIL came out and everybody was like “Oh yeah, right, superhero movies can be bad, we forgot.”

    The soundtrack, well…you know I’m a SONGS FROM AND INSPIRED BY THE MOTION PICTURE compilation collector and of course I own it. But yeah, this isn’t another case of “Bad movie with great soundtrack”. The two Evanescence songs (BRING ME TO LIFE and MY IMMORTAL) still hold up IMO, there is a Moby song that is not bad but definitely not one of his best works and of course that song during the motorcycle scene from Drowning Pool and Rob Zombie (If I remember correctly, Zombie did it mostly as a favour after their original singer died), but the rest is just really forgettable and was even on release kinda blah.

    In conclusion: Go watch BLADE 2 again.

  2. Ooof, this one. I remember Affleck talking in retrospect about how during this time he was in the midst of heavy alcohol abuse. I’d hate to be drunk in a movie like this. The iffy wirework especially — performers used to train for months to do wirework, but this period in Hollywood, they thought they could just toss, like, Drew Barrymore into a harness and everything would be fine.

    I actually recently finished the TV series (well, the first two seasons) and I gotta say, they wipe the floor with this movie by comparison. This movie just wants to be too jokey, too light. The playground bit stretched all credulity. Michael Clarke Duncan has the absolute ideal physique for Kingpin, but why does he come across so smiley and good-natured? Not suitable for any villain, let alone Wilson Fisk.

    I wonder what they’re planning for the third Deadpool in regards to this movie? I know Jennifer Garner was confirmed to be in it, and Ben Affleck was seen on-set. Is there going to be all-out redemption? Or is Ryan Reynolds going to be cracking wise about how we were all inexplicably listening to Evanescence in 2003?

  3. As a child Daredevil fan, I was expecting this movie to pretty much suck. But then it had that great opening you mention. Which made the fact it did indeed pretty much suck that much more painful.

    Oh, and after years of hearing the director’s cut was “actually good” I finally saw it at a used movie/music place and bought it for $14.99. I don’t even think I finished it, and now every time a female is over I panic that she’ll see it on the shelf, and I’ll have to explain that I don’t actually like it.

    Anyway, I figure I should talk about the movie if I was going to comment, but really that’s just a preamble for:

    I also want to note that this guy puts two spaces between sentences. Is he new at computers? Everybody sucks at their job in this movie.

    You have to do that when writing something that has to an editor via hard copy (like for a newspaper), as it allows room for annotations and all the editorial marks.

  4. You have to do that when writing something that has to an editor via hard copy

    I just did that so I could demonstrate how an editor would put a ^ with a ‘to go’ on top between the ‘has’ and ‘to’

  5. Geez this must have aged well, I remember Bullseye as the only redeeming element of this movie. Colin Farrell with actual Irish accent chewing scenery? Love it. Jennifer Garner as my beloved Elektra?….?!

  6. CJ – As I mentioned in the review it plays very weird in the director’s cut that he suddenly abandons her during a romantic moment just because he hears dudes yelling at each other! But it’s already been established that he had a girlfriend he completely neglected and she had to break up with him over voicemail because she couldn’t find him and had never been to his home.

    Glaive Robber – Are you sure that wasn’t Batman he was talking about doing while having a drinking problem? Maybe it was both. He definitely said that part of quitting THE BATMAN (which he was gonna direct and star in at one time) was a friend telling him he might literally die.

    As I’m sure I’ve said here before I’ve tried the show two times but I just hate the tone of it so much. The guy is so uncool and whiny, the comic relief guy is even worse, the pacing is deadly, with that early Netflix style where the episodes are meant to drone on and blend into each other instead of ever tell a specific story. I know everybody loves that one fight scene but I already got to it and I could see a better one by putting on any Scott Adkins movie and I wouldn’t have to sit through a half hour of interminable Foggy Nelson shtick.

    I can’t imagine any of the characters cameoing in DEADPOOL 3 would be for anything other than a joke. But actually putting an Evanescence song on it would make me laugh.

    jojo – I don’t mean double spacing, I mean hitting the space bar twice after a period. It’s a thing left over from typewriters that you don’t have to do on computers because they already know how to space it properly, so I just think it’s funny when people (including Harry Knowles back in the day) do it. But the sucking at his job is more about the terrible writing of the article (which you can see when you pause it) and not knowing how to delete a file.

  7. The Frank Miller Daredevil run is my favorite comic of all time, that title is set in stone and retired no matter what Miller has said or done since, maybe it’s the impressionable age at which I consumed them, don’t really know or care. I probably read the double-size Bullseye v Elektra every day for a month when it came out.

    I saw this once, think it was a Netflix rental, and it was basically a shrug for me. I neither loved nor hated it, despite the fast-and-loose treatment of my beloved comics. Maybe by that point I was able to accept a story could be told more than one way, and nothing about it nullified what happened in print. Funnily enough, I remember thinking the spin on Bullseye as being in the plus column somehow. Might have a different view this time.

    The coolest touch I thought was the sensory deprivation tank, that was a neat way to extend the look into DD’s world with something the comics didn’t really show—how the hell does the guy sleep?

  8. @Vern, it’s a little depressing, but I think Affleck has openly talked about SEVERAL periods of alcoholism. “Daredevil” was during the period his marriage to Jennifer Lopez was ending and his DC dalliance coincided with the dissolution of the marriage to Garner. I’ve met the guy, good dude, very cool. But you can tell he’s got a problem (or two?)

    As for the show, well, I came in as a hardcore skeptic. Charlie Cox seemed like such a nonce, I was immediately doubtful. I will concede that the dude playing Foggy is a real drain (and Karen comes across as a dope), and yes, I dislike modern TV because they’re always trying to bide time with endless exposition, just dudes in rooms talking and talking and talking, no cinema whatsoever. But, I dunno… it makes SENSE that Matt Murdock would be a whiny dork of sorts. Daredevil seems like he should be an uncool dude. It’s not like he’s a wimp — the fight scenes are great, I disagree with the comparison to Scott Adkins (Adkins comes out on top there, but the difference between, say, Avengement and Daredevil isn’t THAT big). And as a Marvel fan, the stuff between him and the Punisher was EXACTLY what I want to see in a Marvel property, and you rarely if ever get that from the other shows and movies, the uneasy alliance, the dueling philosophies, the fisticuffs, the painstaking attempt at actually making a plausible Punisher (which only Tom Jane arguably tried, and failed at)(I am making my way towards the Punisher series).

    BTW, did anyone ever catch those TOTALLY AWESOME concept trailers for Joe Carnahan’s Daredevil?
    For anyone unaware (and I’m sure a lot of you are), FOX considered making a Daredevil reboot shortly before the rights reverted back to Marvel. They went to David Slade first, and then Carnahan. Carnahan’s pitch was to do an R-rated Daredevil trilogy taking place in the 70’s and 80’s, and he made a trailer splicing together NYC-shot movies of that era and comic panels to emphasize the very dark vibe he was trying, I think they’re on YouTube. Supposedly FOX said no to Carnahan, and simply let the rights lapse.
    (I heard a rumor at the time, Marvel offered to let FOX extend the Daredevil rights if they’d surrender Galactus and Silver Surfer and FOX refused. I wonder if that was true).

  9. Sometimes I wonder why rock music has lost its mainstream appeal, and then I remember nu metal, and I realize that it got what it deserved. (Outside of Deftones, who are actually good, I suppose Evanescence were the only tolerable nu metal band of that era.) I remember cracking up a lot while watching this movie because it was just so corny, and I do think the early aughts rawk needle drops will prevent this film from ever getting a full reappraisal like the Star Wars prequels did.

  10. Vern: Yeah, his neglected ex-gilfriend was also a director’s cut addition.

    RBatty: I feel like I have to defend NuMetal. Kinda. Not all of it. I won’t stand up for Limp Bizkit or whatever, but it revitalized a genre that needed a kick in the ass by that point, after Grunge had run its course and nobody knew what else to do for a while. So they added Rap and Electronic influences and actually became hard and fast again and for a while it worked! It had its certain amount of cheese, but I guess so has every era of Rock. By now the genre is just looking for it next revolution, but of course it feels like everything has been done before, so that might take a while.

    Also Evanescence probably don’t fit into that category, even if their big breakout hit had a rap part. Haven’t listened to all of their stuff, but they seemed to be all around more gothy than Nu.

  11. It’s been so long since I’ve seen this and I probably owe it a second look, given that there’s a version out that’s literally rated-R. My tastes these days run such that I would prefer them legitimately trying to make Bullseye badass/cool rather than defensively self-mocking their material (“My name is Otto Octavius.”/”Ha ha! No, seriously, what’s your name?”) even if they didn’t manage it. I wasn’t crazy about the “he kills people, but then he learns killing is wrong, so he stops doing it instead of killing SuperHitler” arc in the comparatively recent Batfleck movies and I don’t think I’d like it more here. Okay, if you believe killing is wrong now, shouldn’t you turn yourself in?

    Aside from that, I recall the movie just suffering from throwing too many characters and storylines into two hours. Say what you will about the Netflix show and its execution, but it had the right idea spacing this stuff out instead of mixing it all in at once.

  12. Even though this film had Arschfleck in it, it was still surprisingly good. I remember its director making several actually fun, entertaining comic book films as well – there was definitely the one about that flaming skeleton character… All of his pictures were infinitely better than all this modern dcmarvel refuse.

  13. The neglected ex-girlfriend was in the theatrical cut, or at least the voicemail is.

    My memory, is that in the Directors’ Cut the prologue went on much longer in a way that felt kind of unwieldy, and kind of “off” structurally. Not as in “this is really boring” off, but as in “mainstream films aren’t structured this way in the 2000s off”. I’m not sure as I saw the two cuts years apart. I could look it up easily enough I’m sure, but it’s more fun to speculate off of half-formed memories. Kind of funny to think the Directors’ Cut would be on the shorter or at least middle end of the current MCU Phase lengthwise.

    By the time SWAT came out that summer, there was enough excitement here about BALLYKISSANGEL alumni Colin Firth’s rising Hollywood stardom that the UK VHS (still the dominant format here in 2003 whatever anyone tells you) had a sticker added to it that let you know that, rest assured that while the printed cover only mentioned Affleck and Garner, the film in the box would be “Featuring Colin Farrell as Arch Assassin Bullseye”. For whatever reason this was so funny to my friend and I that we always referred to this film as “DAREDEVIL FEATURING COLIN FARRELL AS BULLSEYE”. I hadn’t actually seen the film yet, so I kind of forgot the character’s name one time and just came up with the first remotely appropriate seeming thing that came to mind, which somehow was KnifeNose. Actually, you know what “Nifenose” would be cooler. DAREDEVIL FEATURING COLIN FARRELL AS NIFENOSE. We had fun coming up with Nifenose’s backstory, something about an accident in a glue and knife factory. Whether or not Nifenose would have been any sillier than Bullseye is for you to wonder.

    I feel like in recent years the definition of Nu-Metal has expanded in the public’s perception to include more straight ahead rock from the early 00s that was being called “butt rock” a few years ago. Other than Linkin’ Park and Limp Bizkit for a while, and indeed Evanescence, you never really heard any of this stuff in the UK outside of films. The albums sold well, and sure there was the odd How You Remind Me or Been a While or The Reason that broke through. But other than that, unless you went to your friend’s Kerrang-loving house, you would only hear it in films. It was never my scene, and I don’t think it’s aged particularly well, but when I see a film from this era and one of these songs comes up I do get that Proustian rush of “oh yeah, this stuff was in every film or TV series targeted at teens for years”; even some of the SAW end credits! So I guess it has wormed its way into a place in my affections.

    The film itself, I don’t have any strong opinions on. It’s kind of tacky in ways that have been covered extensively over the past 20 years, but not fatally so. Perhaps even charmingly so from a 2024 perspective. And like BLADE, SPAWN, THE PUNISHER, CONSTANTINE etc for those of us who were members of the Dennis & Gnasher Fan Club rather than the True Believers Letter or whatever it did feel like dipping your toe in the waters the Headgeeks, Kevin Smiths and Elijah Prices had spent much of their life in, not pure waters but a taste of the worlds you had not previously seen teased to you through the mediums of tooth brushes and Tiger Electronic games etc.

    Tom Jane PUNISHER totally did not hold up for me unfortunately. Shame as I really, really liked that one back in the day, and I’m not one to usually wheel out the “I don’t like this any more card”, I can usually at least partly see why I liked something if nothing else.

  14. Well, I liked it.

    I should say I haven’t watched this in years and still haven’t seen the director’s cut, so I don’t know if it will hold up to my current sensibilities, but I’ve been meaning to revisit this. I want to find out if we really didn’t know how good we had it in 2003. (I also need to watch Ang Lee’s HULK again.)

    I’m sure there is a bunch of stuff I can nitpick to death, some of which is due to the 2003 of it all, but at the time this was one of the more “faithful” comic book adaptations, and a nice bit of fun, like a “greatest hits” for the character. Definitely better than Mark Steven Johnson’s attempt at GHOST RIDER. I prefer Affleck’s Daredevil to his Batman, and gun to my head I’d probably pick Farrell’s Bullseye over his Penguin. I think this was the first time I’d seen Colin Farrell in anything– and the way I remember it is that Bullseye is the best part of this movie! Incredible scenery-gobbling energy. And Michael Clarke Duncan was inspired casting for Kingpin.

    I never took to the Tom Jane PUNISHER, but the Dolph and Ray Stevenson ones are both underrated gems.

  15. BTW, did anyone ever catch those TOTALLY AWESOME concept trailers for Joe Carnahan’s Daredevil?

    (I seem to remember Carnahan was involved/responsible)

    Uh… If by “TOTALLY AWESOME” you mean “funny”– then, sure– I agree
    I mean, he makes some aesthetic mistakes by declaring it “NC-17” instead of “XXX”, and by using clips of Taxi Driver and The Warriors instead of The Exterminator and The Bronx Warriors. But he’s Joe Carnahan, after all. Even his fake trailers are going to miss the mark a smidgen. To thy own self be true, and all.

  16. “Mom, Dad! Wake up!!! Wake UP!!!! Vern reviewed fucking DAREDEVIL!!!!”

    I love this goofy ass movie. As an undiscerning little Catholic kid who hadn’t really been allowed to see action movies, Daredevil blew my mind, if only because I had *no point of comparison*. (If it was the most hard-edged, mature thing I’d ever seen in theaters at 10, I think that’s just because its only competition at that point was like. Monsters Inc.) Amusingly, it was released on Valentine’s Day 2003, which signals it as a true studio “programmer”– this ain’t no summer blockbuster. Henceforth, all my close friends and I joke that February 14th is, and always has been, Daredevil Day. Maybe that’s why it was released on February 14th– becuz on account of they knew that February 14th was Daredevil Day. Makes sense to me.

    Some of the best and worst things about Daredevil come back to its screenplay and its structure. I can’t think of another superhero movie that is structured like this: opening in media res when the hero is absolutely fucked, flash back to the origin sequence, then flash forward to our hero having been that superhero for what appears to be a few years (another way that this movie is an odd dry run for The Batman). When we meet Matt Murdock, he has been Daredeviling for a while, and it seems miserable. The violence in this movie hurts. Matt returning to his apartment after a night of Daring the Devil to pop pills, yank out a broken tooth, and sleep in the Affleck Soup Tank was really unique at the time, and still feels sort of special in how lonely and grimy it is. It captures an aspect of Daredevil that Frank Miller articulates in the (actually very good) special features: Daredevil is the only superhero defined by what he *cant* do.

    On the flipside, this movie almost doesn’t have a second act. Like you were saying, Elektra becoming a Leather Vengeance Warrior takes like 5 minutes of screen time. This movie has an hour and change of setup, and then you’re suddenly in the final battles. You really feel Mark Steven Johnson trying to condense a run of comics that he genuinely seems to love into a 2 hour Hoobastank action movie, and it struggles to make the adaptation, but at least it struggles in interesting ways.

    Always happy to see my boy Graeme Revell, the musical king of 90’s-2000’s emo kid movies, getting a shoutout. His Daredevil theme is deliciously brooding and haunted, he’s able to play it alternately for deep loneliness and goosebump-inducing grandeur. Revell specialized in this sort of moody, orchestral-electronic hybrid sound, some of which is very dated, but always fitting for the movie. 21 years later, this movie’s butt rock needle drops are an amusing but essential part of what anyone remembers about it (impossible to imagine this movie’s vibe without Linkin Park, Drowning Pool, Fuel etc) but plenty of scenes make me wonder if they’d be less embarrassing if they let Revell do the heavy lifting instead of . Maybe we’ll be at odds about this one, but I’d argue that the big exception to that is the Evanescence songs. Bring Me to Life has, in my little old opinion, endured as a non-embarrassing classic, and Jennifer Garner’s absurd knife-twirling training montage (who set up these sand bags to a pulley system? who’s cleaning them up??) kind of makes me pump my fists. Maybe that’s just nostalgia, but it’s kind of infectious to me all these years later. It wouldn’t be Daredevil without it. It is firmly a superhero movie of the bygone “Music From and Inspired By” era. Raise a glass.

  17. This fell right smack in the middle of my somewhat regrettable comic book phase, so I was well-attuned to how badly it missed the mark. Every 15 minutes or so, there’d be an isolated moment that almost felt like the Daredevil I knew, but it would quickly be subsumed by all the shitty CGI, tacky production design, and unbelievably shitty soundtrack choices. You get the sense that the mission statement was “Make it like SPIDER-MAN, but gritty!” which in 2003 meant Crow-ify it by 15% by slathering it with Hot Topic and neu-metal. The movie never stood a chance.

    Mostly what sinks it, though, is the casting. I like Affleck, but he’s all wrong for the role. He’s just the wrong body type for Daredevil (made even more glaring by his close proximity to hetero lifemate Matt Damon, who would have been perfect), not just because he doesn’t match the punchy, compact, welterweight look of the comics, but because it looks stupid when a six-four beefcake bounces all over the screen like a fuckin’ Gummi Bear. Affleck worked for Batman because Snyder found a style of movement that complemented a guy who’s built like a brick shithouse, but here they forced him into a type of action that he’s just not suited for. He’s a juggernaut, not an acrobat.

    Also, while Vern’s all-consuming hatred of Charlie Cox will never not be delightful, I don’t see how anyone can think he looks dorkier in his costume than Affleck looks in his. I agree with most of Vern’s criticisms of that show, which lost my interest pretty quick, but Cox at least looked comfortable in his get-up, which Affleck never did.

    Glaive: If you want some unsolicited advice, I’d skip the PUNISHER show. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to make a more boring, less satisfying product out of the assembled ingredients. Bernthal is perfect casting and they totally wasted him on a show that has more scenes of lady DAs in smart pantsuits drinking wine and discussing their careers than it does shootouts. When the action finally does arrive, it’s not just unwatchable, it’s unseeable. Everything is so dark they might as well have left the lens cap on and made a radio play. If I were you, I’d stick to the first season of JESSICA JONES, the first half of the first season of LUKE CAGE, and finish up with THE DEFENDERS, which isn’t great but at least it’s fast and more or less delivers on its promises. Everything else in the Marvel Netflix slate is a total drag.

  18. Oh yeah, did this actually invent the Valentine’s counter-programmer? That’s a trick since practiced by such fine gentlepeople as Detective John McClane, Detective John Ghost Rider, Sonic the Hedgehog, and why just a few weeks ago dear Madame Web herself.

  19. The two best things Frank Miller ever wrote/created are DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN & BATMAN:YEAR ONE. I’ve always liked BORN AGAIN just a tiny bit better – he integrates the hard boiled crime/detective pulp elements a little better, as well as being true to narrative mainstream comic book conventions. It is certainly a huge influence on this movie, and any visual movie/tv presentation of Daredevil the character. ELEKTRA ASSASSIN & ELEKTRA LIVES AGAIN (the only comic here actually drawn by Miller are also really excellent. ELEKTRA ASSASSIN is pretty interesting in the Miller ‘oeuvre because it is actually at times uproariously funny.

  20. Hey I still put two spaces between sentences. It is the right thing to do.

    I prefer ELEKTRA to this one because it is so unbelievably stupid that it becomes a little bit entertaining.

  21. Thank you Rbatty 20 for clarification that Deftones are a great band and hated being lumped in to that particular nu metal crowd. Chino had more on his mind than breaking stuff.

  22. It’s been 20 years since I saw this (and I don’t intend to revisit it, life is too fleeting) but my memory of it was that Colin Farrell’s MEGA acting and general silliness was the most entertaining thing about it. I’d forgotten about the sensory deprivation chamber, but that sounds quite cool.

    I thought the DAREDEVIL series was okay, but like all those Netflix marvel shows, the pacing was a killer. They had a six (maybe eight, tops) episode season that they had to stretch out to thirteen (or whatever) to feed whatever algorithm Netflix believed thought worked for binge-watching.

  23. What’s notable about this one is how it’s able to stand on its own. It has its own unique feel and aesthetic, and it’s not bogged down in adhering to an interconnected cinematic universe with 20+ films of baggage. All these MCU films today feel like they’re generated outta a machine and on an assembly line. 2003’s DAREDEVIL manages to be its own animal in a time before movies decided that they needed to be 2.5+ hours long and connected to a never ending cog.

  24. Unlike Vern, I was 17 when this came out and it was squarely aimed at me. Unfortunately, a lot of it missed the target (unlike Bullseye the character), and was a goofy or disappointing mess (like Bullseye the movie character).

    I had read the then-recent Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada (I wonder how he felt about his namesake character in the movie being a scummy abuser?) Daredevil run that reignited Daredevil’s popularity and made this movie possible, and I was familiar with/read some of the legendary Frank Miller run (and had read Born Again). I like the idea of getting the origin done and then jumping ahead til he has years of experience, but that doesn’t serve the other characters well. Kingpin doesn’t get enough time or context and should have been more menacing. Bullseye is a pose, not a character. And Elektra gets run through a movie or two’s worth of character beats in like 30 minutes. And with the caveat that I have never seen Alias, I have always found Jennifer Garner incredibly bland and unappealing. My long-time description of her was “white bread, the person.” So, the idea that she was going to play an exotically beautiful Greek woman who you could fall in love with almost instantaneously was already questionable for me, and she is supposed to be a deadly assassin but I don’t buy Garner’s physicality at all. She is not helped by a script that depicts her life’s most important moments as footnotes to Daredevil’s story, and the black outfit is as bland as everything else about this iteration of Elektra.

    I actually thought Affleck was decent as DD. At the time I thought he pulled off battered, depressed, and physically suffering pretty well, now I wonder how much of that haggard quality came from his own problems at the time. That first 30 minutes or so I was completely on board, but everything with Elektra and Bullseye was a whiff. I liked the visual style, and some of the action was decent. I didn’t hate the movie at the time, standards were pretty low for comic book movies. It obviously wasn’t on the level of Blade, X-Men, or Spider-Man, but it wasn’t as shitty as Spawn or Steel, or a cheap joke like some of the older Marvel productions.

    I had been into a fair amount of the nu-metal stuff, but I was already phasing out of it and the Daredevil soundtrack was like a vortex of the worst aspects of the entire late 90s/early 00s alternative/nu-metal/butt rock spectrum. Looking at it now, the only band I even liked then was Finger Eleven, and I don’t recognize the song.
    Props to my fellow commenters for separating the Deftones from that crowd. I am genuinely embarrassed I briefly listened to Limp Bizkit as a teen, I haven’t listened to Korn in nearly 20 years, but the Deftones are still my favorite band. Even back when they were lumped in with “nu metal” you could hear their diverse musical interests (everything from Sade and The Smiths to math metal and hardcore) poking through in ways that made them unique. Starting with White Pony in 2000 they fully embraced that range, and their music has only grown more lush and satisfying in the decades since. Their 8th album Gore (from 2016) is actually my favorite, that’s not something I can say about any other long lasting band.

    I thought Affleck’s costume looked terrible. I can see some debate over the Affleck mask vs. the Cox mask (I don’t think either nailed it), but the zip-up top Affleck had was goofy as hell. Cox’s suit is kind of bland, but looks effective. Weirdly, the coolest Daredevil has looked on screen was when Cox was wearing the poor-man’s-ninja get up from Born Again. We all kept waiting for the costume, then it arrived, and I thought “can we go back to the black turtleneck and stocking mask?”

  25. Swamp Thing's Man-Thing

    March 4th, 2024 at 2:59 pm

    I wasn’t sure what to think about this “Daredevil”, but then I looked over, and Kurt Russell was laughing pretty hard, so I guess it’s OK.

    (^- Anyone remember THAT?)

  26. Commissioner Gordon has a beer and cheats on his wife.

  27. I didn’t know what that was, and tried to figure out what it was. Only thing I could find was that DARK BLUE came out on DAREDEVIL’s second weekend at #1. I wondered if Kurt had been literally laughing at the competition. Didn’t know/guess it was one of those AICN proto-memes.

    I also discovered that DAREDEVIL came out the same weekend as THE JUNGLE BOOK 2, which is kind of to early-00s kiddie culture as DAREDEVIL is to early-00s teen culture, which is to say, yes it does have a Smash Mouth cover of I Wanna Be Like You.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>