Not everyone sees eye-to-eye. You might love something that’s reviled by most others. When we at PoP! feel like that, we make an argument In Defense Of…
Word came down just last week that the Daredevil movie rights have reverted back to Marvel Studios. What better time to reexamine 2003′s Daredevil? Man, Mark Steven Johnson loves comics. And he REALLY wants to make a hit comic book movie. This is a man who wrote and directed both Daredevil and Ghost Rider and also produced the Ghost Rider semi-sequel. While neither of his comic book adaptations have tanked (Ghost Rider did very well internationally), neither have been blockbuster hits. Thanks to its relatively low budget, Daredevil turned a pretty nice profit, grossing over $179 million worldwide. That’s a pretty good return, so much that I really don’t understand why we’ve not seen a sequel or one of those hip reboots that are all the rage these days until now.
Despite its good return, Daredevil is not remembered fondly by most fans. I saw it opening day ten years ago and have since seen it dozens of times and have bought it three times. I had the DVD, the director’s cut DVD and now the director’s cut on blu-ray. You could say that I’m a fan. Then again, I’m a hardcore Daredevil fan in general (as noted by my “Guardian Devil” tattoo). Even so, that’s not a guarantee to like the movie. I’m a Spider-Man fan, too, and I know Spider-Man 3 is an abomination. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the hate this movie gets. I tell myself it must be because most people haven’t seen the infinitely superior director’s cut, but even the theatrical cut isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.
Aside from a couple of sketchy CG moments, there’s not a whole lot I ever found issue with in Daredevil. There are some deviations from the comic story, but I appreciate not having the comics regurgitated at me verbatim in a movie. It presents Matt’s origin and the accident that gave him his powers as good as any movie could. The effects used to convey the radar sense are really cool. All of the performances are solid, from Ben Affleck’s damaged Matt Murdock to Colin Farrell’s manic Bullseye (the airplane peanut scene gets me every time). There was some ridiculous controversy when the late Michael Clark Duncan was cast as the Kingpin because there was a segment of fandom that apparently felt Wilson Fisk really needed to be a white guy much more than he needed to be an enormous scary beast of a man.
People will point to the playground scene as a weak point, but I love it. It’s like super-flirting. It’s two remarkable people testing each other in a remarkable way and in a movie that will take some really dark turns, it’s a much-needed fun scene. Every action sequence in the movie is expertly crafted. There are some plot places that aren’t totally perfect, but most of those weak spots are a direct result of studio interference. If you have hated on Daredevil and haven’t seen the director’s cut, I highly recommend it. It eliminates any short-comings from a narrative perspective.
The story goes that Fox wanted an edgy R-rated superhero movie/courtroom thriller. You know… like a good arc of Daredevil. So Johnson and co. made that movie. After it was finished, the studio decided they really just wanted a PG-13 superhero movie. The result is over 30 minutes of material on the cutting room floor since there are two entire subplots that were completely removed for the theatrical release. Matt takes on a case that ultimately leads him to Wilson Fisk as the Kingpin instead of him just sort of wandering into his office, soon followed by the police. It shows that detective side of the character that makes him so interesting in the comics.
Maybe at the end of the day Daredevil is a character not meant for everyone. He’s never had the comic sales of Spider-Man or Batman, so maybe a blockbuster isn’t in the cards for him. I can accept that, but that doesn’t change the fact that he already got a pretty solid movie. If they’d stuck with the original plan, he could have had a really good movie (as seen in the aforementioned director’s cut). Brain Michael Bendis has said time and time again that he’d love the chance to “go Dark Knight” with a Daredevil movie script. That would be amazing. With the recent news of old hornhead’s movie rights reverting back to Marvel Studios, it might be closer than we thought..
It’s impossible to account for people’s personal taste when it comes to movies. Even so, Daredevil has gotten a raw deal. People don’t crap on it like Batman and Robin or anything that severe, but its supporters are few and far between. For the life of me, I’ve never been able to figure out why. That’s why even after all these years, I’ll always speak up in defense of Daredevil.