The interwebs has been abuzz all weekend with Warner Bros latest news, Ben Affleck is Batman!!! I’m conflicted about this. Present-day Affleck is a talented director and his acting skills have improved dramatically (no pun intended). However, years and years of, ?at-best, middling films featuring Affleck alongside the latest leading lady or an elder, respectable actor makes a stargazer like me approach the announcement with trepidation. With that in mind, and with inspiration from a?Wil Wheaton?tweet, I interrupt the vault’s regularly scheduled posts to bring you a special Affleck retrospective.
Respectable lawyer by day and masked vigilante by night,?Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was inspired by his father Jack (David Keith) to defend the innocent in court and his father’s unsolved murder led him to don red leather and seek justice outside the courts. Blinded as a child by radioactive waste and, as per?Marvel modus operandi, the chemicals may have taken his sight, but heightened his remaining four senses; particularly his hearing which imbued him with super-sonar. As Daredevil, the man without fear, Matt keeps vigil over Hell’s Kitchen, stepping in to thwart criminals and minions of the Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan). The Kingpin’s latest plans place Daredevil in between his new special lady friend, Elektra (Jennifer Garner), and a professional assassin, and wack-job, named Bullseye (Colin Farrell).
I apologize for the clunky synopsis, but that’s what you get when you’re reviewing a clunky movie. First, I must explain I’ve never had much interest in the comic character Daredevil. The teen in me has always seen him as a Batman rip-off and, honestly, if I wanted to watch a film of a hero dressed all in red, dispensing justice from rooftops Batman-style, I’d prefer it be a Tim Drake/Robin film (ahem, Warner Bros!). That said, I consider myself a casual moviegoer and not a comic fan as I dissect the tale of this echo-locating mammal.
Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, Daredevil would be a good movie if it didn’t make such poor choices. It begins with a wounded Daredevil atop a church rooftop who then lands at the base of the altar. Audiences are then transported to simpler times, when a young Daredevil (Scott Terra) is getting stomped on by the local bullies. Not sure why the bleak introduction or the lengthy voice-over was needed, but it’s suggestive of The Crow, raising expectations to lofty goth proportions. The next half-hour bounds along at a brisk pace as young Matt evolves into the Daredevil in a faintly hokey, but mostly enjoyable tale. A nod is given to notable Daredevil comic artists like Romita and Bendis and even Stan Lee pops in for his obligatory cameo. Not sure why a bully would dare a blind kid to fight him, but the scene plays and the man without fear is born.
Next up, lawyer Matt’s defending a helpless woman in court. This is the ONLY time you’ll see Matt at his day job so soak it up. It’s only importance is to set up his nocturnal activities which include lots of vibrationy, blue-and-black hued bat-vision as he destroys a local bar and maims most its seedy patrons before stalking his intended victim like a slasher through darkened alleys ultimately killing him brutally while that unmistakeable Affleck grin shines from beneath his mask! What… the fuck.
I’m not sure if it’s Daredevil‘s abrupt shift in tone, the need to have all Daredevil’s night moves captured using horror-esque Dutch angles, or that one of my favorite That Guys Paul Ben-Victor is in a wasted role, but?Daredevil loses it’s footing. During the second act, Matt meets Elektra and flirt-fights with her like he is that fearless young boy we saw earlier. Meanwhile, abruptly placed spurts of Bullseye’s unblinking Irish arse repeatedly disrupt the rhythm of bat-vision, flirting, and the appearance of more underutilized That Guys. Bat vision, flirt, bat vision, Joe Pantoliano, bat vision, and before audiences know it, we’re wondering how a blunt projectile thrown from over a hundred yards can pierce a sternum!
Gritty realism further gives way to the preposterous as these three human characters’ vertical and long jump capabilities put Carl Lewis to shame. A couple times Daredevil can be seen jumping from one rooftop to one across the street; not an alley, a city street! Characters are crippled or die, but only temporarily. Most annoying is all these thrilling action scenes are set to the rock/alt rock/grunge vibes of some of my least-favorite bands. The end couldn’t come soon enough, and even that is dragged out unnecessarily.
As for Ben Affleck’s performance, aside from his occasional tendency to smile at inopportune moments, he gave an otherwise decent performance considering the film’s drastic mood shifts, crowded cast, and overcomplicated story. A few years after disdain for Daredevil should have been replaced by hatred for Hulk, The Punisher, and Catwoman among others audiences still hated on Affleck because he’s the face associated with Daredevil, though he wasn’t at the helm. Affleck himself commented, “by playing a superhero in?Daredevil, I have inoculated myself from ever playing another superhero… Wearing a costume was a source of humiliation for me and something I wouldn’t want to do again soon.”
What say you; can Affleck tackle a costumed role again, or is time for his booster?