By Joe Lozito
"Daredevil", the latest in the endless series of comic book films spewing out of Hollywood, is a disappointment at nearly every turn. The most obvious letdown is clear even before the film begins: Ben Affleck is no superhero. As an actor, Mr. Affleck is charming and amiable enough, but he's a light actor made for romantic comedies. As he showed in the equally sub-par "Sum of all Fears", he doesn't do well with heavy material. And "Daredevil" is a dark character.
Of course, a superhero needs a supervillain, and in this case it's Bullseye, a Irish assassin with a knack for hitting his targets with any handy prop - from a paper clip to an ace of spades. Colin Farrell brings the exact amount of passion and camp to the role that the rest of the film sorely lacks, but it is too little, too late. Rounding out the cast is TV's Jennifer Garner as Elektra, an interesting character in the comic, reduced to a standard " Buffy"-generation butt-kicker.
Director, and self-proclaimed comic book fan, Mark Steven Johnson stays true to the comic for the most part, creating a gloomy New York City which is a bit too CGI. Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson seems not to have the slightest inkling how to direct an action scene. The film's fights are so badly cut together that it's impossible to determine what's going on. I can't imagine why Mr. Johnson felt the need to move the camera so much; with a costumed hero, he could have put any martial arts stuntman behind the mask and made some really memorable fight scenes. Perhaps Mr. Johnson was trying to convey the hero's sensation of being without his sense of sight. But really, I think the direction is just sense-less.
After the success of "Spider-Man", Fox threw another $30 million behind the film. It's hard to imagine what it would have looked like without the extra funds, since a lot of the effects are only average. For some reason, Daredevil is able to bounce impossibly from building to building (like a certain popular web slinger) without crushing his skeleton on impact. Most of the film's production budget was obviously spent creating the exquisite "Shadow World" - the images that Daredevil is able to see using his other, heightened senses. The effect, which mimics sound waves outlining physical forms, is eye-poppingly good - particularly in a scene involving Ms. Garner in the rain. Unfortunately, the Shadow World is so good that it renders the rest of Daredevil somewhat bland. Worse still, our hero seems to be able to see so well - better than most people, in fact - that is makes Mr. Affleck's use of a cane somewhat comical. That may have been the point, but if so, it didn't work.
The dialogue is so forgettable that it's difficult to determine which is the worst line in the script by Mr. Johnson and Brian Helgeland. For a short time they touch on the good idea of having Daredevil concerned that he is becoming "the bad guy". Like most of the interesting moments in the film, this is purloined directly from Frank Miller's Daredevil graphic novel. It's a shame the rest of the film wasn't copied from there. It might have been worth watching.