‘Daredevil’ just crashes and burns

Paul Benedict

Among Hollywood’s superhero projects, “Daredevil” probably ranks as the least eminent, especially this year with fellow Marvel comics “X2” and “Hulk” soon to hit theaters. And there’s reason behind this: Daredevil, the comic, just really isn’t as thrilling as the likes of Batman or Spiderman (or the two I previously mentioned for that matter). I’ve been told that the appeal of Matt Murdock, or Daredevil as we learn to call him, is that not only is he not blessed with superhuman abilities, but he’s actually handicapped. Oh, please. First of all, his loss of vision resulted in dramatically enhanced use of his four other senses, and second of all, if I wanted a handicapped superhero, I’d go turn on Comedy Central and wait for them to show “Blankman” for the umpteenth time. Daredevil lacks the splendor of Superman, the mysteriousness of Batman and the dorkiness of Spiderman; basically he lacks a true, distinguishable personality.

As always with the genre, “Daredevil” takes place in the grandeur of Manhattan. The movie opens with the conventional superhero-as-a-kid tactic before getting to the point of why our hero is fighting crime, and as always, what tragedy led him to this public service. In this case, little Matthew Murdock has a freak accident in which he loses his vision after witnessing his brutish father mug an innocent bystander. However, a fatal tragedy ensues, and Matt is now on a quest to enforce justice wherever he deems it’s needed, blah blah blah. As far as superhero setups go, “Daredevil” fails in its attempt to create valid reason as to why this particular hero is fighting crime, and why we should really care about him in the first place.

And having Ben Affleck portray him does not help one bit. Let me make it clear that I am not one of those envious chauvinists who dislikes Affleck simply because he’s considered People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” or because he’s currently shacking up with THE sexiest woman alive, Jennifer Lopez. I actually respect Affleck for some of his work: O’Bannion in “Dazed and Confused” as the classic representation of the high school bully or Holden McNeil in “Chasing Amy” — one of the ’90s most underappreciated performances. Just last year he put forth a strong effort as Gavin Banek in “Changing Lanes.” Notice a trend in each of these roles? Each part was written specifically for him. Affleck dons this auspicious, yet pompous, aura, and that is when he is at his best. However, he has a strong tendency nowadays to take these overly melodramatic and sensitive hero roles. He first played one in “Armageddon,” next in “Pearl Harbor” and now as Murdock in “Daredevil.” The role of Daredevil requires two very important traits: an impenetrable physique and a lot of charisma. Affleck has a strong build, but he lacks the toughness and natural swagger that this role demands. And what many might consider bedazzling by Affleck standards, I consider downright revolting. Let me give you some career advice, Mr. Affleck: stay away from these kinds of roles, because while you may be making some serious flow off them, you’re alienating an audience that has learned to appreciate your charming arrogance.

Beyond the miscasting of Affleck, “Daredevil” really swings and misses where superhero flicks are expected to excel. The cinematography of the fight scenes literally hurt my eyes as I found myself constantly having to look away from the screen just because it was impossible to keep up with all of the quick-cutting close-ups. The special effects were a real letdown. After watching Sam Raimi’s realistic imagery of Tobey Maguire looking realistic jumping from rooftop to rooftop in “Spiderman,” witnessing Affleck do the same with meager effects was one of the funniest parts of the movie.

To his credit, Colin Farrell as Bullseye comes awfully close to making “Daredevil” a watchable film. Considered a heartthrob by many, Farrell deserves to be appreciated for his dynamic ability to create a presence onscreen that commands immediate attention. Not only did he steal every scene he was in, but he also had the superheroic ability to even make you forget how horribly miscast Affleck was.

I hate to be so bludgeoning when it comes to a simple popcorn flick just trying to have a good time, but I can’t help but be utterly discouraged by a film made simply to capitalize on a genre that’s so hot right now. Shame on Ben Affleck for selling out, shame on Stan Lee for turning his superhero comic franchise into a super-crappy movie franchise and shame on anyone who sees this movie simply because “it’s an appetizer to X2 and Hulk.” Give me a break. Grade: D