THE YEAR: 2003
THE DIRECTOR: Mark Steven Johnson
THE WRITER: Mark Steven Johnson
THE CAST: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Favreau
After a string of huge hits like Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man, Marvel properties were on a roll and the comic book movie blockbuster trend was still in full swing. Looking for something with the grit of Blade but with the colorful acrobatic action of Spider-Man, the studios landed on The Man Without Fear himself, Daredevil. Both fans and audiences have let a seething hatred for this movie grow and fester over the years. Was this the first misstep for the golden goose of Marvel movies?
Well let’s blindly hit the rewind button and find out…
There, I said it.
Moving on now.
Well, inasmuch as I’m not going to spend this article taking pot shots at Ben Affleck this whole article. Picking on Ben Affleck has become a bizarre sport which people have taken to doing because it’s expected, not because they actually dislike any of his work or have even seen it. But that expectation is a great place to start.
On August 22nd, 2013 Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman and the universe imploded. And by the universe, I mean Twitter, Tumblr and small pockets of Facebook. And by imploded I mean noted his multiple Oscars, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Director’s Guild Award, Saturn Awards, etc. Oh no wait, sorry, by implode I mean they screamed “DAREDEVIL!” at the top of their lungs while simultaneously slamming their faces into the drywall of their homes. It was a true spectacle of first world problems.
I’m not sure exactly when it was along the way, but the actually well-reviewed Daredevil became the bane of a lot of people’s existences, and a little further down the road that somehow became all Ben Affleck’s fault.
Let me drop this quick bombshell off here: Daredevil was not Ben Affleck’s fault. Ben Affleck was not the problem with Daredevil. Okay, to be clear he was not THE problem. Depending on your feelings about him, Ben Affleck may not even be A problem with Daredevil. But the film was fighting some uphill battles to be sure.
Daredevil has classically been a dark and gritty series, be it Daredevil himself or characters like Elektra or Bullseye. A lot of raw emotion, trauma, violence and moral conflict. And that was writer/director Mark Steven Johnson’s initial concept going into this movie. However, the further along things went, the less and less grit the studio wanted. Bullseye and Elektra’s characters were watered down heavily, Bullseye becoming comically crazed and Elektra becoming significantly undamaged and happy. From there, a near forty minutes was pulled out of the initial cut, trimming down much of the hard violence, and the studio ordered the romance to be played up, adding a fireside love scene to the mix. Initially, our hero actually eschews the possible relationship.
What else was pulled out of the film? Well a whole subplot following Matt Murdoch’s day job as a lawyer alongside his partner Foggy. His struggle with his Catholic faith. Some of his obstacles being blind. Essentially much of what makes Daredevil unique. And that was the biggest issue overall with the resulting theatrical cut: it ends up being a very generic-feeling superhero movie.
Thankfully, DVD and Blu-Ray did see a restored director’s cut that reintegrated all of this footage and, while still far from perfect, presented something significantly more faithful to Daredevil. Unfortunately, the negative momentum had already started and most film-goers weren’t willing to sit through Daredevil a second time, let alone a longer version. Creator Stan Lee publicly slamming the theatrical release didn’t help matters much either.
Mark Steven Johnson went on to direct another Marvel property, Ghost Rider, and slid further into infamy among fans. But we’ll get to that one down the road.
While many think of it as a bomb, at the time of its release it was the second-highest February opening of all time and raked in a sizable box office during its run. And of course it did spawn a spin-off solo movie for Elektra that we’ll be looking at next week. However, what is often forgotten now is that it was the film’s soundtrack, Daredevil: The Album, that launched the career of fledgling rock group Evanescence by premiering two of their biggest hits: Bring Me To Life and My Immortal. They went on to sell around twenty-four million albums. They did okay for themselves.
Oh, it also gave us Bennifer II, which let’s be honest was a big improvement from the first movie, err … couple. Side note, are we done doing the combo name for couples now? I think we are, but I felt I should double check.
Rumor has it that Colin Farrell and Ben Affleck were initially in line to play opposite roles (Farrell as Daredevil and Affleck as Bullseye). It would have been an interesting change in dynamic, but at the end of the day the producers probably made the right choice. For however much fans may think these two were miscast in Daredevil, reversing roles would have only been that much worse.
THE BIG QUESTION:
I think the only real big question is: are you looking forward to the forthcoming Netflix original Daredevil series? Is there anything or anyone you are wanting to see in it?
Let us know in the comments below!
One could easily pass on the theatrical cut of Daredevil without much thought, but the Director’s Cut might be worth a look for many. It still has its flaws to be sure, but it contains a lot more of the elements that makes Daredevil, Daredevil. It is much closer to what fans of the comics would have wanted.
NEXT WEEK: ELEKTRA!