Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I was curious to see how an avowed Ben Affleck hater might react to this film. As strange as it might seem to say that a superhero film contains an actor’s best work, that might be the case here, and so I’m eager to see how the anti-Affleck fanboys react to the movie.
This review, from our good friend and fellow Evil Genius Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, is the first indicator of how things might go, and if I were 20th Century Fox, I’d be cautiously optimistic. Check this out...
Greetings. Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr here, returning after a long hiatus during which I had to perform my patented Cranial Screwtop Method upon my own head. I am happy to report everything went well, although some of you may doubt it when you here what I have to say about Daredevil.
Let me begin by saying this: I HATE BEN AFFLECK. And hate is not a word I'm fond of using or that I apply indiscriminately. My father smoked five packs of cigarettes a day and died from cancer. Yet I don't hate smoking. I caught my girlfriend in bed with my best friend. Yet I don't hate them. What do I hate? Taxes, religious fundamentalists and Ben Affleck.
Words can't begin to convey how much I loath this so-called actor. I despise him so much that every morning after taking my ritual shit, I look down in the bowl and name my turd "Ben" before flushing it.
Let me also say this: I LOVE THE DAREDEVIL COMICS. As a kid I was all about Spidey. When I got into high school, I was all about DD. I can rattle off all of the writers and artists and can recall storylines and cover art at will. I liked DD because he seemed to be the most real of all the superheroes. So real that it seems weird to call him a superhero. And he had a pretty fucked up psyche.
I've been dying to see the film, yet I've been dreading it at the same time. I was pretty sure that Ben was going to ruin it. That he was going to be stiff, annoying and Mr. Magooing his way through all of his "look, ma, I'm blind" scenes.
Well, Mr. Affleck, having seen the film, I have this to say to you: there will be no turd named after you tomorrow morning. I know when I'm wrong and I'm man enough to admit it. And as embarrassed and loathe as I am to say this (and I know many of you won't believe it until you see it for yourself): Ben Affleck became Matt Murdock. Almost instantly. And he gave an amazing performance, the best performance of his career. I know that's not saying much, so let's say this: he gave the best performance of both his and Matt Damon's careers.
Okay. Start your talkback rants now. Believe me, if I had been reading this before seeing the film, I'd be going apeshit myself: Ben Affleck becomes Matt Murdock!? What, are you? Blind and stupid!? Do you work for him? Burn in hell Dr. H! I know it's going to be hard to swallow. So rail against me and rail against Affleck and AICN and Marvel and whoever else you want to rail against. Get it all out of your system and then... GET OFF YOUR FUCKING ASS AND GO SEE DAREDEVIL!
This is the best comic book/superhero movie since Burton's original BATMAN (and it's without the flaws of that film). The comparisons will be easy to make: both heroes are relatively normal men driven to become vigilante crimefighters after their parents are murdered. Both are borderline psychos themselves. Both films are dark in tone. Yet Daredevil succeeds where Batman fails. DAREDEVIL'S darkness is real and the movie is all about the man behind the mask. The villains are not allowed to take over the movie asylum. In fact, this is the first superhero movie where you honestly feel what it is like to be the hero. If SUPERMAN made you believe that a man can fly, this one will make you believe that a man can hurt, both physically and in the depths of his soul.
But what about SPIDER-MAN? And X-MEN, you may ask. Loved them both. Spider-Man's first half blew me away. But I thought the film lost some steam and resonance in the second half. The script was pretty weak once Parker officially became the supersuited Spider-Man. I loved X-MEN too. But it wasn't a very personal film for me. I had never been into the comics and I couldn't emotionally latch onto any one character.
So I'm going with DAREDEVIL. It's solid on all fronts. It's relatable and it's real. And it's the first superhero film that really, truly let's you inside the heroes head and let's you know what it's like to be in the his boots.
[If you don't want any spoilers, you can stop here. Although I promise not to give away any big ones.]
Writer/Director Mark Steven Johnson let's you know right away what kind of film he's making. When we first see Daredevil, he is battered, broken, clinging to a cross at the top of a cathedral, his blood dripping down over the religious imagery on a stained glass window.
He then takes us to the Hell's Kitchen of Matt's youth, to the moment when he loses his vision. And believe me, when young Matt wakes up in the hospital and discovers that he is blind and that his hearing has become supersensitive, you will know exactly what it is like. Johnson and his Effects team have devised a way for the audience to be inside Matt's head. To "see" what he sees and hear what he hears. Call it DeDeVision. It's amazing. One of the most breathtaking innovations you will ever experience on film. It's interactive. And it's mind blowing. And heartbreaking. Because as cool as it may be to experience it on the screen, you know that a life of "seeing" like this is a life lived in Hell.
This is a dark, dark film. It is probably one of the hardest PG-13 films you'll ever see. And as anyone who knows DD knows: that's the way it had to be made. Still, I am amazed that Johnson was allowed to make the film this way. From the opening scene until the very end, Johnson pulls no punches. People bleed, people die. When DD gets home from a night of fighting crime, he pops Vicadin like it's candy. (When you see this scene, you will not see Ben Affleck. You will see Matt Murdock. I promise.)
You will see Murdock taking out his anger and confusion on "the bad guys." There is no witty banter and no cool capture. There are moments where you'll squirm, hoping that DD pulls back a little. "Geez, DD, lighten up, he's had enough." But DD does not lighten up. And this becomes the thematic soul-searching core of the film. Is DD a bad guy? He's not even sure.
This is the UNFORGIVEN of superhero films. Conventions are turned on their head, twisted, questioned. After a jury sets a rapist free, DD chases him down that very night. Beats the shit out of him. The guys falls onto a subway track as a train approaches. Does DD give him a hand and turn him over to the police like every good superhero is supposed to do? Nope. He flashes the guy an evil grin and says: "See that light at the end of the tunnel? It's not heaven. It's the C-train." And then he watches almost gleefully as the train runs over the guy.
In almost every superhero film, there's another conventional scene where the villain has the hero cornered and helpless. Yet the villain never unmasks the hero. That scene drove me nuts in SPIDER-MAN. Goblin has Spidey against the ropes, helpless, yet doesn't seem to be the least bit curious as to who's under the mask. In DAREDEVIL, no one ever hesitates to unmask DD. That's what I mean by this being a film grounded in reality. People act real, do real things. Even if they are wearing silly costumes. (FYI: The costume kicks ass.)
There's another great superhero convention that gets redefined in DAREDEVIL. Matt and Elektra are on a date, having their first kiss. Then Matt hears someone in trouble in the distance. He says he has to leave. She tells him to stay. He hesitates. Then stays. he fucking stays! How fucking cool is that!!??? This is as real as it gets.
Joe Pantoliano also has a small part in a very conventional role: the noisy reporter trying to uncover Daredevil's true identity. He's the Robert Wohl character from BATMAN. And he does uncover the truth. What he does with that info... well, I'm not telling. But it's not the conventional thing.
And now that we're on the subject of supporting players...
Jennifer Garner as Elektra. She's hot, she's sexy, she kicks ass. What more could you ask for? A lot. And she delivers it. This is not the token "hot babe/love interest" thrown into the mix. Her relationship with Matt is the heart and soul of the story, and her place in the unfolding plot is crucial.
Jon Favreau as Foggy. The perfect sidekick or the "Plus 1" as he calls himself. He provides the right amount of comic relief to bring as back from the Dark Place just when we need it.
Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin. Yeah, he was great. But most of all he was subtle. This could easily have become a scenery-chewing role. But Duncan's cool, collected understatement made Kingpin as intimidating and frightening as he has ever been in the comic books. Less is indeed more. However, I still object to the PC-casting. I think that long-standing fictional characters should be treated like real historic figures. Because they are a real part of our history. You wouldn't want a black guy to play Abe Lincoln and you wouldn't want a white guy to play Martin Luther King. Kingpin's a fat white dude. Cast one.
Colin Farrell as Bullseye. Um, did I say less is more a few sentences back? Well, Colin didn't get the memo. This is the over-the-top, scenery-chewing role in the film. But that's okay in this case because Bullseye's personality IS over-the-top. And if you really, really like his performance then don't forget to stay through the credits. Nuff Said.
Notable fanboy cameos: Frank Miller as a corpse. Kevin Smith as a morgue attendant. Stan Lee as Man Standing on Corner reading Variety. And the names of damn near every artist and writer who has ever worked on Daredevil.
Anything I didn't like? Yeah. There were three instances where cheesy WB-TV style pop songs played over what should have been some pretty emotional scenes. The melodramatic songs completely undercut the moment. They belong in TV shows like SMALLVILLE and FELICITY but not in a feature film. And especially not in a dark film like DD. Really, really out-of-place. But, hey, that's nit-picking. Nothing to lose sleep over or get worked up over.
Well, folks, it looks like Marvel has done it again. They've got this whole superhero game figured out. Rule Number One: Find a passionate filmmakers who loves and respect the material. You will actually see and feel Mark Steven Johnson's passion and love in every single frame of this movie.
Rule Number Two: Stay close to the origins and source material. There's a reason the comic's worked and endured decade after decade. Because they got it right! Why, oh, why can't the folks at Warner Brothers/DC accept this simple premise??? The end result is box office gold. And it looks like DAREDEVIL will prove it once more.
Last night’s Pasadena screening was the first time the film was shown for an audience, but I know they’re screening it again tonight. I expect we’ll see more reviews cropping up in the days ahead, and I look forward to running them when they arrive. Until then...