Netflix’s Daredevil comes out tomorrow and nerds ’round the world are pretty jazzed about it — all except me, it seems. Don’t get me wrong: I do plan to watch the series. I even figure I’ll probably like it, assuming all the buzz it’s been generating for the past few weeks is worth a damn. But I’m just not as excited as I’d like to be, partially because I was underwhelmed by the first trailer, and partially because I’m — perhaps unfairly — annoyed by EW’s recent review, where they refer to it as a superhero show “specifically for grown-ups,” unlike all those other “juvenile” superhero TV shows that I’m passionate about. It’s interesting when a review makes you feel like a scolded child for enjoying something.
Anyway. New Daredevil got Mekaela and I talking about old Daredevil, naturally. People are eager to talk shit about that movie, and it’s not like I loved it, either, but I found myself wondering — was it really as bad as everyone said? People can be prone to over exaggeration, after all, and Ben Affleck’s been a pretty easy target for the last fifteen years or so. Then again, that’s basically what I thought about Fantastic Four, too (sans Affleck, obviously), until I rewatched it last year and discovered, No, it really IS a pretty crappy movie. I felt like I needed to give Daredevil the same chance.
Well, let me put it this way: Daredevil the TV show? It can’t possibly be any worse.
This is a terrible movie that came out the year I graduated high school. As such, there will be SPOILERS throughout this review, and I’m not in the least bit sorry about it.
Matt Murdoch (Ben Affleck) is a stupidly chivalrous lawyer by day and a merciless vigilante by night. He’s also blind, but the accident that caused his blindness helpfully enhanced his remaining senses, giving him a kind of sonar vision. Anyway, his life isn’t going all that great until he meets the beautiful Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner). It’s all love in the time of superheroes until Kingpin (Michael Clark Duncan) hires an assassin, Bullseye (Colin Farrell), to start killing people.
1. Seriously, guys. This is SO MUCH WORSE than I remember it being.
A lot of it’s Affleck. I won’t lie about that. It’s certainly not ALL Affleck — Daredevil, like Batman & Robin, has very little actually working in its favor, and hanging the entire flop on the leading man’s head seems unfair in the extreme. The script is just atrocious and gives Affleck almost nothing to work with. It’s important to acknowledge that.
It’s also fair to acknowledge that this movie may showcase the worst acting of Ben Affleck’s career, and guys, I’ve seen Phantoms, so you know this shit is bad. Affleck basically has one expression the entire movie, and it’s miserable. I mean, Matt Murdoch is supposed to be unhappy, sure, but this doesn’t work. I assume Affleck is shooting for broody and conflicted; instead, he mostly just ends up at mopey. (It’s also very hard to shake the idea that Affleck isn’t really acting here, which makes me a little sad. You want to imagine acting as a generally joyful experience, don’t you?)
But yes. It’s a pretty poor performance. Nearly every line delivery is flat. The voiceover especially — my God. If I ever make a Top 10 Worst Movie Voiceovers list, this one is definitely going on it. And while I am most certainly not an expert on blindness . . . I watch Affleck in this movie and I just don’t buy it at all.
Ben Affleck’s best moments in this movie are probably whenever he’s flirting with Jennifer Garner. And let me be clear — these are not good scenes, which I’ll discuss further in the following notes. But the actors, perhaps unsurprisingly, have decent chemistry with one another, and Affleck seems the most at ease in her presence. If they had actually been provided decent material, perhaps their relationship might have been romantic instead of, you know, creepy and ridiculous.
2. Let’s discuss Matt Murdoch and Elektra Natchios’s meet-cute, or as I prefer to think of it, That Time Where Daredevil is a Total Creeper.
Okay, so Elektra and her Stupidly Fake Green Eyes walk into this restaurant when Matt and his lawyer buddy, Foggy (Jon Favreau), are hanging out. (Foggy gives Matt a bottle of mustard and pretends its honey, which proves less that he’s terrible and more that he’s incredibly stupid. Seriously, the mustard bottle is shaped like, well, a mustard bottle, and the honey bottle is shaped like a bear. You don’t need super senses to see past that trick, genius.) Matt immediately smells Elektra’s beauty because we all know that beautiful people smell like rose petals and joy, while ugly people smell like sweaty jockstraps smeared with tuna. Matt gets up to hit on her, his primary flirtation technique apparently Passive Aggressive Shaming. Elektra doesn’t give her name before quickly leaving, and that really should be all that happens.
Instead, Matt also leaves the restaurant and follows her like a creepy stalker. When Elektra catches him, Matt just says, in a charming and reasonable tone, that he only wants her name. You know. Like he’s entitled to it. Like that’s absolutely an acceptable reason to follow a woman out of a restaurant and start trailing her around the city. Unfortunately, neither Elektra nor anyone else in this movie calls Matt out on his totally disturbing behavior, but to prove that she’s a Tough Girl, the two spar like total weirdos in the middle of some playground.
It’s not the saddest fight scene I’ve ever seen, but . . . it’s pretty sad.
I’m aware that fight scenes have probably come a long way in the last twelve years, but this is kind of ridiculous. It is so SLOW. Fight scenes this slow don’t belong in movies that were filmed after 1990. The Matrix came out four years prior to Daredevil; this movie has absolutely no excuse. It’s like Matt and Elektra are fighting in slow motion. Point of interest, this is also how they’ll have sex later in the film.
3. The best thing I can say about Matt and Elektra’s relationship is that no one says the ‘L’ word. Which THANK GOD because they’ve known each other for like five seconds, and there’s only so much I can take. Still, even without saying it, these two act like they’ve been in love for years, which is completely and utterly ridiculous.
A Timeline of Matt and Elektra’s Super Love
Matt stalks Elektra in order to win her name. Elektra gives him said name because all she’s ever really wanted was a worthy opponent who she could still best in combat.
Elektra sends an invite to this near total stranger for her father’s fancy dinner party, which he doesn’t plan to attend because she’s too good for him and he’s so tragic and blah blah blah.
Elektra somehow finds Matt walking on a random street. He immediately takes her up to his special rooftop spot so he can see her beautiful face in the rain.
He almost leaves to fulfill his Vigilante Duty, but she persuades him to have slow-motion sex with her instead.
Matt does go to the party, and they flirt a little before being rudely interrupted by Elektra’s family drama, which is another way of saying that Elektra’s father is murdered, and she mistakenly believes Daredevil committed the crime.
Elektra stabs Daredevil but instantly realizes her mistake when she finds out that he’s Matt Murdoch after all, presumably because she knows him so well after their one-and-a-half date. It never even occurs to her that Matt could’ve killed her father, which I find hilarious. Anyway, she goes after Bullseye and is quickly killed, so Murdoch can be all, “Nooooo! I didn’t think my life could possibly get any worse, and then my soulmate was shoved in a refrigerator! Curse you, Bullseye! CURSE YOU!”
4. It sucks, too, that Elektra gets her ass so thoroughly handed to her. It’d be one thing if Elektra and Bullseye had this awesome fight and she ultimately lost. I’d get that. But Bullseye kicks the shit out of her, like, it is zero contest, which is genuinely disappointing. Not to mention bizarre — how is it that Elektra defeats Daredevil twice but can barely put up a hint of resistance to Bullseye, while Daredevil handily takes out both Bullseye and Kingpin? That is some wonky shit. (I suppose, to be fair, a sniper does give a timely assist with Bullseye.)
5. But I have to admit something now, no matter how much geek cred I instantly lose: I find Colin Farrell as Bullseye kind of delightful.
To say that he’s good would be a lie, of course. Farrell’s performance is insanely over-the-top; he does the vast majority of his acting by bugging out his eyes. And if Daredevil was an intentionally campy movie, I don’t think this would necessarily be an issue. The problem here is that Daredevil clearly wants to be dark and tragic and can’t even remotely stick the landing. The story is ridiculous, the villains are silly as hell, and the writing is so, SO TERRIBLE. None of it’s particularly good on its own, and thrown together, it’s a hot mess of ludicrous proportions.
Still. That scene where Bullseye looks totally panicked on the plane, like his brain might explode if that harmless old lady keeps yakking at him? Man, that shit still makes me giggle. Like you’ve never fantasized about killing an annoying passenger on a plane with a peanut before. Don’t front.
6. Overall, the plot is pretty weak, particularly in how it feels like the story doesn’t really start until Matt meets Elektra, which is about 33 minutes into the movie. Seriously, coming up with the earlier plot summary was actually kind of hard — the movie spends a lot of time setting up the story and introducing all the various superhero tropes, but the actual plot itself? Thin. Infuriatingly thin, like when you find a super cute shirt at the store, only the shirt turns out to be an extra small instead of the large you were promised by the lying liar of a clothes hanger, and of course it’s the only one left, and you’re like, “Holy Jesus, maybe this would have fit me in the second grade, you know, before I started developing breasts.” It’s just like that, and I totally wasn’t venting about every shopping trip I’ve ever taken ever ever ever.
Daredevil also fails when it comes to the common superhero dilemma: To Kill or Not to Kill.
So, Matt Murdoch begins firmly on the side of killing people, as evidenced when he throws some skeezy rapist (Paul Ben-Victor) in front of a fucking train. Hilariously, no one seems very bothered by this; like, I get the cops don’t want to acknowledge he exists and all, but they’re ignoring some crazy huge evidence to do so, like not only does Daredevil leave a calling card, but it is literally on fire.
And the only person who does believe in Daredevil is an investigative journalist namde Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano), who apparently is also Daredevil’s No. 1 fan, since upon uncovering Matt’s secret identity, fails to turn him in or even bring up basic concerns, like, “Have you ever thought about not murdering people?” I’m not wildly sympathetic to rapists myself, but there is almost zero discussion about how the hero of our movie occasionally, violently kills people. The only person who argues against it is a priest, and come on; he’s a priest, and he’s only got maybe two minutes of screen time, anyway.
What makes all this even funnier is how, at the end of the movie, Daredevil learns the Will to NOT Kill. Like I said earlier, this is not a particularly original arc — hell, it’s Oliver Queen’s ongoing dilemma on Arrow — but what’s fascinating here is that Matt Murdoch mostly just skips having an arc at all and comes to the morally correct conclusion without bothering to actually go through the lesson. Seriously, a priest says he can’t condone murder, and one time Daredevil accidentally scares a little boy and tries to reassure him that he’s not the bad guy. That’s it. That’s all. The amount of screen time devoted to Matt figuring out that Killing is Wrong is under a minute. (Also, at the end, Daredevil says that with Elektra’s help, he didn’t just save the city; he saved himself. And — what? HOW?)
And the best part — I’m talking the cherry on the homicide hot fudge sundae best part — is this: Daredevil takes the Better Path and chooses not to kill Kingpin, the man who murdered his father, approximately five minutes after he throws Bullseye through a fucking church window to his doom. And you can’t argue this is self-defense or anything; Bullseye is on his hands and knees, literally begging for mercy, when Daredevil picks him up and tosses his ass out. It’s, what? A four story drop? At least? Bullseye’s body smashes into Joe Pantoliano’s car, thankfully not killing Joe Pantoliano. Meanwhile, Daredevil leaps from rooftop to rooftop, presumably thinking, You know, Father Everett was right. Maybe murder IS wrong. (Hysterically, Father Everett — who has just watched Matt kill someone in the House of God — is suddenly like, “You go, dude! Annihilate that fucker!”)
(Although apparently — as I just found out by glancing at Wikipedia — Bullseye is supposedly still alive? I guess someone cut a later scene with Bullseye in the hospital, recovering from his injuries with his magic aim still intact. And this is where I declare, “Bullshit, sir.” One, it is incredibly unlikely Bullseye would live through that. Two, there’s no legitimate reason that Daredevil would suspect Bullseye could live through that, meaning Daredevil still tried to murder that asshole. And in my mind, did. There will be no convincing me otherwise; that dude be dead.)
7. Finally, let me just go over my list of random, miscellaneous shit that needs to be discussed:
7A. Seriously, that voiceover. There’s very little to like about this movie, but the dreadful narration may actually be the absolute worse thing. The script is horrific. It is chock full of shitty cliches and wastes a lot of time telling you things that you can already see. Adult Matt tells us (in a voice utterly devoid of inflection) that he trained to be a Man without Fear as we watch Little Matt training. Adult Matt tells us that he gained a kind of sonic sight as we see a pretty clear representation of Little Matt seeing the world with his ears. Eventually, it’s like, “Dude! Stop giving me exposition for things that I am currently watching!”
I figured that the awful narration would finally go away after the first twenty minutes of prologue. I was wrong. I was so horribly wrong.
7B. Oh, about the whole Man Without Fear thing? Seriously, writers. Shut the hell up. Yes, I’m aware that it’s the superhero’s nickname from the comics, but the way you use it here? Bullshit. The father and son training to be fearless was pretty hokey from the get-go, but then suddenly everyone’s calling Daredevil “The Man Without Fear” any real explanation? Please. Work harder.
7C. Here’s a question — mostly because I don’t feel like looking it up right now: did Daredevil really sleep in a sensory deprivation tank in the comics?
I mean, I get the idea — I guess — but this seems like a really good way to accidentally drown in your sleep. Who finally killed Daredevil? Bullseye? Kingpin? Nope, it was his water-filled sleeping casket. Whoops.
7D. Another question — does the movie ever give a reason that Joe Pantoliano wanted to talk to Matt Murdoch anyway? I mean, this is well before the dude finds out about the cane — is it just because Murdoch was involved in scummy rapist’s court case? Maybe I missed some dialogue because I was too busy groaning at the shitty narration or something, but I was never clear about this — and it is kind of important because if Pantoliano never tries to talk to Murdoch, he never puts it together that Murdoch is Daredevil and thus never warns Daredevil that Elektra is in danger. (Admittedly, Elektra ends up dead either way until the sequel, which if memory serves is actually even more appalling than this movie.)
7E. Speaking of that court case — why in the hell is the court room green?
Seriously, this is the kind of colored filter that’s usually reserved for morgues or alien bunkers. What in God’s name is it doing in this scene?
7F. I do get why people are worried about Ben Affleck as Batman, considering his Daredevil does kind of come off as a pretty piss poor imitation of the Dark Knight. I would definitely prefer it if Bruce Wayne could have more than one facial expression during the whole movie. That being said, I stand by my original claim: Daredevil was made over ten years ago, Affleck has grown as an actor, and superhero movies have seriously grown as a genre. I still have some reservations, but I’m willing to give the guy a chance.
7G. I do hate Daredevil’s costume, though. There’s something about the red here that doesn’t quite work for me, although I can’t quite place what it is. I also despise those horns. And I wonder if the costume was particularly hard to walk in because Ben Affleck moves kind of funny in this movie.
7H. There is something about the soundtrack that is super intrusive. I don’t object to the music itself — hell, I like some of the songs — but they pop up at weird times, like “and song . . . HERE!” It’s kind of hard to describe, but it keeps taking me out of the film. (Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.)
7H. Oh shit, I forgot about the CGI! (Seriously, I wouldn’t have made Note 7 this many parts if I’d realized how much shit I still had to talk about.) Cause, guys. GUYS. The special effects are BULLSHIT. The CGI in this movie is primarily limited to city landscapes and buildings, but it is hilariously bad. I would have thought mid-late 90’s for sure, not early 2000’s.
7I. Finally — and I don’t know why — but the scene where Matt Murdoch’s super bitchy ex-girlfriend breaks up with him over the answering machine? Mek and I cracked UP at that. “Are you there? Of course you’re not there. You’re never there. At least, not for me.”
It’s okay, Ex-Girlfriend. I’m sure you’ll find a man who returns your phone calls, sleeps in a normal bed, and doesn’t determine beauty purely by scent.
Matt: “Stop hitting me.”
Matt: “I’d rather just end it before it starts.”
Foggy: “That’s gotta be some kind of record, Matt. You just completely bypassed the whole relationship phase and went right into the breakup.”
Elektra: “Good answer.”
Matt: “I thought that might be the right answer.”
Bad. Just bad all around.
Hate me all you want, but I’m giving it to Colin Farrell. Though I do like Michael Clarke Duncan too. He’s also campy, but in a less bulging eye way. His reaction to Daredevil’s secret identity is kind of the best. Oh, hell, just give it to both of them.
Killing is WRONG when it comes to avenging your father. But it’s not so bad if you’re avenging this lady you slept with that one time.