Sunday, February 16, 2003

Daredevil (IMDB) (Netflix)
The latest comic book popcorn movie, but not the last (X-Men 2 opens in May, followed by Ang Lee's The Hulk, and the next Spiderman has just started filming). Daredevil (Ben Affleck) is one of the lesser-known superheroes, blinded at an early age by biotoxins that sharpen his remaining senses to such a pitch that they become both a blessing and a curse, and require a sensory deprivation chamber for him to get any sleep. It's hell on relationships. He also has the classic genre baggage of seeing one of his parents die before his eyes (so to speak), and a desire for "justice" that approaches obsession. There's also a love interest in Alias's Jennifer Garner, who has the martial arts bug in a big way, the evil Kingpin (played by Michael Clark Duncan, the deep-voiced XXXXL black dude from The Green Mile) and an eponymously tatooed assassin, Bullseye, performed by Russell Crowe manqué Colin Farrell.

You're seeing so many of these films today thanks mostly to risk-averse studios, but computer-generated imagery has gotten so sophisticated that just about anything a superhero could do on paper can now be believably rendered on the screen, and Daredevil uses all this technology to wonderful effect. The way the filmmakers depict Daredevil's "second sight" ability is the highlight of the film, which is much darker than its peers, featuring large doses of noncartoonish violence. Garner has one of the most grrrl-like roles since Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, but the movie doesn't transcend the genre so much as burrow deep inside it, and the amount of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style swooping is excessive for a movie that reaches so hard for realism. Certainly not a failure, nor a standout. My money's on The Hulk.