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Give Daredevil Its Due
A review of Daredevil
by J. D. Rummel

Prior to the release of the film version of Dardevil, like any comic geek I salivated over the promotional material in theatre lobbies. Like any man with a pulse I would stare at the poster of Jennifer Garner and hear my own pulse race without any super senses. So, how is it that it took a week to pass before I went to see it? Just scheduling grief. I'm a comic geek second and a husband/employee/student first.

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Stars: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano

Rating: PG-13

Release: 02-14-2003

Time: 114 minutes

Buy Movie at Of course I'd had time to read many of the reviews, from Roger Ebert's concise, accurate appraisal to Harry Knowles' overwrought, typo marred fan boy rave. I was disappointed that so many reviewers did not seem to appreciate the film because overall it is a success. The fan boy side of me had a good time and so did the English graduate student taking a break from a course in the modern novel.

What did I think? I'm giving it a B. It's not quite as good as Spider Man or X-Men but it has arguably more difficult source material. Indeed it is very good considering the ground the filmmakers had to cover. This is the Daredevil of Frank Miller. It is full of rainy, shadowed rooftops, Catholic guilt, and exaggerated action. The Miller Daredevil is probably the emotionally heaviest of any super hero comic book brought to the screen and the filmmakers do a credible job overall.

Weak areas? The script doesn't nail our man the way it should. There are false steps. DD letting a villain die on the tracks? No, that's wrong. He is a force for good. He believes more than any other hero in the rules of society. Why exactly would Daredevil sign his work in flammable liquid? The writing also doesn't give us the emotional grounding this material needs--things happen too fast here. For one, Kingpin falls too easily and quickly. In the comic, victory would not be this pat. Other minor complaints include: Too many times DD's super hearing should have given him better information. The radar sense effect is not clear enough to let us know how superior his senses are. Not enough is made of the sense of smell or touch, or even taste.

Strengths? Visually the film is superb, not as film noir as Miller's graphics, but the images work. This includes a nice balancing of impossible physicality with the real world. The stunts are cutting edge and there is no hint of the old stunt man in tights varietythis is just what super heroes do and we can suspend our disbelief without shame. The acting offers perfect performances from everyone, especially Colin Farrell as Bullseye. There are also plenty of insider jokes and cameo appearances (Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Frank Miller)

Comic books are real literature and they need to be treated as such. The super hero comic is one of the toughest forms of that literature. Daredevil brings us slightly closer to the level of treatment this genre has been crying for my entire life.