Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson.
Daredevil is quite a bit better than I expected. I missed it in theaters because I didn’t know a thing about the comic book hero, and because I didn’t know Jennifer Garner was in it. It turns out to be nicely dark—darker even than the Dark Knight series—with interesting fight sequences and an intriguing romance-driven plot. I’m disappointed there isn’t a sequel with the same protagonist.
Ben Affleck plays Matt Murdock, a lawyer blind since childhood, who takes clients who can’t always pay in cash. The office he shares with his partner Foggy Nelson (Jon Favreau) is crammed with sports equipment and other items received as payment for the firm’s services. The accident that took Murdock’s sight also left his other senses extremely heightened, in a super power kind of way. He can’t see, but his hearing is so acute that it serves as kind of a radar, so he can judge shapes and distances through (I suppose) echolocation. These super senses, combined with a restless, reckless need for justice, serve him at night, when he dons a costume and fights crime as a mysterious, mythical character named Daredevil. I have long thought that Ben Affleck doesn’t get enough credit for his acting chops, and he does better than an apt job with this role.
That’s pretty cool, but add a few details, and you really have something. Murdock lives in the stony, unlit basement of an old Catholic church, sleeping in a water-filled sarcophagus that acts as a sensory deprivation chamber. He has no family, and his father’s murder is unsolved many years later. He literally smells attractive women before they enter a building, and he has some nicely honed moves for getting to know them. I have often wondered why superheroes in these films are never horndogs—I mean, given their abilities and their abundance of testosterone, it seems like a natural thing. Now I’ve seen two in three weeks who seem to enjoy the company of women (the other is Deadpool, but we see this before he has any powers, so he’s not employing his advantages). There’s also a short Kevin Smith appearance I appreciated.
I love Jennifer Garner, so my opinion here is disproportionately influenced by my affection, but her smart, tough, feline portrayal of Elektra Natchios, who seems able to keep up with Murdock, makes the film work. She’s a great love interest for him, and an obvious choice for the spinoff series we never got. Michael Clarke Duncan and Colin Farrell as the villains are fine, but the characters are (and I realize I shouldn’t complain about this in a comic book movie) silly and cartoonish.
This could have been the beginning of a great series. As it is, it’s like watching a great TV show pilot and never getting to see any other episodes: promising but just a bit flat.