- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
Next week, Film Forum will feature an array of reviews from religious media critics on the new action film
If you plan to see the film before next week's installment, here's a preview … or rather, a caution. You might be surprised how a film with a villain called "Bullseye" could fall so far sort of just that.
And yes, Daredevil has a conscience, although a rather feeble one compared to Peter Parker's; he goes into a cathedral, just as Ben Affleck did in last year's
The film also glorifies the most rushed and reckless romance I've seen in such a film; Murdock and Elektra are rolling in the sheets before he even knows where she's from or what she does for a living.
It's not a total bust: Director Mark Steven Johnson directs stylish, spirited fight scenes and draws admirable energy and emotion from the actors. He also keeps the film focused on our hero's character development. But the dialogue is overstuffed with clichéd one-liners and frequently interrupted by an annoying and pretentious voice-over narration. Murdock is the only character we get to know; Elektra is too busy showing off her combat abilities to let us learn anything about her. Thus we are not given much of a chance to feel for these characters the way we felt for Spiderman or my favorite big screen comic hero,
from Film Forum, 02/20/03
Michael Steven Johnson's
Ben Affleck stars as a Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who dons a red leather costume at night and ventures out to fight crime with his enhanced senses. As he deals out violent judgment for getaway crooks, this not-so-handicapped hero is torn between the desire for revenge and justice.
In this episode—you can bet this is the beginning of another franchise—Murdock experiences love at first "sight" with a neighborhood girl named Elektra (Jennifer Garner). A rather hasty and athletic courtship, one that rushes from violent sparring on a playground to a quick tumble in the sheets, leads Murdock into participation in Elektra's personal quest for vengeance. They have two mutual targets. Kingpin is a Herculean crime boss played by Michael Clarke Duncan, master of that menacing bad guy chuckle. Kingpin's zany assassin Bullseye, giddily over-played by Colin Farrell, is an expert at throwing sharp pointy things into other people's necks and foreheads. A series of violent confrontations and a flurry of bad one-liners ensue.
So, is Daredevil a hero to admire or just another vengeful egomaniac in tights? Religious press critics lined up to offer a wide range of opinions this week.
Gerri Pare (Catholic News Service) says, "the message is mixed in that Matt agrees seeking vengeance is wrong, but ends up back in his red get-up, declaring he is the city's 'guardian devil.' His character is clearly well-intended but continues to rationalize taking the law into his own hands."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) responds to the film's assumption that it carries some sort of religious significance in its array of Roman Catholic symbolism. "Any biblical standard which might have been seen was overshadowed by the vigilante aspect of the title character. Johnson never really takes the time to let us care about his characters or what happens to them. He keeps the camera so close to the action that, while it looks like something cool is happening, it is difficult to tell what it is, much less appreciate it."
Holly McClure (Crosswalk) was surprised at the level of violence: "This is definitely a movie mature teens to twenty-somethings will probably enjoy the most, but adults who are into the comic book heroes will get a kick out of it as well. Sadly, there will be many parents who will take their young children to see this movie, because they think the PG in the rating means it will be 'kid-friendly.'"
Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) is even more troubled by the violence: "
Taking a pro-
Also somewhat impressed, Tom Snyder (Movieguide) says that
Mainstream critics are lining up to dismiss the film as formulaic, noisy, and dull. "Daredevil … is little more than a hollow clone of Batman and Spider-Man," says Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly), "with far less idiosyncrasy than either." Michael Wilmington (L.A. Times) agrees that this hero falls far short of Tim Burton's
Some, like David Elliott (San Diego Union-Tribune), took note of the questionable moral conduct of the hero. Elliott calls Daredevil's work "a revenge quest that pretends to be a moral, city-saving crusade. It's depressing even when volatile, because nothing matters except the frantic blowouts of violence, with solemn pauses for inane motivation, and some childish humor." He adds, "When Hollywood bakes a pulp pastry like
Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily) recently posted a review on current box office champion
And speaking of the blind superhero, ABC News reports that blind people do not necessarily see Daredevil as an inspiration. Brent Hopkins, communications specialist for the American Foundation for the Blind, says, "To live with a disability, you don't have to be a superhero."