Daredevil

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A devil and a man, twisted in two by ethics and emotions — Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) by day is a responsible lawyer, an oddity in itself. But by night, he hovers over the crimes of the big city — a red vigilante gargoyle waiting to pounce. Matt used to be an everyday American kid, until a radioactive accident left him sightless and the death of his father left his psyche scarred. Now he’s blind, like justice, and left with a residue of freakish radar senses, superhuman hearing and an inconsolable hunger to clean up the grimy crime that killed his pop.

Looks great on paper, but somebody sucked all the chutzpah out of our poor sightless devil. There’s been a tragic lack of imagination in the handling of this classic comic-book hero.

Comics — American myths you can buy for pocket change — are a mix of striking graphics and emotions that explore every outrageous angle and trigger every primal passion possible. They’re an art form tailor-made for ordinary Joes, with heroes who usually start out just like their audience, as regular U.S. folk.

Such is Daredevil, the Man Without Fear — one of Marvel’s last original Silver Age creations. Daredevil was conceived in 1964 by Marvel legend, writer Stan Lee (creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and Thor) and artist Bill Everett (creator of Marvel’s first super-hero, the Sub-Mariner). He’s managed to stay on the page for more than 30 years, but on screen he becomes unbearably tiresome before two hours expire, no thanks to writer-director Mark Steven Johnson (Simon Birch).

After covering Daredevil’s hapless evolution, Johnson goes directly into a love story between our hero and Elektra (Jennifer Garner). It’s a film noir-edged affair originally spun by storytelling legend Frank Miller (who took over the comic in the early ’80s), now made rock-video limp by Johnson. In his saggy, dull-red leather gear, Ben Affleck hangs on the screen like a forlorn biker who’s lost his buddies in a bar brawl. Garner has some potential as she-hero Elektra, but claustrophobic camerawork, bad pop rock, weak-to-awful dialogue and a general milquetoast atmosphere mush an amazingly intense, crimson-horned character into a monotone love story that only goes through the motions of emotions.

Daredevil is a horrible crime of a film that I hope will one day be avenged.

Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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