From Panels to FPS: DAREDEVIL (2003)

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Ok, we’ve all had some time to process it now. It’s no dream! No Hoax! BEN AFFLECK will be playing BRUCE WAYNE/BATMAN in 2015’s MAN OF STEEL sequel: BATMAN vs SUPERMAN.

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And yes I know this review is about DAREDEVIL and not about some film that hasn’t even been written yet, but just shut up for a minute because dammit if DAREDEVIL didn’t want to be BATMAN meets shitty modern SPIDERMAN wanna-be CG!!!

So there. Now shut up. I was talking about the impending Batfleck in BATMAN vs SUPERMAN. See, here’s the dilly-yo, I’m a nerd. Tell me Batman will be in Man of Steel 2. Fine. Tell me that Superman sequel will have Batman’s name in front of the stories hero. Fine. Tell me this film will be based on FRANK MILLER’s seminal classic THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Freaking fantastic. Tell me Ben “I fucking hate O’Bannion” Affleck will be playing our caped crusader? WHOA! Stop right god-damned there!

Have you read THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS? It’s about an aged and grizzled Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to once again save/fix Gotham City’s ills. The point is HE’S OLD! He’s beyond experienced and beaten. He’s living off sheer will power and he’s bad to the Mother F’ing bone!

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IN FACT, when he finally does square off against Superman, Bruce has to wear a freaking BATtle suit of armor that’s loaded with Kryptonite. (SPOILER ALERT: This is REALLY the only part of the comic they will be ripping off heavily for BATMAN vs SUPERMAN)

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See. AND THAT’S THE WHOLE CHARM OF THE BOOK! Lovable Old Billionaire Crimefighting Curmudgeon Bruce Wayne is waaaaayyyyy out of his league in this fight. In fact, he even dies during it. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s a comic. Guess who doesn’t stay dead.) SO! If we’re going to do this right, who do we cast? I think the there is one clear and obvious choice:

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That’s right, Fred Dryer. HUNTER, bitches! Who is gruffer, older, and ready to be made believable as a grizzled crime fighter by Zack Snyder than Freddy? What? You’re insane, Danno? That’s NOT quite Hollywood works? We’d still need our Batman a little younger, but still believable as someone who has long fought the dark fight, and only now, has to come out retirement to help stop the evil BRYAN CRANSTON and this god-like menace who tends to level entire cities when he gets into a scuffle? Who could portrait such a believable Batman? Who…who, indeed…

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Yes I UNDERSTAND that’s not the direction they are going for, but my point is TONY STARKing up Ben FREAKING Affleck at the climax of BATMAN vs SUPERMAN just isn’t going to hold up the same emotion weight for me. …Unless Cranston gets his Super-Suit too.

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Eh, even then. It’ll still just be the end of IRON MAN with Jesus and Lois Lane mixed into the scuffle. MAKE BRUCE WAYNE OLD!!! Ok…there. I’m done. Now onto DAREDEVIL. …Sort of…

Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we? Aaaallll the back to Dec 2002 to Feb 2003. See, back then I had a friend we called THE DON. Life being what it was, my halcyon days of living with The Don were long since past and I mostly only saw him on the weekends. Every odd Friday became a tradition…or so we’d hoped it would. But on December 6th, 2002, The Don and I took in a little hyped film called EQUILIBRIUM. Maybe it’s aged gracefully(?) but I’m not willing to revisit it. The one time thru uber-martial arts meet FAHRENHEIT 451/1984(whichever temp you prefer) was enough for me, thankyouverymuch. And for The Don, too.

Taking a much anticipated gamble, the following Friday, Decemeber 13, 2002, we saw the final venture of Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard’s crew in STAR TREK: NEMESIS. The beyond brilliant RED LETTER MEDIA has said all there needs to be said about NEMESIS, so I’ll just add this was such a disheartening experience I don’t know that I saw The Don for two solid months. Maybe we hung out and watched Adult Swim and played records and pool, as was the way at The Don’s place, but I can’t say for sure. What I can tell you is we FOR SURE spent a lovely, beautiful, romantic, sensual VALENTINES 2003 together taking in America’s heartthrobs BENIFFER…no, wait, that was Affleck with J-Lo…America’s heartthrobs AFFNER (aka Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner) in DAREDEVIL, one of Marvel’s many pre-Phase films to try and cash in on the success of X-MEN and SPIDERMAN and fail miserably.

Anyway…didn’t see much of The Don after that, as I recall. I got a girlfriend. I got another girlfriend. She became my wife. The Don got a girlfriend who became his wife and mother of his children. I got divorced and write cranky review of films from ten and a half years ago, The Don won’t answer impassioned Facebook pleas to respond cause Matt, Patty, and The Nels would love to see him again.

So is life.

And so was DAREDEVIL. My revisiting did not increase my love or hate for this film, instead I felt entirely ambivalent the whole time and I was bored by the spectacle that is the filmmaking of MARK DAVID CHAPMAN (a Hastings, MN boy, dontchyaknow?!) — a Hollywood powerhouse prior to DAREDEVIL responsible for such groundbreaking material as Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, Big Bully, Jack Frost, and who after DAREDEVIL rewarded us with the ELEKTRA sequel and the first GHOST RIDER. A real American hero, if there ever was one. IN FACT—in BOTH the one hour documentaries on my DAREDEVIL disk (it’s the standard, theatrical edition, not the DIRECTOR’s CUT which is supposed to make the film “good”) Mr Chapman goes on several times about only HE can bring Daredevil to life because only HE understands comics and the character. Whatever, psycho.

So as I said earlier, this film REALLY wanted to be BATMANish mixed with Sam Raimi SPIDERMAN CG ACTION!!!  Yep, he’s right. I could have never had that generic of a vision. In fact, my vision is so limited, I probably would have even insisted the star of the film ave the SAME HAIR COLOR as the icon hero has had for 30 years prior, instead of just letting him really gel it up to sell it as a ‘different look’.  But what do I know, I never worked with Matthau and Lemmon. TWICE!

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So DAREDEVIL tells the story of MATT MURDOCK, who as a child (ugh. Kid origins.) was raised alone by his ex-boxer father turned secret mob enforcer. Matt was picked on local bullies and generally was nerd. One day while coming home from school Matt sees his Pop doing mob enforcery stuff and runs away like a cry-baby. Not watching where he is going(OH THE UPCOMING IRONY!) he runs into a factory causing an accident which shoots toxic Kool-Aid all over Matt, “BLINDING” Matt forever. But here’s the rub: The toxic stuff actually MUTATED Matt’s other senses, in fact SOUND allows him to basically see, in a much crappier CG version way as Batman did at the end of DARK KNIGHT with the cell phone Bat-Vision. (Sadly, no video game narration by MO FREEMAN in DD.) In fact, the sound of RAIN can allow him to see for realz, but for some reason TOO MUCH NOISE is his Kryptonite. Huh? Anyway, in the greatest affront to comic fans everywhere, he even uses his new-found “sight” to even save the life of STAN LEE from stepping off a sidewalk and getting hit by a car. Little bastard. Just ONCE can we please kill off Stan Lee in a Marvel film? GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, maybe? Umm…whoa…I’m way off track. So yeah, Matt’s other senses kick in making him super-duper agile and learn kung-fu and all the other things the 8 senses do when you lose one.

After the accident, Matt’s Pop feel like a schlub and quits the crime game and goes back to being a boxer—THE DEVIL! Now as any reader out there who has been in organized crime knows, you can leave the underworld, but the underworld won’t leave you. So Pop is told to throw a fight or HE’LL GET HIS! A reformed man no longer afraid of his old friends who he know are professional killers, Pop wins the fight. And then is killed!!! By the man who would growz up to be THE KINGPIN one day. (*cough*BATMAN 89*cough) Matt swears vengeance on his father’s killers and criminals everywhere cause why not and good for him.

Years later young Matt Murdock has grown up to be BEN AFFLECK, still “blind” but now a lawyer by day–ahh, Law. Where justice sees all!—and dresses up in a fetching little leather number as DAREDEVIL and fights crime on the streets using his trusted walking stick/whacking stick/Bat-a-rang. All is going well for Matt, except his law partner is JON FAVREAU in the “comic relief” role which is putting it liberally, and he can’t get a good lead on who THE KINGPIN is. No one for a second suspects the GIANT FUCKING CRIME BOSS BEHIND EVERYTHING played with all the usual gusto MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN can manage as CARLTON FISK as Duncan always seems to be struggling to breathe.

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Well, that’s not entirely true a reporting filling in for ROBERT WUHL in BATMAN 89 is on to both FISK and out to expose this DAREDEVIL legend. This reporter is lifelessly played by JOEY PANTS dyslexically phoning in one of his worst paychecks ever. HOW DOES THIS GUY CONTINUE TO GET WORK?!?!

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Anyhoo, one day Ben Affleck runs into JENNIFER GARNER who is playing ELEKTRA NACHOS (my favorite kind!) and they random get into an overly bantered and choreographed scrap in broad daylight in front of kids on a school playground. And yay, love is born! A few thoughts on Jennifer Garner: I’ve never particularly cared for her. Yes, I’m basing this entirely on her work in JUNO and DAREDEVIL, having never seen her seminal work in ALIAS or 13 GOING ON 30, but frankly she just strikes me as a poor man’s RACHAEL McADAMS (which isn’t saying much) but without any of the forced charisma McAdams can at least muster. Also it seems like she’s pretty much gone away since she started producing little Afflecks or whatever she does with her time now, and who cares, so good riddance to highly-sculpted cheekbone rubbish.

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Unawares to our new lovebirds, Ms NACHOS father is mixed up with THE KINGPIN, but refuses to go thru on a deal, so FISK calls in the deadliest assassin money can buy to rub both NACHOS out: Ladies and Gentlemen, I give COLIN FARRELL as the heart and soul of this picture, BULLSEYE!!!

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Farrell does not steer away from bringing some god damned life into thos film, and I praise him for it. It’s also a PERFECT contrast to Affleck’s DAREDEVIL and why  I (and many others) fear for the screen legacy of THE BATMAN in Affleck’s hands. See, when BULLSEYE and DAREDEVIL, it’s just a big CG leap fest. But in all his close-ups and dialogue moments Farrell sells BULLSEYE with total conviction. It’s a B+ version of HEATH LEDGER’s JOKER. That analogy in mind, when Affleck is Matt Murdock, he’s just…Ben Affleck. Giving the same one-note performance he’s known and relied on for. CHRISTIAN BALE, on the other hand, as Bruce Wayne is a man of great intensity and diversity. From his tenacity at originally constructing the Batcave and uniform and weapons he was a man driven and it showed. When he was billionaire playboy, Bale convincingly played it the nines. But THEN, when Bale became BATMAN to take on the JOKER, he was a man possessed. His gruff growl may have gotten a lot of mocking, but it showed a man who had been pushed to the edge and in tone alone showed he wasn’t going to take this shit anymore. On the other hand, Affleck as DAREDEVIL, who we are to presume has been protecting his home of Hell Kitchen, New York for years barely drops his voice, let being capable of showing one iota of the MAN WITHOUT FEARiness DAREDEVIL is supposed to live by. That was all left up to crappy CG and his stunt team.

I will say I did enjoy that writer/director MARK DAVID CHAPMAN went out of his way to name side characters after influential comic creators during DAREDEVILS run, including BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS and FRANK MILLER, who even makes a cameo. BUT OF COURSE HE DOES! See this whole film wouldn’t exist without Miller. He created ELEKTRA NACHOS and BULLSEYE and the catholic overtones and one-man war on THE KINGPIN that defined DAREDEVIL for decades after Miller had finished his work in the mid 80’s. The most egregious bit of name dropping and casting has to go to KEVIN SMITH who shows up as some kind of fatty with info for Joey Pants. The only hitch is Smith’s name is KIRBY. As in jack Kirby. As in JACK “THE KING” KIRBY”. To have Smith’s tubby and weak shoulders bearing the weight of that legacy for even two minutes on film is one of director Chapman’s greatest sins in film full of them.

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Ok, enough blah-blah. Let’s wrap this up. So BULLSEYE is fighting DAREDEVIL when BULLSEYE kills ELEKTRA’s Dad in front of ELEKTRA with DAREDEVILS own whacking stick. ELEKTRA evidently didn’t notice the guy(BULLSEYE) who was trying to kill them moments before had vanished leaving DD to hold the bag. In doing so, THE KINGPIN rejoices cause DD gets the blame for the killing, and somehow the title of THE KINGPIN is pinned on ELEKTRA’s dead dad, making everyone believe THE KINGPIN is dead….I guess. It’s kind of a throw-away couple of lines. Fine writing, Chapman! So ELEKTRA goes after DD, they fight, she stabs him but good, unmasks him, realizes it’s her love and she’s made a terrible mistake, at which point BULLSEYE shows up and kills ELEKTRA (good!).

DAREDEVIL runs, and he and BULLSEYE have a very BATMAN 89 fight in a church, complete with BULLSEYE falling off the roof climax. He lives though. (Stay for the after the credits scene True Believers! It ties into nothing!!!) DAREDEVIL and THE KINGPIN fight, DD breaks FISK’s legs and leaves him for the police. Joey Pants, having discovered DD’s true identity decides to wish him luck in cleaning up the streets rather than exposing his secret. Cue one last shitty CG shot of New York and DD flipping around and…THE END!!! Hooray!!!

So there you have it. Don’t you dare defend Affleck’s pick as BATMAN with this piece of trash. He shows zero range that shows zero potential. Don’t defend his choice with ARGO or THE TOWN or any of that middling pap. THEY ARE BAD FILMS! HE IS A BAD ACTOR! A little piece of me has just died… I need to go watch some Nolan now…

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