I want to address something important. I am writing this in response to the extended Director's Cut of 2003's superhero release "Daredevil." The version of the film that I view as the definitive release of director Mark Steven Johnson's vision for the character. With a significantly longer run-time, the reinstatement of several key sequences and a somewhat darker and more appropriate tonality, it's by far the preferred method for viewing this film, and I think I would be doing the work a disservice to write this based on the somewhat butchered theatrical version.
2003's "Daredevil" has seemingly become a forgotten film as of late. Coming out on the heels of the beloved "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" film debuts, the movie was something of a aberration. It never attained the high critical praise or warm fan reception of its peers. It was viewed as a mere cash-grab. A trendy film made to capitalize on the success of other comic-book adaptations. And ultimately as a failure to meet potential. I remember being in High School when it came out, and it was basically completely ignored, save for us weirdos, goths and outcasts who liked it for our own reasons. It wasn't really until the later release of the Director's Cut, however, that we got a glimpse of the potential the film had beneath the surface.
Ben Affleck stars as blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who lost his sight in a childhood accident involving toxic waste, but gained superhuman "sonar" and reflexes as a result. After losing his father to organized crime as a child, Murdock has sworn to use his abilities to defend the people of New York from the dark criminal underworld, and has taken on the moniker of the "Daredevil" to wage this war. The story revolves around a web of treachery as Matt meets and falls in love with Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), only to find his alter-ego falsely blamed for the murder of her father by criminal mastermind Wilson Fisk. (Michael Clarke Duncan) Murdock must try to stop Fisk's vile plans while also juggling his complicated relationship with Elektra- who now plans on hunting down and killing Daredevil to avenge her father.
There's something disheartening about the animosity towards the film felt by many involved. Particular star Affleck, who has negatively addressed the film in the past. Because despite some very obvious flaws, there's actually quite a bit to admire here, and it does manage to entertain on a fairly consistent basis. While perhaps not ideally cast, I felt all involved did admirable jobs with their roles, and Affleck and Garner do light up the screen, especially when they are together. And the villains of the film, portrayed by Duncan with Colin Farrell also starring as the delightfully over-the-top hired thug "Bullseye", are just deliciously vile and the sort you just love to hate. They chew the scenery... but they chew it in all the best ways.
The film's tone is fascinating and I admired director Johnson's visual sensibilities. He strikes a good balance that mixes realism with stylization- with the film often feeling like a comic book come to life with rich colors and some gorgeous sweeping cinematography. The movie occasionally reminded me of the original Tim Burton "Batman" in the way it feels both real and unreal at the same time. And though it might seem a bit hokey to some, I quite liked the visual aesthetic and Johnson's vision for translating the comic to the screen. It gave the film character. I also enjoyed the writing for the most part. Johnson's script might lack in-depth character analysis and move at an inconsistent pace, but I do think that the story presented is a very valid one, and he mixes action and intrigue quite well. There's just enough story there to keep you invested in between the stylish action set-pieces. I also really appreciated that he got the origin out of the way very quickly and concisely. It was refreshing seeing an actual "Daredevil" adventure rather than a "Daredevil" origin.
And sue me... I still love soundtrack. It's pure nostalgia for anyone who grew up in that era and the song choices do fit the mood. (If you dug Evanescence in High School like I did, you're in for a treat!) It gives the film a kitchzy "time capsule" quality that I enjoy. It's a purely selfish reason to enjoy the film... but I don't care.
The failings of the film really do boil down to the fact that the film is comparatively tamer than it ought be, and the fact that despite admitting I liked the soundtrack... other portions of the film feel dated in the worst of ways. While I'm not a huge fan of the comics, "Daredevil" seems like a character whose at his best when he is allowed to be darker... more aggressive. And that's something that just wasn't going to quite happen in this film. Despite the extended cut being given an R-rating, the film was clearly made with a PG-13 in mind, and you can feel it bogging down the entire experience, especially with the inclusion of several sillier scenes that seem made just to make the kiddies in the audience laugh. And the film is too obviously an early 2000's release with an over-reliance on shaky CGI and distracting wire-work. It lessens the impact of some very important scenes.
Still, I think the Director's Cut is a film that should be given a second chance. It's pros far outweigh the cons, and it's ability to entertain with good performances and sharp visuals make up for its more obvious flaws. The Netflix series may be the definitive adaptation... but give this one another shot. You just might find that it's better than you remember. I give it a good 8 out of 10.
Review by MaximumMadness from the Internet Movie Database.