Daredevil (2003) the Directors Cut Gives the Devil his Due!
Although 2003's Daredevil was released on Valentine's Day of that year, it was met with mixed reviews as there was no love lost from the critics and moviegoers alike making this red clad Superhero, the red headed stepchild of comic book films. But heeeaaar me out, Daredevil, especially the Directors cut, in my opinion, was unworthy of the scathing negative reception. Director and Screenwriter Mark S Johnson liked the theatrical version but also mentioned how flawed it was. While some of the ire was justified like the playground fight, or Elektra's training montage that came off like an MTV production with Effervescence’s "Bring me to Life" playing in the background, there a few implementations that Mark Steven Johnson done "right”. One, was avoiding the standard trope when telling a Superhero origin tale. Instead, it begins as this neo noir tale with flashes of our titular protagonist’s past events which led to his present dilemma, being bruised, battered and clinging, atop the Church, Matt makes his "confession" to Priest Everett via flashback as told through his perspective, starting from his humble beginnings in Hell's Kitchen, from being exposed container filled with toxic waste, to finding himself in the midst of intrigue courtesy of the sadistic crime lord responsible for the death of his father, along with other crimes, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.
Touted as the first "challenged" Superhero, the premise of Daredevil has raised the standards in the comics industry. Despite losing his vision, he gained something much more as the toxic waste, has gifted Matt with extraordinary hearing, acrobatics, with amplified sonar senses, which by sound, allows him to "see" things, others could not. Matt’s acute sense of touch allows him both strength and balance which helps to explain, why he can make those exaggerated leaps and landings thus “defying” the laws of physics. “Fuck you, science!” it's a bit of an excuse, but then again, we're talking about comic book movies.
The fight cinematography aligned with Johnson's direction brings the comic to life, i.e., dramatic camera angles during action scenes combined with giving a perspective of Daredevil’s “sixth sense.” Josies bar fight is one primary example, where the Nickelback song “Learn the Hard Way” is toned down, (Who wouldn’t want to mute Nickelback?) and off tempo, in favor of incoming bullets, broken glass, and bone cracking when Murdock goes into beast mode to bring an acquitted rapist. “Jose Quesada” to "justice." The visual aesthetics conveys how Daredevil aligns his sonar sense to dodge bullet trajectory, while putting in that work!
The storyboard aesthetics aligned with Johnson's direction brings the comic to life, and while I didn't care for most of the Nu Metal needle drops, there were some that worked exceptionally well. Josies bar fight is one primary example, where the Nickelback song “Learn the Hard Way” is tone down, (Who wouldn’t want to mute Nickelback?) and off tempo, in favor of gun shots, and bone cracking sounds when Murdock goes into beast mode to bring an acquitted rapist to "justice." You can see how Daredevil conveniently aligns his sonar sense to dodge a hail of bullet trajectory, while putting in that work on Quesada's thugs.
What's so special about the Director's cut? With an R rating for brief nudity, coarse language, and violent imagery, but it's the murder mystery subplot involving with a guest appearance from the late Rapper Coolio, as the wrongly accused defendant, Duante Jackson which alone, is worthy of acclaim. I was very appreciative of the Lisa Tazio subplot, which provided plenty of depth when it comes to Murdock as an attorney, and how he solves the mystery eventually delivering the Kingpin to justice. While Murdock utilizes his detective skills, Jon Favreau as supporting attorney Foggy Nelson, gets his chance to shine, via comedic wit during Jackson’s trial. This of course, was not featured in the theatrical cut. If there’s one scene, I'm glad Johnson left intact, is when Matt returns to his apartment after the attack on Josies' bar. With cuts, scrapes, and lasting scars, Matt is shown to be fallible despite his superhuman capabilities to which he is chewing on Vicodin, Percocet and bathing in Epson salt, to numb the pain inflicted from his intense fight. In the director’s cut, we see the ominous imagery of a dying prostitute,(Lisa Tazio) pleading for help, with Matt feeling helpless to act and falls to sleep, with a silhouette of a nun looming over him, in what seems to be a phantasmagoric sequence.
This exceeds the "Boy meets Girl" “Boy loses Girl” aspect, from the theatrical cut, regarding Matt and Elektra Natchios’ romantic angle. Fortunately, the love scene between Matt and Elektra, which has been swapped in favor of Murdock pursuing a mugger. The fact that DD forgo playing "hide the Billy club" in favor of giving some thug a serious beatdown, shows his dedication or perhaps it could be mistaken for sadism which goes awry as some kid cringes in fear as he sees his father getting pummeled. This has Matt questioning whether, he’s doing the right thing. Unfortunately, as with the infamous playground scene, there are other parts that should have been left on the cutting room floor, such as the "flaming DD signature " which began with 1993's The Crow, then this movie and afterwards, 2004's The Punisher. If there is one scene Johnson should have remained in his director’s cut, was the Confession booth scene, with Matt having an exchange with Father Everette about justice in the form of vengeance. It's perfect dialogue that focuses on his existential crisis. "Look, a Man Without Fear is a man without hope. “May God have mercy on you son. I'm not too crazy about the outfit either."
This scene further implements Matt questioning his ulterior motives. Unfortunately, as with the infamous playground scene, there are other parts that should have been left on the cutting room floor, like the "flaming DD signature " which began with 1993's The Crow, then this movie and afterwards, 2004's The Punisher. If there is one scene Johnson should have remained in his director’s cut, was the Confession booth scene, with Matt having an exchange with Father Everette about justice in the form of vengeance. It's perfect dialogue that focuses on his existential crisis. "Look, a Man Without Fear is a man without hope. “May God have mercy on you son. I'm not too crazy about the outfit either."
Ok, so I mentioned my disdain for the infamous playground scene, however this cut explained why Elektra Natchios strolled into Jo's Coffee bar, because she was being shadowed by her protective Father and rightfully so, since billionaire Nikolas Natchitoches has ties to organized crime, as in Fisk Corp. When he decides to sever his relationship with Wilson, the ruthless crime lord doesn't take it lightly. In fact, he goes as far as to hire a hit man from Ireland (Bullseye) to take him out. "Hell, hath no Fury like a mobster's scorn!" This is where things get more interesting. Mark S Johnson liked the theatrical version but also mentioned how flawed it was.
The overall pacing of Daredevil was very satisfactory, and I can't think of any moment that was boring and that's a good sign. There were plenty of highlights both action and dramatic storytelling. I had to overlook a few things like Daredevil's CGI flip kick or how Bullseye easily scaled the upper portion of the Church during the penultimate fight scene. I appreciated the wire fu effects and some bullet time scenes which added plenty of depth as it should, being a Marvel film. Other noticeable additions from the MSJ cut were and extended fight scene between Matt and the Kingpin, extra violence during the iconic Josie's fight, and Bullseye gets to swear. Make no mistake, this was a true R rated cut!
Ben Affleck is convincing enough as our titular hero. He studied braille, to be more convincing when portraying a blind character. What’s equally impressive, was his dedication to learning martial arts, boxing, and stunt wirework. It was also mentioned that he wanted Matt to have spiky hair that was inspired from Anime. Jennifer Garner auditioned for the role of Elektra, because she felt there wasn’t enough female representation in comic book films also that Elektra is a beautiful strong character. Although Garner doesn’t look the part, she added a tough but vulnerable persona to the fictional heroine. Like so many who learned of Michael Clark Duncan's casting as Fisk, I had trepidations but glad that the late great MCD, measured up to the fictitious Crime boss. Fisk is all about that business and should anyone cross him, he'll make an example out of his prey and the one he loves. Aside from him taking out two of his guards who may have "snitched" to Reporter Ben Ulrich, Duncan channels Fisk’s ferocity, and demonstrates how the actor is more than being typecast as the “Magical Negro.”
I loved the scene prior to the final match where he tells Wesley to leave, "I was born the Bronx Wesley, something you wouldn't understand. " Now that’s gangsta! (This scene was in the theatrical cut, mind you.) Although the director’s cut added extra footage of the Kingpin versus Daredevil fight scene, it was still too short. One would expect a big climactic showdown between the two adversaries, but I guess Johnson and co, had a deadline to reach.
Michael Clark Duncan had broken new ground as the very first race swapped actors to appear in a Superhero movie. His performance also demonstrated that for the most part, it's not about color, but the acting itself.
Colin Farrell chews up scenery as the sadistic assassin Bullseye. He doesn't really say much, but when he does, it's chuckle worthy. "More peanuts please" was his "dead tired" moment from 1995's Commando and although a menacing, arrogant lil prick with his scowls, I found him to be likeable for a villain. This cut is where practically every cast member got their moment to shine, including Joey “Pants” as the New York Times Reporter, Ben Ulrich.
As for the soundtrack aside from the Nu Metal artists, it's reminiscent of 1994's The Crow, buy that's no mere coincidence since electronic composer Graeme Revell scored the darkly comic book adaptation which starred Brandon Lee. Revell, one ups his game, with more Gothicized sounds with a few chants thrown in. There were a few melancholy songs thrown in however, Rob Zombie’s “Man Without Fear” still slaps, and to this very day, my favorite theme song for a Superhero.
Daredevil Director's Cut is more embellished and complementary to both Johnson and the comics' vision. in many ways, it’s a masterclass in film editing and story juxtaposition. If you watch both the theatrical version and this revised cut, you'll notice a few not so subtle differences. This film pays a modicum of respect to the Comics’ past contributors via name drops or cameos bit, John Romita, Daredevil’s co creators' Bill Everett and Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Brian Bendis, Jose Quesada, Kevin Smith and Frank Miller. Speaking of whom, there's a blink and you'll miss it, Miller cameo. While there should have been a few tweaks here and there, to broaden the scope, that may have satisfied the naysayers, as it stands, this early foray within the pre–Marvel Cinematic Universe, is still a very enjoyable Superhero movie even after 20 years!
Level With the Devil: Legacy
In an interview Ben Affleck dismissed Daredevil and said hoe he hated it so much that he decided to play Batman. Previously he mentioned "by playing a superhero in Daredevil, I have inoculated myself from ever playing another superhero ... Wearing a costume was a source of humiliation for me and something I wouldn't want to do again soon." Ironically, Affleck said that Daredevil was his favorite comic book as a child, and explained why he took the role by saying "Everybody has that one thing from childhood that they remember and that sticks with them. This story was that for me." Additionally, he said, "I didn't want someone else to do it, because I was afraid that they would go out and do it different from the comic and screw it up." Affleck, caved in went along with the ‘general consensus” when he should have been proud of his work, unlike Gigli, Daredevil (both versions) were a fun watch.
After Jon Favreau dipped his toes into the unofficial "Marvelverse", the actor went on to portray another supporting character in a Superhero film, which he directed. Thus, setting up the tentpole for what is referred to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
The Daredevil spinoff Elektra featuring Jennifer Garner resuming her role as Matt’s love interest and assassin, was met with poor reception. Not even a director’s cut couldn’t redeem it.
A Planned Daredevil game was in the works for the Sony PlayStation 2, PC, and Xbox back in 2003, but the game was cancelled due to Sony and Marvel’s bickering. A few years ago, the unseen footage of the game in works, was unearthed by Andrew Borman. After looking at the shoddy graphics and gameplay it’s a good thing that this game did not reach the store shelves. However, a Gameboy Advanced Version was released.
Prior to The Crow (1994) Daredevil’s fight choreography had more emphasis on martial arts as well as “wife Fu”. Both films were the earlier examples of going “beast mode” in comic book films, where mass opponents would receive serious beatdowns if not fatalities administered by hero protagonists. The Crow’s Jeff Imada also served as the Stunt Coordinator for Daredevil. While action director Yuen Cheung-yan, done an impeccable job when it came to fight choreography. In the infamous bar scene, Daredevil’s punches and kicks were very grounded albeit exaggerated, yet it fits well within the context of a superhero film.
The road to having a live action Daredevil coming to fruition, was a long arduous journey, be it Andy Warhol's abandoned project, an appearance on the Incredible Hulk made for tv movie, and of course the 2003 feature, which in many ways paved the way for the 2014 Netflix series. Nowadays, Comic fans have furthered abandon the 2003 adaptation while touting the Netflix series as the best thing since Hagen Daz Vanilla Swiss Almond, and rightfully so, because the worldbuilding is laid out during the span of three seasons, with a fourth in the works. That said, I still think Affleck’s Daredevil, could easily kick Charlie Cox’s ass in a fight.
Daredevil was the first Superhero movie to feature the Marvel Title card and mid or post credits which became a signature staple for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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