The gloom of Batman! The wiriness of Spider-Man! The croaking irritability of Charles Bronson! Daredevil provides all three! (And considerably less...)Some super-heroes lend themselves perfectly to a visual medium. Heck, the old Superman series thrilled an entire generation - and that was nothing more than a barrel-chested white guy in pajamas! Other characters are perhaps best suited to remain in their original pulp form and I suspect that Daredevil is one of them. On paper, it's easy to buy the concept of an acrobatic blind superhero in red leather. It would take a more talented team than writer/director Mark Steven Johnson and actor Ben Affleck to pull this trick off in movie form and despite a few glimmers of flash they fail pretty resoundingly.
Whoever thought the director of Simon Birch was the right man to oversee a comic-book adaptation was plain old wrong. Daredevil is a gloomily lit and choppily edited melange of overripe melodrama, painfully familiar action-flick conceits and howlingly trite dialogue. It showcases a massive array of talented actors while giving them virtually nothing to do; action scenes are tossed onto the screen seemingly at random (these sequences waver between fitfully entertaining and ridiculously contrived); and the film seems like it could be disassembled and re-edited together at random while making the same amount of sense.
The plot focuses on yet another angst-ridden avenger with special powers and a skin-tight outfit. (I of course realize that Daredevil is based on a decades-old comic-book, but it's astonishing how closely this film resembles last year's Spider-Man.) Our hero is Matt Murdock, a crusading-for-the-people type of lawyer who was struck blind after a childhood collision with some toxic waste. (Yes, toxic waste directly in the face and the result is blindness.) Matt discovers some bizarre side effects from his affliction: his four remaining sense are heightened to, well, super-heroic proportions.
So basically we have a blind hero who can do anything a sighted person can do - and a whole lot more. Where's the problem? Much like in any worthwhile comic-book, the problem here is a murdered father figure and a blind guy with a little too much time on his hands. (How Murdock can manage a lawyer's schedule and find the time to fight crime all night is anyone's guess.) If you've already guessed that Murdock's dead father has a connection to the arch-nemesis Kingpin then I assume you've already seen at least one comic-book movie.
The overstuffed flick tosses nearly a dozen potentially interesting characters onscreen (each one played by a solid actor) and only two manage to stick. Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano and Leland Orser are wasted, while the intitally intriguing choice of Michael Clarke Duncan as the head baddie proves to be cooler in concept than in reality. (One can almost see the teleprompter offscreen.) Rising above the tedium are Jennifer Garner as the shockingly cute Elektra and the manic Colin Farrell - who provides the only real sparks of life as the cartoonishly aggressive henchman Bullseye.
As the title slab, Ben Affleck provides the exact opposite of what one might expect: as the blind attorney, he isn't half bad. As the snarling and humorously gravel-voiced super-hero, he's a huge ball of unintentional hilarity. I don't care how much you're enjoying the film; hearing Affleck mumble from the rafters about "Justissss" is simply too campy to bear.Daredevil isn't an awful movie and it should find plenty of supporters among the more forgiving comics crowd. But for every clever bit or flash of effective action there's at least five moments of wince-inducing silliness or yawn-inspiring yap. Plus the film features one of the worst soundtracks I've heard in years (full of blaring pop-rock and pseudo-angst growling) and that certainly doesn't help.