Movies That Hate You: Daredevil

Blind Man’s Bluff:

A young man, blinded by an accident, trains himself to become a lawyer fighting for people by day…and a vigilante by night.  He finds himself facing off against The Kingpin, the biggest crime boss in the city.

Review and Analysis:

Sometimes, I don’t know if I should ever feel sorry for Ben Affleck.  He is not a great actor, and his best performances aren’t very memorable, but he picks some of the worst roles to play.  By that, I mean that his charisma and talent rarely match the role he plays.  He does not exude “Joe Everyman,” no matter how many times he tries to play them.  He seems better suited for roles that Michael Douglas usually played: Upper-class Middle Executives.  Daredevil just doesn’t suit him.

You’ve Seen This Story Before:

And it was produced by Tim Burton.  But it was called Batman and Batman Returns.  Even as Matt Murdock’s origin seems to be steeped more in Spiderman’s camp (young, skinny WASP boy is powered by something radioactive, and his father figure dies), this movie plays runs through the mish-mash from the Burton Batman films.  From Kingpin now being responsible for killing Matt’s father to not quite dead Elektra’s disappearance at the end of the film after she is mortally wounded.  And Batman and Daredevil share a common  “popular” writer in Frank Miller, so it should be of very little surprise that many of their attitudes (and extra-legal authoritarian tendencies) are almost the same.

Must Be the Radiation:

Marvel heroes seem to have an issue with Isotopic Radiation.  From Spiderman, to The Fantastic Four, to The Incredible Hulk, all of them seem to just love being bombarded with Radiation.  The closer to Nuclear types, the better.

Although having the young Matt run down a random alley in Hell’s Kitchen only to traipse  through a Radioactive Waste Disposal Plant is something that can only happen in Marvel movies.  Because even in the 1960s & 1970s, such plants were always heavily secured because of the material involved.

The Frank Miller Authoritarian, Part 1: Superhuman Judgment

Out of Curiosity: What Would Happen if Matt Murdock/Daredevil is Wrong? "Punishing the Guilty" is Nothing More than an Empty Slogan.

This is the first case that we as the audience get exposed to.  Jose Quesada is in court because of a physical and sexual assault that he is accused of committing against a woman.  Jose and his defense attorney employs the usual slut-shaming methods that are permissible in a court of law.  We are supposed to “know,” however, that Jose is lying about his version of the events regarding his encounter with Ms. Sutton (the victim), because Matt uses his Super-Hearing to detect an increased heart rate when Mr. Quesada is on the stand.  In essence, Matt’s power is used as a kind of Human Lie Detector (ethical scientists, however, reject Polygraphy in nearly all stripes as nothing more than Equestrian Fecal Matter.) and as such, we are to believe Jose to be a liar because he looks the part – and talks the part as well.

So, when the Courts do what they are supposed to do, in light of actual admissible evidence (and this is a civil court we’re in, by the way), he dresses up in skintight leather costume and assaults Jose before leaving him to die from being split in half by an oncoming train.  Yet, we are supposed to root for Daredevil because Jose is a “scumbag.”

Could you imagine the backlash if Daredevil (or Batman, Miller’s favorite DC Comics Authoritarian) performed the same kind of vigilante justice on some of the people listed here?  And killing them in the same fashion?  Then be confronted with solid evidence (that prosecutors like Murdock tend to hide from Defense Attorneys of all stripes – except for the super-rich ones) of the suspect’s innocence?

This is essentially why Batman is never shown to be wrong about any hunch he has:  Miller-style Vigilantes have to escape any accountability for their actions by yelling, “The Ends Justify the Means!” at all times.

Playing With Fire:

So Where Did Mr. Murdock Get the Can of Fuel to Put Make This Symbol? And Why Did He Leave a Dangerous and Flammable Substance on Public Ground for Cipher to Light Up?

Every hero needs a calling card.  For Daredevil, it’s supposed to be a Flaming “DD” on the ground where he has performed his dirty deed.  Now, given that nearly every New York City subway station is under heavy camera surveillance, it would be extremely difficult to not have footage of some costumed idiot pouring gasoline on the platform.

For that matter, where is the subway station teller?  Did they not call the police when a guy with a gun came tumbling down the stairs in the station?  Or how about the latex-clad nutjob stalking him – and neither of them actually paying the fare?

Leading the Blind:

I am not blind (and I try to avoid using the word as a put-down these days).  I have not personally known anyone who is blind since elementary school (although he was my best friend for 2+ years).

In other words, my knowledge and experience concerning actual Blindness is limited.

With that being said, even with my limited experience concerning Blindness and Blind People, Matt Murdock’s character as an adult seemed half possible for a blind man living alone.  But that character grew less authentic as the movie went forward, as it tried to find ways to “ignore” said blindness, including the use of “Bat-Radar” to substitute for sight.

I am also guessing that the heightened senses were a result of the radiation bath he endured, because the one thing that I am fairly certain of is that blind people do not have “heightened” senses because of a lack of sight.

When Characters Flail:

Her Crowning Achievement: Beating Up a Blind Man. Twice.

In the “Not Really Empowerment” files, we find this entry on Elektra Natchios.  For this movie, she is supposed to be the daughter of Nikolas Natchios, a billionaire businessman who ends up in the thrall of the Kingpin.  When Nicholas decides not follow Kingpin’s orders, he has an assassin named Bullseye kill him.  Daredevil attempts to intervene and in the process, is framed for the murder.

What follows, of course, is 5 of the next 12 minutes of the film being filled by Evanescence needle-drops:

First, here:

A Scene (Not) Lifted from Spider...Who am I kidding? Except the music seems better suited to a Rom-Com than a Super-Vigilante Movie.

Where the hero, in his secret identity, finds that someone he holds dear to his heart has sworn vengeance against his alter ego.  The reminder here is that this scene was also in Spiderman, where Harry Osbourne also swore vengeance against the hero after his father was killed and Spiderman was blamed for that murder, too.

Then, here:

When would it be appropriate to talk about Elektra's cultural appropriation?

Where Ms. Nachios dances with sand bags.

With Japanese weapons

At the time of this writing, I have not screened Jennifer Garner’s Elektra.  I’ve avoided reading any online synopsis of it.  But I’m going to take a guess that Ninjas (or Asians in Generic Pan-Asian uniforms performing martial arts) will be involved somehow.

But back to Natchios’ training regimen.

Once again, you have movie with martial arts being written by people who haven’t the faintest clue about martial arts to begin with.  Especially with Asian martial arts.  Elektra states that her father had her train under a different Sensei every year since she was 5 years old.  I am almost willing to stake actual currency that the production team had the bright idea of having Elektra be a martial arts prodigy; one trained so well under so many different martial arts styles that she can stand up to almost any Man.

Unfortunately, it just leads back to my post on Martial Arts Misconceptions, in particular Points 3 & 4.  The fourth is heavily implied, since she is “supposed to be” as good as she is.  Point 3, however, is the most important one to read and understand.  Since she makes mention of her teachers being sensei, it can be discerned that her martial arts prowess leans heavily towards the Japanese styles (even though the moves she uses in the film are more influenced by the Chinese and Korean systems of martial arts).  Even with non-stop, full day training, it would take a talented, determined individual almost 3 full years before being able to demonstrate ground-floor mastery (1st Degree Black Belt) of the basics of any martial arts system.  At one year, you would be staring at Blue Belt (5th Grade where 10th is the bottom), making one just about an low-to-middle intermediate skill level.  Again, assuming prodigal talent here.

Now repeat this for about 20 years, starting over each time with a new teacher and new training regimen.  Now add jumping through several different systems of martial arts, and never being able to stay long enough to hone and refine your techniques, much less correct any flaws or mistakes in the practice of the art you train in.

Final Point:  The character of Elektra is supposed to be Greek, along with her father.  So, to facilitate this, they find a WASP American Woman born in the American Mid-West.  So it’s more side-Whiteface.  While fighting with Japanese accoutrements.  It becomes obvious that Ms. Garner was hired for her “martial arts cred” and her Nerd Culture popularity from the TV series Alias.

Her father, Nikolas, is played by Erik Avari, who is of East Indian decent.  He looks ethnic enough to play a Southern European character.  But he is several thousand miles removed from being Greek.

In other words, par for the course.

The Frank Miller Authoritarian, Part 2: Inconsequential Matters

And the Vigilante Makes an Enemy For Life Here.

Daredevil’s Second Case.  In the bad part of town, nicknamed Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil shows up as some random man is bullying a smaller man, supposedly for the Kingpin.  When the bully sees Daredevil’s shadow, he runs inside an apartment to hide.  Daredevil swings into the apartment, breaking its window and begins to beat the man down.  It is only after he has left the man in a bloody pulp on the floor does he even see that there was someone else in the apartment (I guess that “Super-Hearing” is selective, especially in a hostile environment), a young boy – who may the man’s son or some other younger relative, crying at the sight.

Daredevil pathetically tries to reassure the kid that he was only trying to do what was right, but the boy would not hear any of it.  So Daredevil slinks home.

And that’s all there is about this.

In one way, this scene may have been an attempt to provide commentary on how Daredevil’s actions would be perceived by other “innocents,” because what he does in this instance is no different from what the Kingpin’s henchmen did to his father…in front of him.  But because there is very little introspection on the part of the actual character, it is left to audience to do so.  You cannot leave such introspection to the audience, however, because it almost never happens.  The Introspection for Characters and Premise are meant to be shared.  If there is none, the presentation is seen as being an affirmation for the character or premise, even if the intent is negative in nature.

Which is why the scene ends up being a throwaway.  Daredevil and Matt learn nothing from the scene in question.

The Kingpin (of Color):

There was no full-throated campaign to have him replaced before the movie was released. You already know why.

In what was supposed to be a case of casting for charisma, Michael Clark Duncan was chosen for the role of The Kingpin, who was to act as the story’s main villain.

In a classic case of Antagonist Overreach, the Kingpin is responsible for the following:

  • Killing Matt Murdock’s father;
  • Killing Mrs. Nachios, husband of Nicholas, mother of Elektra;
  • Employing Jose Quesada, who Sexually Assaults Ms. Sutton;
  • Hiring Thugs to Beat Up Innocent People in “Hell’s Kitchen”;
  • Hiring Bullseye to kill Nicholas Nachios;
  • Hiring Bullseye to kill Elektra Nachios;
  • Destroying Alderrann; (Cleared, Lack of Evidence)
  • Killing Owen and Beru Lars; (Acquitted, Lack of Evidence)
  • Abandoning Khan Singh on Alpha Ceti V and killing Marla McGivers; (See above)
  • Blowing Up New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC with a Giant Laser Cannon; (See above)

I state repeatedly that Hollywood productions will find ways of casting Men and Women of Color in roles as villains whenever they can get away with it.  In principle, however, I would have agreed that Michael Duncan would have been an excellent choice to play a role like The Kingpin.  Unfortunately, this movie ties The Kingpin into too many hands-on crimes, including the most idiotic of them all:  Killing Matt’s Father AND Elektra’s Mother.

Kingpin was an under-realized, underused character.  And, once again, the movie suffers from the lack of a fully-fleshed out and believable villain.  One day, screenwriters are going to learn that movies about heroes need villains with whom the audience will root against because of the things we see him actually do.  Because in Daredevil, The Kingpin actually does…nothing.

The Frank Miller Authoritarian, Part 3:  The Tragic Love Life:

After we watch Daredevil get an acquitted man split in half by a train, we head back to his Devil’s Lair Apartment for him to recuperate.  Here, we are listening to Lois Lane a girl named Heather as she gives him the voicemail equivalent of a Dear John Letter, in which she is breaking up with him after him being standoff-ish for the last 3 months about his life, which we are supposed to know is because of his nightly vigilante activities.  Through this, we are supposed to sympathize with Matt because he is like Spiderman in this regard: Unable to get close to women because they would be considered a liability if his enemies ever found out his secret identity.

When Matt meets Elektra, things look way up because she is shown to be a better fighter than Matt, although this is somewhat debatable.  However, because of his activities and her father’s involvement with Kingpin, Elektra is mortally wounded and never returns when Daredevil goes after Bullseye and Kingpin.

Again, one day, screenwriters will stop using The Dead Girlfriend rule as a crutch for quick sympathy.  It is more than tiresome.

Spider-Devil:

When in doubt, take as many elements from other movies in your franchise where needed.  The funeral, as mentioned, was pulled from Spiderman.

But how about this:

Peter's Spider Sense Fails Again. But He Loves to Play with Fire.

Daredevil and Bullseye apparently love to flatter Spiderman and the HobGoblin, and do a near full imitation of the scene:

The hero dogdes sharp spinning objects while flipping around. Only here, no fire.

Spiderman returns the favor, however.

Daredevil’s “weakness” is loud sounds at close range.  Not only do they mess up his Bat-Radar Sense, but it can hurt him (because he has more sensitive hearing):

Quick, Daredevil needs a Kryptonite-like weakness. I know, how about SOUND!

You see it again, some years later:

When in Doubt, Use it Again!

Or even:

The only thing missing here was her yelling, "What have you DONE?!"

Being pulled directly from this scene:

James Franco mauls the scene with the same line twice. Danny Elfman attempts to blunt the damage here.

Except that Harry Osbourne never gets a chance to actually shoot him here.

One More Important Pull from Spider-World:

The more you watch Marvel movies, the more you realize just how lowly production teams actually regard women:

You see lots of cops in this film. NONE of them are women.

In all of the Marvel movies I’ve watched for the purposes of these reviews, I have yet to see a woman working in the service of the NYPD, FDNY, or as an EMT on scene in any of these films.  If “realism” is supposed to be the order of the day, then at the very least fictional NYC needs to look like real-life NYC.

But Marvel Comics NYC does not have women working as First Responders.

FAIL.

Seriously.

Fail.

The Last Battle:

Does anybody really believe that Daredevil could take on Kingpin, especially after having a few organs ruptured during this exchange here?

The lack of coherent and cohesive story catches up to the movie by the third act, which, by the way, is very short.  The impetus for Daredevil to go after Bullseye and Kingpin directly is because they are the ones responsible for “killing” Elektra.  In other words, The Dead Girlfriend rule.

On top of this, the banter isn’t all that good.  It is as if the fight was just an add-on, considering that Bullseye was the main target of Daredevil’s ire.  And then, realizing that Daredevil and Kingpin have nothing to really fight about, the writers shoehorn Kingpin delivering a killing blow to Jack Murdock and leaving a rose on him.  Someone saw Tim Burton’s Batman, and decided to use this as Daredevil’s reason to take on Kingpin personally; with Kingpin’s red rose being his version of the Joker’s “You Ever Dance With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight.”  Thus, both hero and villain are cheapened considerably with it.

And what’s worse is the end of the fight.  Getting past the fact that Kingpin was using Daredevil as a Medicine Ball and suspending the belief that Daredevil could actually punch Kingpin and have it hurt, Daredevil gets Kingpin to not divulge his secret identity by…

…invoking the “Tell the World that You Got Beat Up by a Blind Man” defense.

There are many problems with this defense, but the most obvious one is this:

Daredevil is still WANTED for the Murder of Nicholas Natchios.  And the Murder of Jose Quesada.  And as an Accessory to the Murders of Elektra Natchios AND Bullseye.

Are we going to argue that somehow Kingpin confessed to being the mastermind behind the murders?  Because Kingpin’s most obvious defense is going to be that Matt Murdock/Daredevil murdered BOTH Nicholas and Elektra Natchios (her body was never “found”) and now he broke into Wilson Fisk’s corporate headquarters for the sole purpose of assassinating Fisk himself.  And Wilson discovered Daredevil’s true identity during the course of the fight.

Problem solved, heroic moron.  The worst part is that most of it indeed true.

Of course, everything is made right by the magic of off-screen events.  Everything to make the movie happen in the way that it does is never shown to happen.  Just inferred.

Like other bad movies.

One Final Word:

This film contains no Women of Color in any identifiable role OR any speaking part whatsoever that I could find.

Way to go, Marvel.

In Conclusion:

Daredevil is a poor written, poorly executed movie.  It borrows lots of themes directly from Spiderman, Batman, and Batman Returns.  Matt Murdock is not a good lawyer, and is an even more mediocre vigilante.  Kingpin does little, and is “personally involved” in too much.  Elektra is the Eternal Blue Belt Martial Artist who beats up a Blind Man as her claim to fame.  And rips sandbags to shreds after the script finds that she can’t do James Franco impressions very well.  Evanescence songs are about the only thing that survive unscathed from this movie, although they are played very loudly, which is distracting.  Marvel characters should find something other than Isotopic Radiation to give them powers – such power-ups never go well.

With all of these landmines impacting against the film, it should have been enough to sink this part of the franchise.  Although Ben Affleck has not expressed much interest in retaking the mantle, there is talk of a new Daredevil film in the works.

Either way, you’d be better off watching something like Paycheck.  At least the wreckage of that film isn’t as painful as this one.

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7 Responses to Movies That Hate You: Daredevil

  1. Bubbawheat says:

    I hate it when reviewers take movies I liked and completely bash them with reviews that make total sense. I wonder how much of this I’ll remember when I get around to watching this movie again.

    • Heavy Armor says:

      Bubbawheat,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Always remember that there are no sacred cows when it comes to watching movies (or reviewing them, for that matter). Just uncooked hamburgers.

  2. class of fitness says:

    I really want you to review ‘elektra’, just to see who will come out on top? daredevil, catwoman or elektra herself.

  3. Pingback: Movies That Hate You: Elektra [2004, Jennifer Garner] | Loose Cannon

  4. Skye says:

    Of all the films I had my husband watch with me so I could review them for the blog, this is the one he holds against me. It’s just BAD. It spits in the face of the comics, honestly.

  5. Minor quibble.

    “(that prosecutors like Murdock tend to hide from Defense Attorneys of all stripes ”

    Murdock and his partner (Jon Favreau’s character) are primarily defense attorneys. Which admittidly makes Murdock being seated at either attorney’s table iduring the rape case rather inexplicable.

    • Heavy Armor says:

      Lurker,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Here’s the issue at hand: Murdock is actually just a private practice attorney. The scene in question is rather confusing because the rape/sexual assault case is being handled like a criminal case. The trial has to have been a civil complaint brought forth by Mrs. Sutton (for something like Wrongful/Malicious Assault) – because only District Attorneys and Attorneys General can prosecute criminal complaints on behalf the victims. Even “Private Criminal Complaints” (complaints which are submitted directly to the DA/AG’s office by the victim – and not investigated by the police) are handled by local DA or State AG – and would not cover “sex crimes” like this one.

      The reason for the whole scene, however, was just the writer setting up the story to have Matt change into Daredevil and dispense “Justice” on Jose Quesada. This was supposed to make us – as the audience – like Matt Murdock/Daredevil as a vigilante. It was also supposed to how the criminals operate “Above the Law” (thanks mostly to Kingpin and his money) and that it was for this reason why Daredevil operates in the manner that he does.

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