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Daredevil: Director's Cut

Fox // Unrated // November 30, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted November 14, 2004 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Although certainly not a total loss, it's difficult to know where to begin in describing how writer/director Mark Steven Johnson ("Simon Birch") goes wrong. Johnson was certainly passionate about the production, with stories in magazine articles during the film's release about how the film's director persistently lobbied executives at Marvel comics and Fox studios to take on the job of directing and writing "Daredevil".

The concept is certainly the thing, and "Daredevil" has quite a good one. Lawyer Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was blinded by a chemical spill as a child. All of his other senses were heightened, allowing him to have no fear, leaping across the cityscape. His sense of hearing allows him to see (sorta) via sound waves - one of the film's best ideas is how this "radar sense" is visualized. When his father, a professional boxer, is killed, Matt vows to seek justice. As an adult, he's a lawyer by day and crime fighter by night. He has none of the usual "superhero" powers and, as a result, he returns home at night with painful reminders of any fight he's gotten himself into.

Although I certainly do not expect a complex tale from a comic book movie (for that, I'd get a more substancial tale from the books themselves), but "Daredevil"'s story seems noticably lacking. At 90 minutes and change, the film feels as if it's been edited down rather heavily, probably partially to earn a PG-13 rating (although this is still a hard PG-13). The film really does feel as if it could use another 25-30 minutes to fill out the characters, though.

Murdock's training to get his abilities to where they are is quickly gone through. Jennifer Garner makes a wonderful appearance as Murdock's love interest, Elektra. However, we learn little about Elektra's backstory, aside from a few sentences about her past. Garner appears to be having fun with the role and she's really much more engaging than just about anyone else in the picture. Still, one can't help but feel that she's wasted in a minor role.

Before being accused of the seemingly popular practice of being negative towards actor Ben Affleck, let me note that I have been complimentary to nearly every one of his performances, especially recent fare such as "Bounce" and "Changing Lanes". However, he either seems to be a wrong choice for the role of "Daredevil" or he can't pull anything together out of Johnson's thinly written script. Johnson's screenplay comes up with a few moments where the character is conflicted about his role as crimefighter, but these aren't really explored. Affleck, despite what appears to be a decent effort, can't seem make this character very dynamic. The film's villians don't fare much better - Colin Farrell makes an impression as psycho Irish assassin Bullseye, but Michael Clarke Duncan has surprisingly little to do as the Kingpin. Joe Pantoliano turns up in a minor role as an investigative reporter, while Jon Favreau plays Matt's assistant. Both are barely-written characters, only made into something somewhat substancial by good performances from both.

Technically, I'm still not entirely convinced by "Daredevil". For a film that cost a reported $80 million dollars, that money doesn't always seem to be on-screen. The action scenes are decently choreographed, such as the fight between Matt and Elektra in the park, but there's a little too much reliance on wirework. The film's effects are satisfactory and Ericson Core ("Payback")'s cinematography is effectively gritty, but I can't help but feel that I've seen this kind of thing portrayed better several times elsewhere.

That line is actually a good summary of how I felt about the picture. Although there's little moments in "Daredevil" here and there that work, all of this has been done better elsewhere. Johnson's screenplay, a weak effort with little in the way of character development, story or conflict, is really the villian here. The concept is a good one and the movie generally manages the desired look, but this is just a movie that demands a more substancial tale.

This DVD edition offers the director's cut of the movie, which presents the film with about 30 minutes of additional footage added back in. The original cut of the film released into theaters was PG-13, while this cut gets an R-rating. The main addition to the film is a subplot where Matt Murdock has to defend a man who may or may not be innocent (Coolio). There are also other additions, such as a scene where Kingpin dispatches two bodyguards (which is probably part of the R-rating), one where Bullseye goes through airport security, more with young Matt and his father, more at the bar sequence, more character development and lengthier fight sequences (the fight sequences also adding some R-rated bits.) The film also seemed a little darker than the theatrical cut.

While my opinion on the film is not changed greatly by this director's cut edition, the story does feel filled out more and the characters are developed somewhat more effectively. The film still doesn't quite reach the heights of where I think the story could go (or where some other, similar films have gone), but this is an improved version.


VIDEO: "Daredevil" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Despite disliking the movie, I was lucky enough to catch the film theatrically in a DLP presentation. Given the dark appearance of "Daredevil", it was a pleasure to watch the film in DLP, as every little bit of detail was still visible, even in low-light sequences. While the DVD doesn't portray the film's darkness quite as well (not that I'd expect it to), Fox's presentation still impresses. Sharpness and detail are quite good throughout, and definition remains consistent throughout the presentation, with no slip-ups into slight softness.

Some flaws did occur, though. Edge enhancement was visible in a couple of scenes, but only to a minor degree. Some compression artifacts were occasionally spotted, too. However, the print looked crystal clear and no other issues were noticed. Colors - especially reds - are well-saturated and strong.

SOUND: "Daredevil" is presented by Fox in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 (there are also 2.0 Spanish and Visually Impared mixes - the Visually Impared soundtrack offers narration of the on-screen events). Sound mixers Peter Devlin ("Bad Boys II") and Steve Boeddeker ("Tomb Raider"), along with the film's sound crew, have put together a sound mix that will likely stand as demo material for many for quite some time. Given the importance of the character's sense of sound, the film's sound designers have heightened the envelopment of the sound mix. Surrounds come into play almost constantly, for anything from dynamic sound effects to highly realistic and convincing ambient sounds. Although many scenes in the film offer a 360 degree sound (those who can enable back surround use should; it heightens the experience even further) experience, one fight scene in a bar is a particular highlight, as it shifts between highlighting different sounds going on in the mix.

This is a very dynamic soundtrack, with strong bass and a forceful, yet not overpowering sound. The hard rock/metal soundtrack doesn't work too well at times, but it's integrated into the soundtrack in a way that I thought kept it at least somewhat in the background, or at least secondary to the sound effects. Dialogue remained clear throughout, with no issues. Those seeking surround-heavy material should certainly check it out.

EXTRAS: Director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Avi Arad offer a newly recorded commentary for this director's cut of the film. The two have a very interesting chat that provides more information about the differences/changes with the director's cut, as well as other issues, such as budget and working with the studio. We also get some tidbits on working with the actors and developing the story. There's a few pauses of silence here-and-there, but this is largely a good track.

The other supplement on the disc is "Giving the Devil His Due", which is a 15-minute featurette that discusses the director's cut of the film. This piece has director Mark Steven Johnson, producer Avi Arad and others pointing out the differences between the theatrical cut and the director's cut, as well as discussing the R-rating and working with the studio on the production.

The DVD also offers trailers for "I, Robot" and "Alien Vs. Predator".

Final Thoughts: The director's cut of "Daredevil" didn't change my mind drastically about the film, but it took a rather heavily edited action movie and filled out both story and character, while retaining a good pace. I'm still not finding it as involving as I would like, but this version does have an improved flow, among other things. Overall, an improvement over the theatrical cut. Fox's DVD edition once again offers the same solid audio/video quality, along with a couple of good supplements. Recommended for fans.

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