There was a time when the only superhero movies that actually made it to the big screen were either Superman or Batman flicks, and when these once massive franchises ground to a halt, the genre looked to be in serious trouble.
DC Comics had their time in the sun with The Man Of Steel and The Caped Crusader, but it took the nocturnal activities of Blade to awaken Hollywood to the long-neglected Marvel portfolio. With both X-Men and Spider-Man having been huge box office smashes, it now falls to the lesser-known Daredevil to carry the (human) torch.
While Daredevil breaks from tradition by employing a big-name leading man, the structure of the movie is all too familiar. That's because all these movies face the same conundrum - how do you introduce the characters to those unfamiliar with the comics while still keeping the fanboys happy? The answer here, as with its predecessors, is an extended 'origins' introduction, with a flurry of big budget action as a finale. X-Men and Spider-Man were very entertaining, but both felt very much like precursors to something bigger and better, as if they were somehow on a short cinematic leash. The multiple sequels already in production seem to bear this out.
Affleck's Matt Murdock is a far more realistic proposition than either Wolverine or Spidey. Mere mortals can put him on the floor, and he keeps his body going from one day to the next by popping a variety of pharmaceuticals of dubious origin. Y'see, Murdock was blinded as a child, and his only superpowers are his heightened senses. Senses that provide Daredevil with sonar-like vision and unprecedented agility. Other than that, Murdock's as flawed - if not more so - than the rest of us. Unfortunately, instead of making Daredevil easier to identify with, this lack of other-worldliness actually makes him less interesting. As the movie is basically an on-rails rehash of Marvel flicks previous, Daredevil really needed a more engaging lead character. Occasionally dodgy CGI and wire work don't help matters either . . .
It's not a total wash out though. Michael Clarke Duncan was born to play the part of Kingpin, and as the character has appeared in both Spider-Man and X-Men comics, I'm sure this won't be the last we see of him.
Special mentions also for Colin Farrell as the ridiculous Bullseye (smashing, fantastic, etc.) and David Keith as Murdock Senior - a washed-up boxer who comes good in the end. David Keith? Yeah, the same guy who played suicidal Sid Worley in An Officer And A Gentlemen. Nice to see him again in a decent role.
It isn't that Daredevil is a poor film, it's just that it isn't an especially good one either. There's a sequel in the works, but whether it's a success or not I doubt it'll stop Marvel. Hulk, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and Punisher movies are all coming soon, and Silver Surfer, Captain America and Venom outings are being plotted. A Venom movie. I like the sound of that.
:: Rowan Shaeffer