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Mark Steven Johnson
Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan
Writing Credits:
Mark Steven Johnson

When justice is blind, it knows no fear.

By day, blind attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) toils for justice in Hell's Kitchen. By night, he's Daredevil, The Man Without Fear - a powerful, masked vigilante stalking the dark streets with an uncanny radar sense that allows him to "see" with superhuman capabilities. But when the love of his life, fiery Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), is targeted by New York City's ruthless kingpin of crime (Michael Clarke Duncan) and his deadly assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell), Daredevil may be about to meet his match.

Box Office:
Budget $75 million.
Opening Weekend
$45.033 million on 3471 screens.
Domestic Gross
$102.543 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 7/29/2003

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Mark Steven Johnson and Producer Gary Foster
• Enhanced Viewing Mode
• Trivia Track
• DVD-ROM Content
Disc Two
• 2 All-New 60-Minute Documentaries
• 6 Production Featurettes
• Multi-Angle Scene Study
• Jennifer Garner Screen Test
• Kingpin Featurette
• 3 Music Videos

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Daredevil (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 25, 2003)

Just like the way 1989’s Batman caused a wave of imitators, 2002’s enormo-hit Spider-Man sparked the resurgence of comic book movies as a viable cinematic form. Not that Spider-Man was the only member of the genre that found an audience. For example, both 1998’s Blade and its 2002 sequel did reasonably nicely.

However, they didn’t approach the $403 million juggernaut that was Spider-Man. Indeed, no other comic book flick neared those numbers, even when adjusted for inflation. Even other high profile releases like The Hulk couldn’t challenge Spidey for supremacy.

First we got a medium-profile comic book flick with 2003’s Daredevil. The lead character falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to fame. Certainly better known than Blade and much less famous than Spider-Man, Batman or Superman, Daredevil has been around a long time, and the character also enjoyed a brief period of super-popularity in the early Eighties when writer/artist Frank Miller became a star. It didn’t last, and Daredevil now exists as one of those in-between superheroes.

Or at least he did until the folks at Fox decided he deserved his own big-screen adaptation. Daredevil opens with its hero (Ben Affleck) apparently on the verge of death. It then launches into a look at the early life of Matt Murdock, a kid who grew up in a hardscrabble neighbor with his father Jack (David Keith), a once-substantial fighter now fallen on hard times. Jack urges young Matt (Scott Terra) to make something of himself with his mind, not his fists.

After Matt sees proof that his dad works as a thug for a local gangster, he flees and accidentally runs into a tub of chemicals. This leaves him without vision but gives him incredibly enhanced hearing and other senses. He trains himself and develops great abilities.

In the meantime, Jack returns to the ring with a renewed sense of purpose. However, his former boss tells him the fights were fixed and instructs him to take a dive in a match. He refuses to do this, so inevitably, the thugs exact their revenge. Now fatherless, Matt decides to seek justice, and the movie advances to his adult life.

When we see the grown-up Matt, we see him work as an attorney along with his partner and friend Franklin Nelson (Jon Favreau). When a rapist gets away with it, he enters vigilante mode as crime-fighter Daredevil. This gives us a glimpse of how Daredevil works, and the plot thickens as additional threads emerge. Matt meets a sexy and mysterious babe named Elektra (Jennifer Garner) at a coffee shop; when she plays hard to get, he persists, and the pair tussle as foreplay.

Connected to Elektra, we encounter her dad (Erick Avari), part of a criminal network run by Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan), a figure who’s become known as “The Kingpin”. However, no one knows the actual identity of the Kingpin, though some leads head toward Fisk’s organization. Natchios wants out of the business due to all the press attention about the Kingpin, so Fisk hires an Irish assassin named Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to off his associate while he also creates a paper trail to make the newspapers think that Natchios is the Kingpin.

Speaking of the press, we also meet reporter Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano). He follows the trail of Daredevil. The police deny the crimefighter’s existence but Urich plugs away as he tries to learn more about the mysterious vigilante.

These storylines dominate the movie, with a particular emphasis on the interactions between Matt/Daredevil and Elektra. I won’t give away the specifics, but that triangle intensifies partway during the film when Elektra develops an intensely negative opinion of the crimefighter. All of this leads inexorably towards conflicts between our main characters.

Unlike Spider-Man, Batman or Superman, I never got into the Daredevil comics enough for me to judge the faithfulness of this movie. Frankly, it’s been so long since I read those books that I remembered very little of the DD universe. That’s probably a good thing, for unlike the others, I found it easier to take Daredevil on its own terms and not compare it to the character’s history.

However, that doesn’t mean I won’t contrast it with other comic book flicks, and Daredevil firmly falls in the Batman camp. (That’s the Tim Burton Batman camp, not the campy Batman camp.) During the audio commentary, director Mark Steven Johnson gleefully makes sure we know we’re not in Spider-Man territory here, but that doesn’t make Daredevil an especially original piece of work. Admittedly, this flick probably seems even darker than Burton’s two Bat-movies, but it definitely owes a tip of the hat to those films.

This flick’s Matt Murdock also comes across an awful lot like a low-rent Bruce Wayne. He’s a sullen loner with a playboy’s affinity for the babes and an obsession with vengeance. As depicted by Affleck, he even varies his voice from his natural tones as Murdock to a rough growl as Daredevil, just like Michael Keaton did for Batman.

Despite all these similarities and others, Daredevil doesn’t really feel like a rip-off of Batman, and it actually presents a pretty good comic book experience. A lot of that stems from the actors. Unfortunately, Affleck isn’t one of the best elements of the movie. He seems perfectly decent in the role but he never adds any spark or flair to the part. At least in the first two Batman flicks one could blame the director, since Burton clearly favored his villains. That doesn’t occur here, for Johnson keeps Daredevil the focus much of the time. Affleck simply lacks the power and magnetism for this kind of role. He never becomes a liability, but he fails to sizzle either.

His fellow actors fare better. Farrell makes more than the most of his supporting turn as Bullseye. He chews the scenery with gusto in a genuinely over-the-top performance. Had we seen more of him, I’m sure the routine would have become tiring ala Alan Rickman’s desperate – and futile – attempt to inject like into Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. However, since Bullseye appears pretty sporadically, Farrell becomes a consistent pleasure to watch as he tears through his scenes.

Garner also brings solid grace and power to her parts of the film. She certainly looks great as Elektra, and she makes her action sequences believable. She also brings a sense of danger to the role that keeps her from becoming just another action chick. Favreau gets stuck with the traditional comedic relief part, but he acquits himself wonderfully. I know his moments are gratuitous attempts to lighten up the film, but damn if they don’t work anyway.

As with Affleck, director Johnson proves neither a boon nor a bane to the film. Clearly he wears his influences on his sleeve, but he makes Daredevil go at a good rate. Granted, the first two acts lack as much good action as I’d like, but things cook nicely toward the end.

Overall, Daredevil comes across as a good but unexceptional superhero flick. Its box office performance seems just about right for it: the movie’s $102 million gross makes it a modest hit but not a smash, and that’s what it deserves. I enjoyed Daredevil and thought it offered more than just a little excitement and fun, but it didn’t enthrall me like the best members of its genre.

Inside joke footnote: alert comic fans will notice scads of references throughout the film. In addition to cameos by Stan Lee, Frank Miller and Kevin Smith – who wrote a recent Daredevil series – we find the names of other listed at times during the flick. This becomes a little cutesy at times, but the film handles the incidents subtly enough that they won’t distract viewers who don’t get them.

Oh, and stay at least a couple of minutes into the end credits to see a short bonus sequence.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus A

Daredevil appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Occasionally gorgeous, Daredevil didn’t seem absolutely stellar, but it usually worked well.

Sharpness mostly came across nicely. A few wide shots displayed some slight softness, but those examples seemed to be relatively infrequent. The majority of the movie seemed concise and well defined. I saw no signs of jagged edges or edge enhancement, but some mild shimmering popped up at times. Print flaws looked absent, though grain seemed heavier than normal; the last factor didn’t seem unusual for a Super 35 flick, though it caused a few distractions.

Like many visual-heavy modern flicks, Daredevil largely featured a stylized palette that tended toward cool tones. Most of the colors seemed fairly desaturated and chilly, but they looked appropriately distinctive and solid. Brighter hues came across well also. Black levels mostly appeared fine, though I thought they looked slightly inky on occasion. Shadows were precisely delineated and smooth, an important factor in such a dark flick. Overall, I found Daredevil to give us a fine visual presentation.

Even better were the soundtracks of Daredevil. The DVD offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. When I compared them, I thought the pair sounded virtually identical. Any possible differences between the two seemed minor at best.

That was fine with me, since the audio seemed so positive. A very active mix, Daredevil used all five channels to great advantage. From beginning to end, the sound emanated from all locations as the tracks presented excellent atmosphere and action. Not surprisingly, the flick’s action sequences worked the best, as score and lots of effects information popped up all around the listener. Probably the most impressive sequences involved shots from Matt’s point of view. These nicely gave the listener a sense of his world and created a great feeling of submersion in that way. Vivid and neatly integrated, the soundfield of Daredevil seemed really impressive.

Happily, audio quality followed that same trend. Dialogue sounded warm and natural, and I noticed no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music seemed dynamic and rich. The score and various rock songs both were bright and vibrant throughout the film. Effects sounded clean and distinctive, and they featured powerful low-end response when appropriate. For some demo-worthy bass, check out the fight in the church between Daredevil and Bullseye; the banging against the pipe organ presented tight and very deep low-end material that never became loose or problematic. Daredevil featured consistently involving and high quality audio.

One very nice – and very appropriate – touch: visually impaired fans can still enjoy Daredevil. The movie comes with a “Descriptive Video” soundtrack that narrates the film for the visually impaired. I think these tracks are always cool, and more DVDs should include them.

This two-DVD special edition release of Daredevil comes packed to the gills with supplements. On the first disc, we open with an audio commentary from director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Foster. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Together they offer a thorough examination of the film. Their discussion runs the gamut; from casting to effects to stunts to story issues and deleted segments, we learn a lot about the making of the movie. The pair go over the topics in a light and engaging way, though those with a sensitivity for profanity need not apply; Johnson tosses out scads of “F-bombs”. Nonetheless, this commentary seems interesting and informative.

Daredevil also features a text commentary. Little bits of trivia pop up throughout the movie to inform us about various topics. It includes subjects such as cameos and references, the history of the comic book characters and scenarios, and some behind the scenes elements related to the movie. The track seems inconsistent, as a fair amount of the movie passes without information. Nonetheless, it provides some decent tidbits, especially if you don’t have much of a background in regard to the comic books.

DVD One also features an enhanced viewing mode. With this activated, an icon pops onscreen eight times during the film. Hit “enter” on those occasions and you’ll get to watch “animatics/visual effects layers”. Seven of these provide multiangle material with commentary from visual effects producer John Kilkenny. Each of the first seven presents these three angles: pre-visualization, visual effects elements, and effects composite. The last one is simply a “grab bag” of effects and pre-vis bits and pieces. While nothing amazing appears here, the information seems interesting, and Kilkenny’s remarks help educate us about the processes used.

Lastly, Disc One includes some DVD-ROM materials. It features downloadable Daredevil wallpaper, a “Dot Comic” book from online, the history of the DD comics, character info for the main participants in the movies, links, and a “Sensory Quiz”. A clever piece, the latter attempts to put you in Daredevil’s shoes. Overall, some decent stuff appears in the DVD-ROM realm.

The supplements on DVD Two split into two domains. “The Film” opens with a documentary called Beyond Hell’s Kitchen: Making Daredevil. This 58-minute and 48-second program essentially eschews the usual movie clips and focuses virtually entirely on behind the scenes snippets and interviews. We get remarks from director Mark Steven Johnson, producer Gary Foster, Marvel Enterprises CCO Avi Arad, costume designer James Acheson, textile artist Matt Reitsma, costume supervisor Lisa Lovaas, art department coordinator Jamie Neese, actors Paul Ben-Victor, Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Jon Favreau, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, action choreographer Master Cheung-Yan Yuen, fight trainer David Lea, director of photography Ericson Core, sight impaired consultant Tom Sullivan, special effects coordinator John McLeod, visual effects supervisor Jeff Thorne, Shadow World effects lead Eric Horton, and composer Graeme Revell.

While not the most coherent documentary I’ve seen, “Kitchen” seems acceptably complete. It gives us a little about the character’s slow path to the big screen and tells us that Chris Columbus originally planned to adapt the story. We then get information about the development of the costume and the mask, issues related to artificial locations, notes about stunts and wire work, fight scene choreography, the actors’ approaches to their characters, effects and much more. At times the tone seems a bit puffy and overly emphasizes praise, but some good facts emerge, and the shots from the set make it all worthwhile. We see many fun instances of the latter, such as when we watch take after take of Affleck suffering on the wires. “Kitchen” lacks the depth and unity to become a great documentary, but it seems generally entertaining nonetheless.

”Kitchen” can be viewed with or without Enhanced Viewing Mode activated. This offers a branching option that gives you additional material. Six segments appear: “Costume Design” (three minutes, 21 seconds), “LA for NY” (2:22), “Combat Choreography” (4:15), “Smoke and Fire” (3:34), “Film Work” (0:59) and “Seeing With Sound” (5:37). The various clips include comments from costume cutter/fitter Joanne Trotta, costume designer James Acheson, visual effects supervisor Rich Thorne, matte painter Dylan Cole, sound designer Steve Boeddecker, special effects coordinator John McLeod, first assistant film editor Matthew Schmidt, and Shadow World effects lead Eric Horton. Nothing here seems crucial, but all of it helps flesh out our understanding of the film’s creation. Probably the most fun segment comes from the fight blocking tapes found in “Combat Choreography”, but everything here appears interesting.

Next we find a two-minute and 50-second Jennifer Garner Screen Test. The excerpt shows the actress as she runs through a couple of short segments and also poses for the camera. Despite its brevity, the snippet seems fun.

Similar thoughts greet the Multi-Angles Dailies. We get clips from two scenes: “Daredevil/Kingpin Fight” and “Elektra/Bullseye Fight”. The former includes two takes with two angles each plus a composite of the two angles. The latter features four takes, all of which present three angles plus a composite, except for the fourth take, which has two angles and a composite. All of the snippets are quite short; I don’t think any clock it past half a minute. Nonetheless, they give us a good look at the basic material shot for the film.

Less interesting, Featured Villain: Kingpin runs 139 seconds. It mixes movie clips with sound bites from actor Michael Clarke Duncan. The short and fluffy chat doesn’t include much real information, and since most of it appears elsewhere, this program becomes superfluous.

After this we get an HBO First Look Special. Hosted by Jennifer Garner, it gives us the standard combination of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. During the 24-minute and 48-second show, we hear from director Johnson, actors Affleck, Garner, Joe Pantoliano, Duncan, Colin Farrell, and Jon Favreau, Marvel executive Avi Arad, producer Foster, co-creator Stan Lee, sight impaired consultant Tom Sullivan, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, fitness and training supervisor Dave Lea, textile artist Matt Reitsma, costume supervisor Lisa Lovaas, and specialty costumers Jill Thraves and Deborah Ambrosino. “First Look” covers a mix of the standard topics like the plot, stunts, and visual design. It remains pretty superficial and doesn’t give us much depth, but it offers more details than the average “First Look” special, so it might be worth your time.

For more information from the film’s sight impaired consultant, we go to Moving Through Space: A Day With Tom Sullivan. The eight-minute and 27-second featurette includes comments from Sullivan and personal trainer Steve Maresca. The title seems a little deceptive, since we don’t go through an average day with Sullivan. Instead, we see a few different elements of his life – most of which involve physical activities – while Sullivan discusses his perspective. Essentially a piece meant to convey the positive capabilities of the man, “Space” seems less informative than I’d like.

A few minor bits finish off “The Film”. We get three trailers - one teaser, two theatrical – for Daredevil plus ads for 28 Days Later and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In addition to a “Music Promotion Spot”, three music videos appear: Fuel’s “Won’t Back Down”, the Calling’s “For You” and Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life”. The last one’s the only video that seems even moderately interesting, mostly because it actually attempts a plot, and the singer’s pretty sexy.

Finally, we get a collection of images in the Still Gallery. This divides into five subjects: “Story Boards” (323 screens), “Costumes” (94 frames), “Set Design” (20 drawings), “Production Stills” (13 images), and “Props” (29 shots). (Note that “Production Stills” is mis-named; it actually shows concept art.) All of these seem good, but the storyboards easily stand out from the crowd. Some absolutely stellar work appears there as the section essentially displays a wordless comic book telling of much of the film.

When we go to “The Comic Book”, we get a few additional pieces. The Men Without Fear: Creating Daredevil runs 59 minutes and 10 seconds as it details the roots and development of the comic. We see examples of comic art and hear from those behind the work such as Daredevil co-creator/writer Stan Lee, artists John Romita Sr., Gene Colan, John Romita Jr., and Joe Quesada, writer/artist Frank Miller, writer/painter David Mack, and writers Brian Michael Bendis and Kevin Smith.

”Fear” doesn’t attempt to provide a coherent history of Daredevil. Instead, it offers more of an anecdotal look at the character as discussed by many of those who worked on him. We get plenty of facts related to Daredevil and also learn the insights of the participants. They cover topics like development, personal impact, their own careers, comics in general, and many other issues. Not surprisingly, Smith’s chat is very entertaining, and Miller’s reflections seem quite useful as well; given the Miller may be the most influential comic book writer/artist of the last few decades, it’s fascinating to hear his thoughts. I also liked Colan’s candid remarks about the toll the business took on his personal life. Overall, “Fear” provides a somewhat disjointed but consistently intriguing program.

The Shadow World Tour tries to give us a feeling for Matt Murdock’s perception. It lasts six minutes and 15 seconds as it combines comic book panels and movie clips. While the comic art is moderately interesting, we already understand how Murdock’s deals with his senses from the movie and other material, so the “Tour” seems superfluous.

Lastly, the Modeling Sheets give us some basic information about the movie’s main characters. We get simple factoids for Daredevil, Elektra, Bullseye, Kingpin and Foggy Nelson. This section seems rudimentary but useful for those not well acquainted with the comics.

While I don’t consider Daredevil to qualify as one of the great comic book movies, it seems better than average. It tries a little too hard to be dark and brooding at times, but it remains generally lively and entertaining. The DVD presents solid picture with excellent audio and an extensive and informative batch of supplements. A great DVD for a good movie, Daredevil earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6111 Stars Number of Votes: 54
10 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.