Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daredevil (film) REVIEW

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I have just one thing to say to all those people who think the Daredevil Netflix series falls flat in season 2:  “Have you seen the 2003 movie???”

The Daredevil movie isn’t exactly bad per se.  It certainly has some neat and interesting moments, and several good action scenes.  At least some of the actors are clearly having fun with their roles, and they fit in some neat Easter eggs.  However, I don’t know whether the writers just didn’t understand the source material or whether they didn’t care, because this movie isn’t quite there to the comic book characters.

The problem starts as soon as the movie opens.  I do not understand what they were trying to do by cutting in shots from the movie fight sequences with Matt draped over the cross on top of the church.  I think they are trying to be artistic with that, but it just comes across as pretentious, annoying, and confusing.  I don’t think that this movie actually needed to have this framing device:  it sets up an internal conflict for Matt Murdock that just plain does not make sense.

So what is this internal conflict?  Matt keeps coming back to, “I’m not the bad guy.”  Why?  Because he beats up a criminal and a child who watched it is terrified.  Why does this send Matt over the edge?  Considering that the movie establishes him to have been fighting crime for some indeterminate (but considerable) period of time already, it doesn’t make any sense for him to suddenly be having a crisis of conscience.  They needed to either establish that he’s a new guy (by not giving him a massive arsenal of suits and weapons and by Ben Urich not suspecting the existence of the Daredevil—something which would take a good deal of time), or they need to give the movie a different focus instead of “I’m not the bad guy.”

Let’s talk about characters.  Ben Affleck does a great job as Matt Murdock, particularly when it comes to the brooding.  I can definitely understand someone at Warner Bros. watching this movie and saying, “You know, if we give this guy a bunch of money, a better script, and a good director, I think he’d make a great Batman.”  I really like the way that they visualized Matt’s radar sense in this movie as being kind of black-and-white and emanating from the sound.  His relationship with Elektra is handled very well, also—of course, these two were married for many years, so it would make sense for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner to have some believable chemistry.

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Unfortunately, Elektra in this movie has a serious problem.  They specifically call her Greek, but they never explain the fact that she’s the most blond-haired-blue-eyed Greek you could ever imagine.  It’s not that they need to spend a lot of time explaining it, but some sort of a throwaway like a picture of her (younger) father (who at least appears Middle Eastern) and her (younger) European mother would have sufficed.  Alternatively, if they had left out the “Greek” line entirely and left it up to the audience to figure out, that would have been fine.  As it is, Elektra’s ethnicity was a little too jarring for me to get past.  Jennifer Garner’s acting isn’t awful in this movie, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about the character.  We first see her rebuff Matt’s attempts to find out her name.  Then she gets into a martial arts fight with a blind guy (embarrassing…).  Then she is sort of stalking Matt and invites him to her father’s party.  And then there’s the infamous “Stay with me” scene.

I really want to know how that scene got pitched in the writers’ room.  “Matt hears people being carjacked and robbed by criminals and wants to leave.  However, Elektra begs him to ‘Stay with me.’  So our hero, bravely ignoring the victims’ pleas for help, stays on the rooftop to bed the girl he barely knows.”  That feels like a complete character assassination of Matt.  He’s supposed to be this guy who wants to help people and puts his duty above all.  But then he decides not to—and not for a particularly good reason but because the girl’s hot.  And the next day he shows no guilt or remorse for shirking his duty but is just happy he got laid.  What part of this scene made the writers want to include “Stay with me” as a callback line two more times throughout the movie?

Overall, Elektra is just there as a character.  They try to make her into a tough fighter with the playground fight and then her “training on sandbags” scene, but it really doesn’t work.  The playground scene is way too over-choreographed (like every other fight sequence in this movie) and cheesy to do anything to improve either character, and the sandbags scene doesn’t actually give her any challenge to overcome.  Matt’s fighting ability has already been demonstrated by his takedown of _____ and the bar thugs—showing him to actually have some fighting ability.  Elektra fights… sandbags.  Why?  It would have been far better for her character if she was instead fighting criminals to let off steam before going after Daredevil, or something like that.

However, the one thing you can give them credit for is not letting Elektra just get taken down like a punk by Bullseye.  She actually gives him a bit of a run for his money—hole in her hand and everything.  And then her death is a huge callback to the comic arc (one of them) where she died.  I did appreciate that.

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Actually, I appreciated a lot of elements of the villains’ characters in this movie.  Colin Farrell (Bullseye) and Michael Clark Duncan (Kingpin) are definitely having fun in this movie.  I don’t know Bullseye’s character in the comics that well, but the movie version is incredibly, beautifully over-the-top.  I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be such an Irish stereotype, but it works in this movie for some reason.  The Kingpin makes for an amazing final villain for Matt to overcome.  Both villains are great, but neither villain gets anything in the way of development.  Bullseye just likes killing people, and Kingpin just likes… being the Kingpin?

On the subject of Kingpin, I understand why Matt is going after him, but it doesn’t make sense to tie it in with Matt’s father’s death.  Why would Fisk even remember having killed Jack Murdock so many years ago in some random deserted alley?  And what’s the point of the roses, just to let Matt know that Fisk killed his father?  That seems way too highbrow for a run-of-the-mill enforcer (which is what Fisk was when he killed Jack).  Honestly, they could have left that part out entirely and the movie would have made so much more sense.

This movie has several really good and intense fight sequences, particularly between Daredevil and Bullseye.  However, as I’ve said already, the fight sequences are all choreographed to death.  And on top of that, the stunt-work is painful with all the actors getting pulled around on wires.  I didn’t actually see any visible wires, but it was all too obvious that they were being used.  It’s like someone said, “We’ve got all this leftover wire and a quota to meet, so let’s blow it all on this one movie!  We’ll string up every single character and make them dance around like marionettes!”

Also, why is it that Matt just can’t seem to keep his secret identity secret?  In this movie he was unmasked by both Elektra and Fisk, and Urich managed to figure it out just from seeing his cane and then the billy club.  The only benefit to this is the tease that they will explore what Fisk is capable of doing with Matt’s secret identity.

And that itself is the only reason that this movie even comes close to earning a sequel.  The story itself isn’t quite enough for me to want more of Matt fawning over a chick and avoiding responsibility or using the subway system to straight-up murder criminals.  Jon Favreau as Foggy Nelson brings great comic relief to the movie, but that’s not enough to save it.  The villains are a lot of fun, but not developed enough for me to really want to see if Bullseye’s recovery will progress to the point that he can do more than bull’s-eye flies with syringes.  Elektra is certainly not an interesting-enough character for me to want to see more!  The only sequel avenue I want to see is how Kingpin will make Matt’s life a living Hell from prison before getting out to finally put him out of his misery.

Is that what this movie’s “sequel” is going to do?  We’ll have to wait a week to find out!

Just to let you know, there probably will not be a Weekly MCU Review this week, and my (Spoiler) Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming may not be out this week either.  I will be back with more reviews and stuff next week!

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