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Rated 2.99 stars
by 2052 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Don't Dare Dig Too Deep
by Jeffrey Chen

Daredevil emerges as a rather curious amalgamation of the styles of several other comic book movies, most notably Batman, Spider-Man, and The Matrix. Quite possibly, the enormous success of these films has created a kind of blurry window blocking the view of new comic book movie-makers from original ideas. Either that, or all the good ideas have been used already. Whatever the case may be, Daredevil, featuring one of Marvel Comics' lesser-known heroes, offers up fair entertainment while feeling like most of it has been done before.

The movie primarily presents two sides trying to co-exist but mostly getting in each other's way. Its strongest element is its dark side -- Daredevil, like Batman, is a night-time vigilante driven to punish criminals by the childhood drama of losing his father to a senseless murder. A childhood accident left him blind but also enhanced his other senses and general agility. Pain is a regular part of his world, as evidenced by the movie's many displays of physical injuries (impalement seems to be the popular example). In the inner torment department, Matt Murdock, Daredevil's real identity, is a tortured soul who sometimes doubts the actual good of his nightly vengeful acts. Plenty of room for drama here.

Daredevil includes stuff that could be taken pretty seriously, but a conflicting approach to the material -- emphasis on a fun comic-book action extravaganza -- undermines that potential. On the one hand, the movie rolls forward with the elements of a tragic opera, especially after Murdock (Ben Affleck) falls for Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), a woman whose own personal tragedies are about to cross paths with his. On the other hand, the film seems eager to display incredible feats of derring-do, hand-to-hand combat sequences, semi-campy humor, and goofy melodramatic dialogue. That Daredevil's super-senses give him such amazing abilities as the aptitude to dodge bullets or the strength to leap tremendous distances stretches credibility. Of course, the movie is a comic book adaptation, so it shouldn't have to be concerned with that; however, since Daredevil  flirts with the territory of touching human drama, keeping things within the realm of believability would have helped that area considerably.

This lack of commitment to a single overall tone is just one example of Daredevil's rather frantic attempt to touch numerous bases without getting too deep into anything. Apparently, the original comics were a rich source of lore, and, instead of taking time to savor certain sections of it, the movie worries more about acknowledging as much of it as possible. As a result, the story is told in as straightforward a manner as possible. First, the hero's origin is presented; next, his profession as a lawyer is established; next, we get a sample of Daredevil at work; and so on.

We barely get to know the supporting characters surrounding Daredevil. A fair amount of attention is spent on Elektra, but each of her scenes also feels like it's continuing to check off that bulleted list of plot-points. Meanwhile, the villains receive even less background. Bullseye (Colin Farrell), a skilled assassin, literally comes from nowhere. The main bad guy is Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan), a man so behind the scenes we actually never get to see him do anything evil other than ordering a few deaths. He runs the crime in the city, and apparently that's all we need to know.

The narrative moves so quickly I thought the movie was only halfway over by the time it started to descend into its final act. I expected more development but got four one-on-one fights in a row instead. Yes, I know, action has to be a big part of movies like this, but, sadly, Daredevil shows its most glaring weakness here. Although the fight choreography is  passable, the camera work comes right out of Tomb Raider's school of action filming, which dictates that if you swoosh the camera around enough and cut from close-up to close-up of body parts flailing, excitement will result.

Daredevil's best feature is its cast. I found each character  different and fun to watch. Duncan is great as the confident, menacing Kingpin, and Farrell steals the show (and gets all the good lines) as the twitchy, psychotic Bullseye. Garner is a classy Elektra, and Affleck gained my sympathy as Murdock, one part cocky and two parts unsure. The main couple share a rather touching scene in the rain -- it's almost cheesy, but Affleck and Garner actually make it a sweet moment. Too bad there weren't more affecting moments like this -- they could have helped Daredevil rise from being merely a diverting movie to becoming the identifiable human tragedy it seemed to want to be.

(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated "PG-13" for action/violence and some sensuality.)

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