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Consumed With Hate: Daredevil (2003)

😈 Set Out Runnin' But I'll Take My Time...

The Crime: Daredevil
The Guilty Party: Mark Steven Johnson
Overview: An overly earnest take on a tricky character is mishandled by a director whose love of the property is undermined by him just not being all that good of a filmmaker.

Why I Hate It...

Daredevil was never going to be an easy property to adapt to a live-action movie for mainstream audiences. He is a B-list hero at best. His costume is stupid. His gimmick--wherein the accident that blinded him also enhanced his other senses--is built on tropes that disabled people find offensive. His supporting cast is no help at all: Bullseye and Elektra are C-listers at best, and Kingpin is better known as a Spider-man foe. A lot of his lore was parodied in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which was a much more successful property, which means if he suddenly starts fighting a bunch of ninjas calling themselves "The Hand," people are just going to scratch their heads. I mean, there's a reason the Netflix series avoided most of these things for almost all of its first season (you know, the good one); Kingpin stays mostly in the background, there's no mention of the sillier parts of the lore, and we put off getting the costume until the last possible second. Oh, and on top that, convincing blind acting is actually deceptively hard, but with all of the stunt work required for such a role, you can't just cast an actual blind actor.

All of this to say that this is a tricky movie to make if you don't have some kind of a roadmap, and in 2003 there wasn't a lot to go on. There was no well-worn MCU formula that celebrates the source material while also winking at the audience. There had been one X-men movie and one Spider-Man movie, and Daredevil borrows a lot of its aesthetic from those. And also The Matrix, because everyone was copying The Matrix in the early aughts. And while Mark Steven Johnson definitely loves this character, he never tries to make the audience fall in love with him too, instead just assuming that they'll be along for the ride. (In the industry, this particular trap is known as "the Duncan Jones's Warcraft.") The result is so unflinchingly earnest that it is borderline saccharine. And of course, none of this is helped by the casting. Ben Affleck tries to infuse the character with emotional gravitas, but it just feels silly when he's doing budget wire-fu in red leather and horns. At least he has some chemistry with his then-future-wife Jennifer Garner, who was just straight-up miscast. Which is weird, right? Because Alias was definitely a thing, but all of Garner's and Affleck's scenes feel like they're in the wrong movie.

Weirdly, it's the villains who are the closest thing to a saving grace here. Colin Farrell's Bullseye isn't exactly lifted from the comics, but he's got swagger and some killer screen presence. And Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin was just inspired casting. He's perfect. It was a very early instance color-blind casting in comic book movies, and it's kind of remarkable how unremarkable it was. Seriously, Kingpin is supposed to be a larger than life menace, and the only other actors I can think of who could immediately deliver that on screen are Ving Rhames and Andre the f**king Giant. The movie also had a pretty killer soundtrack that launched the career of Evanescence. Bring Me To Life and My Immortal are both featured prominently in the film.

Anyway, back to senseless bitching. The ending is dumb. The big atta-boy resolution is that the reporter played by Joe Pantoliano decides not to reveal Daredevil's secret identity. The film is safe and milquetoast and oddly overstuffed. Supposedly there was some studio interference to blame here. There's an R-rated director's cut that's about thirty minutes longer and while it's not good, it is reported to be better. Stan Lee hated the movie, claiming that it completely misunderstands the character. Affleck also hates it. And the spin-off Elektra bombed so badly that Ike Perlmutter blocked any attempt at a female-led Marvel movie until his ouster in 2015. Helluva legacy, there Murdock.

Next week, we continue our month of Marvel disappointments with Loki...

In CONSUMED WITH HATE, Kurt is revisiting media that he absolutely did not like one bit. See more posts.