‘Daredevil’ – Ben Affleck is the man without fear on Disney+

More than a decade before the MCU and the acclaimed Netflix series, Ben Affleck was the original big screen incarnation of Marvel’s Daredevil (2003).

By day he is crusading blind lawyer Matt Murdock but at night he dons red leather and becomes the man without fear, a sightless superhero whose heightened senses and strength make him one blind man you don’t want to cross.

Mark Steven Johnson’s adaptation of Marvel’s superhero comic draws from the fan-favorite Frank Miller years and features Matt Murdoch’s lost love turned leggy Ninja hellion Elektra (Jennifer Garner), the mountain-sized knot of muscle and bone known as New York crime boss Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan), and maniacal sureshot assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell), a twitching sociopath who can turn a paper clip into a deadly projectile.

Reviews were mixed but it became another hit in the new cinema superhero dominance of Marvel comic characters and a strange, sometimes maddening movie. It’s shot with a hyperactive camera that jitters like the Flash on a dozen cups of espresso and written as if the actors were speaking the archly pulp dialogue balloons of a real comic book, yet is also a little plodding in its storytelling. Johnson hasn’t the action chops to really deliver a superhero spectacle, though he is inspired by the graphic possibilities of its comic book origins (see the sonar-vision of Daredevil’s “sight”) and filled with whiplash action movie impossibilities. And the entire enterprise veers awfully close to Batman territory, apart from the fact that he’s unmasked more times in this single film than most comic book heroes are in a lifetime.

Affleck got a lot of criticism for his performance (he was awarded a Razzie that year), which I think is unwarranted; he commits completely to both sides of the character. Sure he’s a little stalwart but then so is the film. Otherwise he’s fine as the Hell’s Kitchen orphan who becomes the violent avenging angel in the devil’s guise, and in the pre-MCU world of comic book movies he ably anchors a film that ventures into the darker side of big screen superheroes. Garner, meanwhile, is terrific showing off the action chops she developed making the TV series Alias.

Of course, Affleck went on to play Batman in the Snyderverse, a role he carried off with more gravitas. So it’s only fitting that the film’s most spot-on bit of casting went to an actor who had an even bigger role in the evolution of the superhero movie. Jon Favreau is perfect as Murdoch’s fumbling friend and partner Foggy Nelson, bringing a sense of warmth and a sense of humor to the film. Just a few years later, Favreau launched the MCU as the director of Iron Man and took another supporting role in the superhero universe as Tony Stark’s driver Hogan.

Ellen Pompeo, Joe Pantoliano, and Leland Orser costar.

Though there was no official sequel, Jennifer Garner took the lead in a spin-off movie Elektra (2005).

Rated PG-13

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Daredevil (Director’s Cut) [Blu-ray]
Daredevil (Director’s Cut) [DVD]

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The special edition Blu-ray and DVD releases feature features commentary by director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Foster, an “Enhanced Viewing Mode,” behind-the-scenes documentaries and featurettes, and other supplements.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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