Strange Brouhaha

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I finally got up the nerve to borrow Daredevil from the library. I gave the movie a pass when it was in the theaters--I've never been that big a fan of either Daredevil or Ben Affleck. When I saw it on the shelves in the library, though, I decided to grab it just to see if it was as bad as I had heard. (Yeah, it was the destro...err, "Full Screen" version, but it's what they had.)

I want to like comic book movies. I really do. The problem, as I think I've written before, lies in two areas. First is that the visual language of comics, the pacing, everything, is just different from the visual language of movies. It's tough to translate. For every Spider-Man, there's a Captain America, for every X-Men, a Punisher, for every Batman Begins...well, you get the idea. The second problem is that the costumes, in their bright primary colors, really really don't work. They're the one thing that always needs to be rejiggered, because while we'll believe a lot of things, we won't believe that spandex is going to stop a punch.

Daredevil, the movie, is flawed. Deeply flawed. They're trying to do too much in one movie. As I said, I'm not a big fan of the Daredevil comics, but I know enough to know that the story of Elektra is sprawling and important and really can't be done alongside an origin story that ALSO introduces the Kingpin. It would have worked far better to have a straight Kingpin story alongside the origin, build up some animosity between the Kingpin and DD. Save Elektra for the sequel. And with a tighter story...there would have been a sequel. This movie as it stands is a 90-minute prologue to 10 minutes of story.

Ben Affleck can't *move*. There's a scene between Matt Murdock (Daredevil's civilian identity) and Elektra (the girl he loves) where they have a little fight in the park. (As Savannah pointed out, it's basically a musical number without the music.) For someone who's supposed to be able to fight and isn't particularly interested in hiding it, he was awfully stiff and immobile.

For all its flaws, I still found it worth watching twice. One-and-a-half times, really; when I made Savannah watch it with me, we fast-forwarded through the uninteresting bar fight and the dullest love scene ever written (not the worst, George Lucas gets that one) and a bunch of the fight between Bullseye and DD. There are lots of comic-book insider jokes and name-dropping. Stan Lee's cameo is probably the best one he's done.

Here's the funniest scene. Matt Murdock is talking with his law partner, Foggy Nelson, who is complaining about the fact that their clients--mostly poor, mostly pro bono--are paying them in fish and cheese wheels and sports equipment. "This isn't a law office, Matt, it's the set of goddamn Sanford and Son! I walk in here every morning and expect Lamont to walk down the stairs!"

LAMONT! That still cracks me up.


  • Yeah, the Lamont thing was a lot funnier than it had any right to be. Really, the movie wasn't that good. There was a lot of deeply clumsy dialogue (including the fatal "Why are you telling me this?"), they introduced Kingpin way too late, and everyone was overshadowed by the actor who played Young Matt (hold on--checking imdB--Scott Terra). I missed him for the rest of the movie. Distractingly enough, he looked like he was going to grow up to be Colin Farrell rather than Ben Affleck. Speaking of Colin Farrell, his performance as Bullseye was a disappointing imitation of intensity rather than the real thing.

    And yeah, the Elektra story is meaningless when told in such truncated form. The early fighting between Elektra and Matt Murdock was, in a word, stupid. In a very narrow and strictly-defined sense, the movie *had* until that point maintained a certain 'realism,' that is, a sense that the freaky stuff would be kept to the shadows. Then a grown man and woman suddenly break into a high-kicking, bone-crushing battle in public in broad daylight, in the city, in front of a bunch of children. No sirens? Nobody coming up and saying "What's going on here"?

    Anyhow. It's not really worth that level of analysis. But it just goes to show how extremely hard it is (as Rob said) to do a comic book movie *well,* and how much credit the teams behind "Batman Begins" and the X-Men franchise deserve.

    By Blogger Savannah, at 12:46 PM  

  • You do realize there is an Elektra movie that came out earlier this year?

    By Anonymous Matt, at 7:41 PM  

  • Yes; that was a movie about Elektra, not about Elektra and Daredevil. Elektra is utterly boring without Daredevil. (Elektra, with apologies to Frank Miller, is also utterly boring *with* Daredevil.) The Elektra/DD story arc deserves a whole movie to itself.

    I also want to take a moment to gripe about the long, long history of Elektra's "razor-sharp sai" (a term you see over and over again in Miller's Elektra arc): a sai is a sword-breaker. It does not have a sharpened edge. It has a point that can be used to puncture or stab, but it's not a cutting weapon. If it were a cutting weapon, I'm pretty sure some of the spin moves she did in the movie would cut her hands to little tiny pieces.

    By Blogger Robert, at 8:03 PM  

  • There was a lot of Miller I didn't really get into; Ronin, the Elektra thingee, Sin City, but I did dig the Hell's Kitchen Daredevil run.

    Of course I got them all. For his and Sienkiewicz's art if nothing else.

    By Anonymous Frankie Crisp, at 12:32 AM  

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