He’s a brooding superhero who only comes out at night, stubbornly fighting to avenge the years-ago death of his father. He has no super-strength; instead, he has nifty gadgets and acrobatic prowess, gamboling about the rooftops of a major metropolis while wearing a cowl and a rubber suit.
No, it’s not Batman. It’s Daredevil!
Following the death of a beloved relative, he sets out to fight crime, a renegade from the law, avoiding the negative spin put on him by the news media. His modus operandi is to swing from wires above the city of New York, nimbly swooping in at the last moment to save the day. His heightened senses help him know where danger lurks. But his solitary life as a do-gooder dooms any normal relationship he seeks to have, particularly when a friend mistakenly believes him responsible for a loved one’s death.
No, it’s not Spider-Man. It’s Daredevil!
And that, in a nutshell, is the trouble with “Daredevil,” the sunless new comic book adaptation written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson (“Simon Birch”). The character — a blind lawyer by day who uses his four extraordinary other senses to fight crime by night — is intriguing in its concept, but this film seems unaware of how derivative it all seems when you lay it out in simple terms. His sense of hearing and touch, in particular, are so strong as to almost cancel out his blindness — and without that gimmick, let’s face it, he’s Batman.
This is a darker, more adult superhero story, complete with a mild sex scene. (The camera pans away from the bed to a shot of a crackling fireplace, which means Johnson has apparently NEVER SEEN A MOVIE BEFORE, or he’d know that device is over-used. Later, he has a grave-side funeral take place in the rain, which means maybe he’s using all these clichÃ©s on purpose. But I doubt it.) It is not joyless, though, thanks to the gleefully wicked turns by Colin Farrell as Bullseye, a crazy-eyed Irish marksman; and Michael Clarke Duncan as the behemoth crime boss Kingpin. Jon Favreau earns a few laughs as Daredevil’s law partner.
Daredevil himself — or Matt Murdock, as he is called during the day — is played by Ben Affleck, a rather bland actor playing a rather bland superhero. He falls generically in love with Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), a butt-kicking heiress whose name in MAD Magazine will almost certainly be Electric Nachos.
The plot from there is sloppily assembled, as crises emerge at odd moments and are quelled with equal hastiness. (What’s up with Matt’s priest friend?) Elektra and Daredevil become enemies, momentarily; then it’s just a matter of ticking off the bad guys as Daredevil fights them one by one. There is little flair or wit in the storytelling.
There is much to be enjoyed, however, in the visual style, which is replete with splendid imagery. The adventures are excitingly photographed by cinematographer Ericson Core (“The Fast and the Furious”), and the use of computer-generated images is thankfully kept to a minimum.
The sound design, usually taken for granted in a film, is fantastic here. Daredevil’s sense of hearing is his key to survival — he operates on a bat-like sense of echolocation — and the way it functions is portrayed vividly.
But these above-average technical achievements are, alas, confined to a film whose story and protagonist are pedestrian. Especially on the heels of last year’s “Spider-Man,” which was great in every respect, “Daredevil” seems positively un-super.
C+ (1 hr., 40 min.; )