As we celebrate the release of Netflix's second season of the Daredevil series, I look back at the Marvel character's first and only movie outing to date: the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.
The film did well at the box-office upon its release but audiences and critics alike weren't too thrilled about it. Not that it was universally hated or anything, it just failed to bring the same level of excitement as the X-Men or Spider-Man movies of the time and was destined to a Hulk-style mass shunning. Daredevil did receive something of a cult following on DVD, especially after the release of the superior Director's Cut which wisely expanded the actual story thereby giving the film a more balanced pace and emphasising the mostly silly action sequences a little less.
Ben Affleck pulls off that red leather costume more than people give him credit for and it's a bit unfair of those who make fun of it to also praise the new series since I would argue the 2003 costume looks much better than the new one. Affleck makes a fine Matt Murdock: bitter yet in control, smart yet impulsive. His character arc is also an interesting one as we see the man turn from a vengeful killer to a forgiving hero, something which also adds to the film's overall darker tone. Hell's Kitchen is appropriately bloody, cruel and rain-drenched yet the film is never completely miserable and hopeless as Jon Favreau's Foggy Nelson offers some welcome comic-relief, as does Kevin Smith in a brief cameo and, of course, Colin Farrell who effortlessly steals the show as the always entertaining and amusing villain Bullseye.
Jennifer Garner takes on the role of Elektra and, seeing as she's used to running around, kick-fighting in tight leather outfits since she did just that in Alias, she makes sense as a casting choice. Unfortunately her character doesn't get much resolution and, by the end, you feel like she was really only there to set-up a sequel. A sequel which turned out to be a wholly forgettable spin-off, as we now know. The late, great Michael Clarke Duncan is this movie's Wilson Fisk and, though he certainly has the right stature and level of intimidation for the role, he's much too smooth and cool to really be a convincing Kingpin, a part Vincent D'Onofrio nailed in the series. The film itself is certainly watchable and has some nice touches but the awful early 2000's soundtrack plus the often shaky CGI means it is instantly and fatally dated.
Overall, I'd encourage you watch this Daredevil at least once since it does get a lot about the character right, from the radar vision to his origins and moral dilemmas. Just don't expect a masterpiece: this is a bit of a mess even if parts of it are genuinely promising.
Average Marvel fare.