Written by Mark Steven Johnson.
To prime myself for the new Daredevil series (reviews coming soon), I took the time to rewatch the Ben Affleck version from the pre-Avengers days. Of course, Affleck’s status as the new Batman was also a contributing factor in that.
And Affleck is one of the many problems with it. He’s not the single fault, of course, but Daredevil has the unfortunate status of getting almost everything entirely wrong. And even though Affleck isn’t the whole picture, he’s still a good half of it, and that manages, somehow, to highlight the flaws that are only minor. Part of that’s the writing, but there are many cases of unimpressive screenplays being made better by undeserving actors. Even if Daredevil’s character arc is almost completely nonexistent, a different actor – by which I mean a good one – would have been able at least to embrace that and make it at least somewhat entertaining. But the formulaic execution of the plot isn’t disguised by Affleck at all, no. It’s spotlighted. Affleck isn’t so much an actor as a medium through-which dumb storytelling can channel itself, and here it manifests in the form of Daredevil.
The dumb storytelling is so purely because of formula. Daredevil is almost a parody of the genre, save for its almost smug-like sense of total unirony. The action unfolds without any awareness whatsoever that literally everything here has been done before in much more original, imaginative and inventive ways. I can’t blame it entirely for that based on its source material, but the tone, style and manner of it is something I can only compare with a thankfully hypothetical Michael Bay’s Batman Begins. It’s not that there’s anything particularly bad about it. It’s just that there’s nothing new. It’s not “more”. It’s not a worthy addition to the genre. It’s just “more of the same”.
The Bayisms themselves aren’t even memorably boring. They’re just unmemorable. Daredevil’s love story with Elektra is the most rushed romance I’ve ever seen – even one of the characters remarks that he’s gone straight from entering the relationship to exiting it without ever actually being in it. Pro tip: acknowledging a fault in your writing doesn’t excuse you from criticism. And “that scene” with the fireplace and the nakedness itself isn’t “bad” either, it’s just out of place. It resembles an erotic thriller – which Daredevil isn’t. I’ve no problem with erotic thrillers, mind (Colour of Night notwithstanding), but inserting a scene from it into something that isn’t it sticks out more than the choreography.
Ah, the choreography! Or rather, the lack of it. An early scene has a young Daredevil beating Colin Farrell’s lovechild with one of his canes by – I’m really not making this up – violently brushing the side of his face. WHAT? It was like watching a kung-fu movie in which Ben Stiller’s slapped by a fish. At least that would have been humourous.
Wannabe kung-fu is enough, but street dancing is something else completely. One scene, in-which Daredevil and Elektra prepare to demonstrate their ability against each other and take their clothes off in perfect synchronicity, is performed like it’s a dance movie. They’re both positioned at either side of the frame, and the camera moves back as if they’re about to start moving their arms about as an Armstrong and Miller tribute.
Which is the biggest problem for a film like Daredevil: everything it tries to do ends-up looking like something else. This pre-Batman Begins: Electric Boogaloo (Dance Dance Revolution: Dance Off Edition) starts off at least watchably bad, but quickly descends into self-parody. What frustrates me about is that it doesn’t go all the way. Rather than understanding the lengths it could take, which would be fun and not-too-serious, it insists on staying where it is. It would rather be mostly gritty with humour to bring out the serious moments. Instead, it turns into something almost funny if not for the over-reliance on dark realism. In one way, it’s like the opposite of Deadpool.
Well Deadpool it ain’t.