I saw this when it was out in theaters, and while I thought it wasn’t great, I didn’t see how it was THAT much worse than anything else. Ah, how time can reveal. Having bought the disc for $3 [I now own it!] because I was curious, this time it was quite apparent why it misses in several key ways, the most apparent being that it has no plot and the villain has no plan.
After an okay / cheesy credits sequence in a pretty CGI city, we see a horrible CGI rat and scan up a bad CGI cathedral while having pointless intercut flashes of Daredevil fighting. He climbs down into the cathedral, where he collapses, helped by a kindly priest, and starts having flashbacks. Young Matt [that’s our hero] was bullied, then comes home to have his boxer single father tell him not to fight. Later, Matt happens across his Dad acting as a thug, drops his straight-A report card, and then, tragically, the all-too-common accident in which a forklift tears a barrel of toxic waste which spurts directly into a child’s eyes, causing him to go blind. But then, Matt can “see” through sound because of “a sort of radar sense” and he starts running and jumping and flipping all over the city as “the boy without fear.” Then his dad refuses to throw a fight for the mob, and gets killed, with a rose being left on his corpse. Then we see Matt as grown-up blind lawyer, with extremely unfortunate attempt at spiky early-2000’s hair. Then we see Daredevil leap off a skyscraper, only to land on window-washer platforms and be fine. All of this, by the way, is the first 20 minutes of the movie, and you’ll note that there has been no actual story yet, just flashback origin story.
So Daredevil goes into a bar where a rapist he tried to put away as a lawyer is. He beats up the entire bar—you’ll note that his “radar sense” allows him to hear bullets in time to move to avoid them—and you’ll notice that the fighting includes a great deal of wire-fu. The rapist runs down into the subway, where they fight and Daredevil leaves him to get cut in two by an approaching train. Back home in the upper levels of the cathedral, we see that his back is a mess of scars, hear a girlfriend break up with him by phone [he’s emotionally unavailable], see him remove one of his own teeth, and then pop either a Percoset or Vicodin, not sure which. He then goes to bed in a sensory deprivation tank filled with dark fluid, which to me looks like a serious drowning risk. But then, I don’t have radar sense!
We have Jon Favreau tossed in as comic relief, and suddenly Matt senses Jennifer Garner about to talk in as Elektra. She is ludicrously glammed-up with ultra-perfect hair and these monstrously fake green eye lenses. She blows Matt off in the coffeeshop [I don’t think she even drank anything, btw] before leaving, whereupon he follows her, whereupon they have a LUDICROUS fight / flirt at this playground, with mucho wire-fu, including one in which they both flip upside-down, then land balanced on a see-saw. Then she finally tells him her name, and it turns out that she’s the daughter of a Greek shipping magnate.
Now, a consistent problem of the movie is that, when in his frosted “blind” contact lenses, which is frequently, Affleck looks quite cross-eyed. It’s something that goes completely unaddressed [and you’d think someone would have noticed?], but no, it just continues throughout the film. Matt, by the way, is essentially perfect, always one step ahead of everyone and knowing everything and showing us again and again that being blind doesn’t stop him from seeing. Wow, he’s so amazing!
Meanwhile, there’s Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, notorious gangster. Only, somehow the city doesn’t know WHO the mysterious Kingpin is, and think he’s simply Fisk, which barely registers as a mystery, since we know who he is from the start. For a while, we shuttle quickly—too quickly—between Kingpin, Daredevil and Elektra, Colin Farrell as assassin Bullseye, Matt as a lawyer, and other little vignettes that make the movie spin its wheels in place. You’ll also note that it’s a full moon every single night in this city. Then Matt forces Elektra to stand in the rain so he can “see” her [because he can hear the individual raindrops, of course], and then they make slow, sensuous love—a little more sensuous than I expected to see in a PG-13 movie, but we can also see people impaled through the head in the same film, so I guess the MPAA was having a chill afternoon that day.
Now, we’re an hour into the 103-minute film, and has anything I’ve described so far sounded anything like a PLOT? Let alone a STORY? No, it doesn’t, and in fact, never bothers to develop one. It’s just THAT avant-garde, eschewing traditional narrative in favor of a bunch of tangentially-related scenes, in a way that forces us to re-evaluate our old musty perceived expectations of what constitutes “story.” Or it’s just completely inept, but it’s one of those two for sure.
SPOILERS > > >
Now, previously, Daredevil has had cause to question whether he really is a force for good, or just a vengeance-seeking vigilante, which caused him to stand atop a roof and say “I’m not the bad guy—I’m NOT!” That will come back later. Then Elektra’s dad, who was involved with Kingpin but tried to get out, is targeted by Bullseye. After a battle, Bullseye kills her dad with Daredevil’s nunchuck-thing, and she automatically assumes that he did it. It’s just a skip and jump to a rooftop battle where Elektra is trying to kill Daredevil, and won’t listen that he didn’t do it. I think she’s being pretty simple-minded to be absolutely certain he killed her pops when she didn’t actually see much at all. Anyway, she stabs Daredevil in the shoulder, which puts him out of commission—rare for a movie, which usually treats being stabbed or shot in the shoulder as the equivalent of a blister—that is, until it’s convenient for him suddenly to spring back, a half hour later, as though nothing happened.
Anyway, looks like Elektra buys it, as she gets impaled, but we all know she’s going to make it and go on to her own tie-in failure movie. Daredevil leaves her there to die and repairs back to his cathedral, where we rejoin him at the moment from the beginning. He’s near death from his shoulder wound, when suddenly Bullseye comes in, and POOF! Back to normal, no worse for wear! This fight is a mixture of CGI figures and more wire-fu, and nothing about it seems real.
There is an absolutely idiotic thing—like the actors should have protested—where Bullseye knocks out a stained glass window, then moves his hands around in an idiotic way to catch all the pieces, letting them fall into neat stacks on his hand. Then he starts launching them like throwing stars, so what does Daredevil do to avoid them? Naturally, he does a BACKFLIP. As anyone knows—and further evidence is revealed in the hideous second Charlie’s Angels movie—if someone is firing a gun at you, or shooting razor-sharp projectiles at you, simply doing a BACKFLIP will render you invincible, as all those nasty projectiles will just miss! The military obviously didn’t anticipate backflips when inventing machine guns!
Anyway, Bullseye tells Daredevil that Fisk is Kingpin, which all of us knew the whole time, and Daredevil kills Bullseye. This means, as I’m sure you must know if you cared enough to think about it—highly doubtful—that Kingpin killed Daredevil’s dad way back in the day, pursuant to superhero protocol 147.5B that decrees that in the hero’s first film, he will find that the villain is the same one that killed his parents/wife/child/goldfish back in the day. He throws Bullseye out the window to his death, then takes off to find Kingpin.
He does that handily, and is in the guy’s office next second. Michael Clarke Duncan considerately takes off his shirt for the scuffle, which may lead you to exclaim “God-DANG, that man is HUGE!” if not other oaths of a more personal nature. They have a rather tepid fight, especially considering that this is supposed to be the climax, but finally Daredevil starts the sprinkler system, and you know he can hear each and every one of those drips, so he can “see” Kingpin, and he kicks out his knees, which doesn’t even look that serious, but apparently knocks out the “mighty” Kingpin. The villain asks “Aren’t you going to kill me?” But Daredevil says: “No… I’m not the bad guy!” Which, like—WOAH. After a bit more bullshit, it’s over.
< < < SPOILERS END
I was prepared to think that this wasn’t THAT bad, and to give it a fair shake, and to think there might be something rewarding about it—but no, it really is just shit. The main problem: it has no story. It has a succession of incidents, but no plot, no story. We get Matt’s story, and we find out how he met Elektra, and we learn that there’s this villain Kingpin out there… but Kingpin doesn’t have any evil plan, and has no issue with Daredevil, except that he’s after bad guys. Daredevil has no clear mission, except get rid of bad guys, but he has no one focus throughout the movie. There’s a bit of intrigue when Elektra thinks that Daredevil killed her dad, but that’s not a story—that’s a misunderstanding, and it’s cleared up right away. This is written and directed by this person Mark Steven Johnson, who also directed the execrable Ghost Rider and Simon Birch. I’m always a little shocked when studios hand their valuable franchises over to directors with nothing but stinkers on their resume, but they often do, killing off their franchises before they even begin. And I have to say… it’s not often the problem with a film, even with all the shitty films I watch, that the film has NO STORY. But that’s what we’re looking at, folks!
Now, you know that the spin-off film Elektra was already approved before this one was finished, right? And that the failure of this film put the nails in its coffin before it was even released, and it was finally thrown out there with an apologetic little release? Yup, that’s what happened. And that film sucks, it’s true, but it’s nowhere near as bad as this one, AND it has a story!
What else? Well, just the things I’ve mentioned—Matt looks cross-eyed. The CGI and wire-fu make the fights unexciting and ludicrous. Garner is ridiculously glammed-up, and her fighting and flirting with Affleck is just embarrassing. There’s really pretty much nothing redeeming about this, but I didn’t HATE watching it. Although that’s pretty much the most positive thing I can say.
Nah, no reason to.