Continuing our look back at 2003’s Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell. As we concluded last week, the Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) had just hired Irish hitman Bullseye to kill his errant henchman, Nikolas Natchios. But before we get with the killing, we’ve got a few housekeeping scenes.
While Bullseye is on a plane killing his talkative old lady seatmate with a peanut (one of the most entertaining scenes in the movie, actually), Daredevil beats the crap out of a mob enforcer working for the Kingpin. Unfortunately, he does it right in front of the guy’s son, which brings back painful memories of his own dad’s death.
The next day, he is invited to a fancy dress ball where Foggy is desperate to drum up new business. But Matt is depressed and doesn’t want to go. But then he runs into Elektra again and takes her up to his secret rooftop retreat so she can get turned on by the view. And we get this neat special effects moment of him “seeing” her face by the sound of the raindrops bouncing off it.
Afterward, he hears crime happening, but Elektra asks him to stay with her, and for once, a noble movie hero decides to get laid rather than stop a crime. In the morning, he wakes up feeling fine only to discover that she has sneaked out and left behind an invitation to the fancy party.
Except, wait a second. A half-hour ago, the movie was showing us a Matt Murdock so sensitive to the sounds of the city that he has to sleep in a sensory deprivation tank with thick steel walls. Now not only can he sleep in a regular bed, but he can sleep through a woman getting out of bed with him and leaving a note on the pillow?
Oh well, who cares, because the ball is fancy. Did I mention that it’s called the Black and White Ball? Which is where evil black Wilson Fisk meets noble white Matt Murdock.
While Foggy is desperately trying to win the Kingpin’s business, Matt turns him down flat. And then he makes out with a stunning Elektra for a while.
But her father, having received a death threat from Fisk, yanks her out of the party early. And interestingly, although one of Natchios’s bodyguards quite clearly says Fisks’s name in the middle of a babble of Greek, Matt has no idea that Fisk is behind what’s to come.
What is to come, you ask? Well, look what happens to this guy.
That’s Frank Miller, writer/artist of yesterday’s Out of the Vault and the guy who single-handedly turned Daredevil cool. Bullseye kills him and steals his motorcycle, then uses it to stop Natchios’s limo. Daredevil tries to intervene by first dodging one of Bullseye’s shuriken (“You made me miss. I never miss.”) and then stealing this bit from Akira.
Bullseye uses Daredevil’s billy club to kill Natchios while Elektra is still stunned from the crash. But he doesn’t beat him to death with it. He throws it and it pierces Natchios’s heart. Keep in mind, this is a billy club; it’s not sharp! But the movie is bound and determined to lurch back and forth from cool to stupid in ever faster intervals until the stupid just takes over completely. Elektra, of course, blames Daredevil for her father’s death.
Time for more housekeeping before the big final battle. Reporter Urich visits coroner Kirby (Marvel shout-out) played by Kevin Smith (Daredevil comics writer cameo) to see Daredevil’s billy club which doubles as a white cane.
And Urich realizes that he has seen this cane before, at the Black and White Ball.
Matt and Elektra go to her father’s funeral, where Matt’s hair is looking especially heinous. Seriously, what is Mark Steven Johnson’s thing with giving his leading men awful haircuts? Remember Ghost Rider?
Meanwhile, Bullseye vows revenge on Daredevil and demands a costume, while Elektra also vows revenge on Daredevil and has herself a cool-looking, but really silly training sequence, with sandbags dropping down out of her ceiling from nowhere for her to attack with her sai.
Finally, Daredevil, Elektra and Bullseye all show up on the same rooftop together. The script doesn’t explain why or how they all end up in the same place at the same time, but whatever. Elektra has herself a sexy leather costume with the most awesome combat cleavage ever.
And Matt, of course, has his own leather costume. And Bullseye, who was last seen demanding a costume from Kingpin? He’s wearing the exact same outfit he’s been wearing all movie. Wait, what?
Elektra beats Daredevil, stabbing him through the shoulder with her sai. She unmasks him and immediately repents when she sees that Daredevil is actually her boyfriend Matt. But then Bullseye shows up and beats Elektra after a brief fight that ends in a familiar image.
So Elektra beats Daredevil and Bullseye beats Elektra, and we know Daredevil will beat Bullseye. As I said in Hero Go Home (available soon in trade paperback!–yes, it’s a plug, sort of), it’s Rochambeau. Elektra is Paper, Bullseye is Scissors, and Daredevil is a Rock. A big, dumb bleeding rock who ends up back in the church as we finally loop back to the beginning of the film.
Bullseye shows up, and he and Daredevil have a huge fight in the church, atop a pipe organ that is seriously like ten stories tall or some such shit.
Bullseye discovers that Daredevil’s weakness is loud noises, so he bangs on the organ pipes and rings the church bell, leaving Daredevil nearly helpless. But then Bullseye makes the mistake of not only naming Fisk as the Kingpin, which Matt was too dumb to put together before, but he also mentions that Fisk’s calling card is a red rose, which Matt found on his dead father’s body. Yes, that’s right, This Time It’s Personal (which is a pet peeve of mine).
Daredevil dispenses with Bullseye by throwing him out the stained glass window to crash onto Urich’s car, then takes this Hulk-like superleap across the street. Seriously, this should not be Daredevil; this is more like Spider-Man or Digger (yes, another plug; if you’re not reading Run, Digger, Run!, you’re missing out).
And finally, we come to the final battle between Daredevil and Kingpin. And it’s a little anticlimactic after the big Daredevil/Bullseye match-up. But hell, by this point, I think the movie’s getting just as tired as I am. Still, it’s nice to see Ben Affleck get bounced off the ceiling.
Daredevil wins, of course, and after a brief coda to leave open the possibility that Elektra is still alive (both for a possible Daredevil sequel and for her own critically reviled movie), we’re into the end credits.
But a Marvel movie is almost never over when the credits start. Halfway through, we get a little stinger, depicting Bullseye in the hospital. Which may seem a little ridiculous in the “keeping him around for a sequel” department, until you realize that the same thing happened in the comic.
And there you go. In the end, it’s hard for me to come down definitively on the thumbs-up/thumbs down decision. The movie is gorgeous, has an obvious reverence for the source material, and does a lot of things right. I love the way Daredevil’s senses are portrayed, and I think they did about as good a job with the costume as any Hollywood comic adaptation ever has.And some of the scenes work, especially earlier in the movie.
Unfortunately, I think the movie does such a good job of grounding Daredevil in a gritty, street-level war on crime that it gets harder to buy when the action turns more outlandish as the film progresses. And while I find several of the performers appealing–Garner, Duncan, and Farrell, mostly–I don’t think their roles really come together all the way.
Ultimately, while it’s not a total misfire like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, it looks worse every day as better superhero films are released. But I’ll still break it out and watch every now and then.