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Daredevil is a American superhero film written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the film stars Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who fights for justice in the courtroom and out of the courtroom as the masked vigilante Daredevil. Jennifer Garner plays his love interest Elektra Natchios, Colin Farrell plays the merciless assassin Bullseye and Michael Clarke Duncan plays Wilson Fisk, also known as the crime lord Kingpin.

The film began development in 1997 at 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures, before New Regency acquired the rights in 2000. Johnson chose to shoot the film primarily in Downtown Los Angelesmarker despite the Hell's Kitchen, Manhattanmarker setting of the film and the comics. Rhythm and Hues Studios were hired to handle the film's CGI needs. Graeme Revell composed the Daredevil score which was released in March 2003, whereas the soundtrack to the film was released in February.

Reviews of the film were generally mixed or average. Despite this, the film still enjoyed a profitable theatrical run and became February's second biggest release. The film was successful enough to allow a spin-off film, Elektra, which was released in 2005. A 30 minutes longer R-rated director's cut of the film was released in 2005, which included an entire sub-plot removed from the theatrical release.

Plot

As a child, Matthew Murdock lived in Hell's Kitchenmarker with his washed-up boxer father, Jack Murdock. Matt's father constantly reminds Matt to get an education and make something of himself, and not wind up like him. One fateful day, when young Matt takes a shortcut home, he stumbles across his father beating up a man at the behest of local mob boss Fallon. Horrified, Matt runs blindly away from the scene, and runs afoul of a forklift which swerves to avoid him and accidentally pierces a barrel of toxic fluid, drenching Matt's face in the substance.

An unspecified amount of time later, Matt awakens to find that he is blind. However, despite his loss of sight, his other four senses functioned with super-human accuracy, hearing and touch in particular. While Matt uses his radar-like hearing to train his body, his redeemed father decides to fight again in the ring. One night, Fallon approaches his father and orders him to throw the fight; when he does not, he is brutally murdered by a shadowy figure later revealed to be the Kingpin. Matt is heartbroken by his father's death.

Many years later, Matt Murdock is operating as the Daredevil, whom the press dubbed as The Man Without Fear, at night, and lawyer during the day, protecting Hell's Kitchen in particular. The Kingpin's numerous criminal activities have finally been picked by the press, and he decides to implicate his former partner Nicolas Natchios and make it appear that he was the Kingpin. Matt is intrigued when he meets Elektra Natchios, and despite her initial distrust of him, the two soon begin a relationship. While traveling with her father one night, they are attacked by the lethal and unstable assassin Bullseye, who was dispatched by the Kingpin. Despite Daredevil's best efforts, Bullseye kills Nicholas Natchios with Daredevil's billy club and implicates Daredevil, enraging Elektra, who swears revenge.

Later, when Daredevil goes in search of Bullseye, he runs into Elektra, and reluctantly fights her. When Elektra impales Daredevil through the shoulder with one of her sai blades, she unmasks him and gazes at Matt in horror. Bullseye suddenly turns up, Elektra attempts to fight him and Daredevil can only watch helplessly (with his Radar Sense) as Bullseye kills Elektra. The first scene of the film is shown again, as Daredevil enters the church, intending to recuperate and recover his strength. Unfortunately, Bullseye tracks him down, and the two battle ferociously across the church. After Bullseye manages to knock the air out of Daredevil, he raises a jagged metal pipe to kill him. Using his prodigious hearing, Daredevil hears a S.W.A.T. officer cock his rifle and times it so that his bullet fires horizontally through both of Bullseye's hands, incapacitating him. Daredevil then violently throws the assassin through a church window, and watches him plummet to the ground with grim satisfaction.

Daredevil then goes to the Kingpin's Headquarters for a climatic battle. Despite his appearance, the Kingpin turns out to be a powerful fighter; he overpowers Daredevil throughout most of the fight and eventually unmasks him. Daredevil loses sight of Kingpin, and bursts a pipe so that the rushing water would allow his radar hearing to see his enemy, and bring the tyrant to his knees. When Daredevil is about to deal the final blow, he contemplates what it means to be a hero, and offers the Kingpin a sardonic smile as he awards him his life. He informs the Kingpin that he is aware that he won't be imprisoned indefinitely, and as he leaves, tells him that he will always be waiting for him. He offers one final thought before departing, and orders the Kingpin to stay out of Hell's Kitchen. When Kingpin threatens to reveal Daredevil's identity, Daredevil taunts him in return with the fact that Kingpin got beaten by a blind man, which would make him the laughing-stock of the underworld. The Man Without Fear left before the crimelord swears vengeance against him.

The next morning, Matt and his law partner are drinking coffee at the shop, reading the newspaper on Fisk. Matt turns to the door when a woman enters at the shop, in a scene similar to the one introducing Elektra. Matt says he's going for a walk, and leaves. He goes to the roof of his apartment and finds a copy of Elektra's necklace hanging, with Braille on it. At his office, Ben Urich is writing his latest story, an expose on who Daredevil really is. He's about to print it, but then, out of respect for Daredevil's engagement, decides to delete his story. He exits the New York Post office into the night outside and sees Daredevil standing at the rooftop. Urich whispers "Go get them, Matt" to which Daredevil nods his head and takes off, leaping off the building to fight another hoodlum.

Halfway through the film's credits, police are guarding a hospital room. Inside the room, a heavily bandaged man is annoyed by a fly. Off camera, the fly is struck with a syringe on the wall. The man says one word out of the side of his mouth: "Bullseye".

Cast

  • Ben Affleck as Daredevil /Matt Murdock, an attorney-at-law with a disability. He was blinded as a youth in a radioactive accident that also drastically heightened his remaining senses and gave him a "radar-sense", which allowed him to perceive his surroundings. After this, he makes a silent promise with his father to "stick up for the long shots". His father is killed not long after and at that moment, he vows to seek justice. At night, Matt becomes Daredevil, and takes justice into his hands. Affleck was cast in October 2001. Vin Diesel was considered to portray Daredevil before him, but he opted to take a role from another film. Colin Farrell was also considered until Affleck signed. As a fan, Affleck made sure he had read every single issue of Daredevil, commenting that it was about taking what he knew as a fan and faithfully getting it on the screen. Joe Quesada considered it "serendipity in action" that Affleck is the lead role, as when he and Kevin Smith did the Guardian Devil series, they had modelled it on Affleck. Affleck said Daredevil was his favorite comic book as a kid, 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." He also stated another reason, being "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."
    • Scott Terra as Young Matt Murdock: As a youth, he has trouble with local bullies and a close bond with his father. This changes in different ways after the accident. Terra was officially announced as a part of the cast in March 2002.
  • Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios: Daughter of billionaire Nikolas Natchios and the love interest of Matt Murdock. At a very young age she witnessed the murder of her mother, and since then her father has had her become highly trained in martial arts. For the role of Elektra, many actresses were looked into with considerations including Penélope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Natalie Portman, Lucy Liu, Jessica Alba, and Katie Holmes. A short-list was eventually made, giving the choices of Jennifer Garner, Jolene Blalock, Mía Maestro and Rhona Mitra, with Garner finally becoming the actress to land the role. Garner said of the character, "I think she's strong and cool and beautiful and smart. She'd be a good role model." Garner noted that the costume would be different as Elektra often wears red satin, but in the film she wears black leather. Garner explained "the red would never have worked for hiding a harness, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but you have to protect your skin a little bit. They throw me around so much on the rooftop [that] I got cut through the leather, so imagine if I hadn't had anything."
  • Colin Farrell as Bullseye: An assassin with perfect accuracy and deep-rooted pride of it. Bullseye is hired by Kingpin to kill Nikolas and Elektra Natchios, but when Daredevil gets involved and causes Bullseye to miss his target, he makes it his own personal vendetta to take Daredevil down. Farrell was attached to the role in December 2001. For the film, the traditional Bullseye costume was not used in the film, a reason for which Mark Steven Johnson credited Joe Quesada for talking him out of. Also, Farrell was encouraged to keep his Irish accent as this version of Bullseye is from Ireland. Farrell had to read into Frank Miller's Daredevil comics to understand Bullseye "because the expression on the character's faces in the comic books, and just the way they move sometimes, and the exaggerations of the character I'm playing […] he's so over-the-top that you do draw from that. But it's not exactly a character you can do method acting for... you know, running around New York killing people with paper clips."
  • Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk / The Kingpin: By appearance, he is an overweight corporate head that takes the name Wilson Fisk, but in fact he is the sole person running organized crime, under the moniker of Kingpin. Kingpin is the murderer of Matt's father, and the man responsible for the hiring of Bullseye, with intention of having the Natchios family murdered. Michael Clarke Duncan signed on for the role in January 2002, though he had been attached far earlier. When Duncan was cast, he weighed 290 pounds. He was asked to gain 40 pounds for the role in order to fit the physique of Kingpin. In order to do this, he would lift weights for 30 minutes a day, and power-lifted with one or two reps a day, as well as eating whatever he wanted. Despite this, Duncan's biggest concern was that he is black, whilst Kingpin has always been portrayed as white. He spoke on the fan's loyalty to the source material by saying "they watch movies to say, 'Hey, that's not like the comic book.' But I want them to get past that and just see the movie for what it is and see me for what I am—an actor."
  • Jon Favreau as Franklin "Foggy" Nelson: Matt Murdock's legal partner and best friend, he is also used as a form of comic relief. Favreau joined the cast in February 2002.
  • Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich: An investigative journalist whose articles notably relate to Daredevil, and the Kingpin. During the film, he goes on to uncover a lot of information about the two. Pantoliano was cast in March 2002.
  • David Keith as Jack Murdock: Father of Matt Murdock and a boxer, he is murdered by the Kingpin when he doesn't take a fall for a fight. Keith was officially announced as a part of the cast in March 2002.
  • Leland Orser as Wesley Owen Welch: The number two of Wilson Fisk, but he doesn't like to be involved in the activities of the Kingpin.
  • Erick Avari as Nicholas Natchios: The father of Elektra, who is murdered by Bullseye on behalf of the Kingpin.
  • Ellen Pompeo as Karen Page: The secretary at Matt Murdock and Franklin Nelson's law firm.
  • Derrick O'Connor as Father Everett: A priest of Matt Murdock's local church, where he sometimes goes to find solace.


Stan Lee, Frank Miller and Kevin Smith, each notable for their work on the Daredevil comics, also have cameo roles throughout the film. The Director's Cut version also features Jude Ciccolella and Coolio in a sub-plot removed from the theatrical version.

Production

In 1997, 20th Century Fox optioned the rights from Marvel Enterprises, and Chris Columbus was chosen to direct the film. In 1998, Marvel was facing bankruptcy. During this time 20th Century Fox allowed the option to expire, so Disney began negotiations in order to acquire the rights. In 1999, the negotiations failed to work out so Marvel sets the project up with Sony's Columbia Pictures. During this time, Chris Columbus and Carlo Carlei co-wrote a script together, before Mark Steven Johnson got signed to write the screenplay. By 2000, Sony decided to cancel the project, as the two companies reportedly couldn't come to an agreement over Internet rights.

New Regency entered negotiations with a more satisfying offer, attaining the character rights from Marvel in 2000 to produce the film, with 20th Century Fox handling the distribution. Mark Steven Johnson had to pitch himself again in order to show he's suitable for the job, and became rehired. Johnson's script was turned in 2001, which was praised by Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles. Prior to shooting, producer Gary Foster said that in comparison to other comic book-based films before it, this film would be "more character-driven ... darker ... edgier," whilst Marvel Studios Executive Kevin Feige felt the script was one of the strongest comic scripts Marvel had received.

20th Century Fox wanted to start filming in Canadamarker in order to save money. This plan was contended by Mark Steven Johnson, and the film's cinematographer, Ericson Core, after they found a preferred area for shooting around downtown Los Angelesmarker' Arcade Building. Core noted that the appeal came from the "beautiful, old brick buildings and great rooftops," which they felt was perfect for a depiction of Hell's Kitchen, Manhattanmarker, in comparison to the studio's choice where the filming would be done in Montrealmarker or Vancouvermarker. Due to their insistence, coupled with Ben Affleck's disinterest in filming in Canada (after having filmed there for his previous film, The Sum of All Fears) they were able to overturn the studio's mind.

When the look of the film was being decided, Mark Steven Johnson opted to use direct scenes from the Daredevil comics. Joe Quesada's artistic take in Guardian Devil was an influence on the film, with Johnson noting that they would "literally take out a scene from the comic book that Joe did […] Here's Daredevil on the cross, you know, it's that scene from 'Guardian Devil'. You just shoot that." Throughout the film, Ben Affleck had to wear "cataract milky-blue" contacts, which would effectively make him blind. This was considered great by Johnson, as it would aid his performance.

The sound plays an integral part in the film, as the superhero relies on it in order to form his 'radar sense'. Post-production sound was done by supervising sound editor John Larsen and sound designer Steve Boeddeker and is heard taking place immediately after Matt's optic nerve is seen mutating. The mutating of the nerve was done by Rhythm and Hues Studios, who also worked on the radar-sense which became referred to as "shadow world." Shadow world was made using just CGI except in a scene where Elektra and Matt Murdock are in the rain, the scene was done using CGI over film.

The score to Daredevil was written by Graeme Revell, and was released on March 4, 2003. He was attracted to the focus of "human-ness" on the Daredevil, torn emotionally and physically by his superhero status. Avi Arad asked Revell to concentrate more on the emotions of Daredevil and Elektra, whilst Mark Steven Johnson wanted to stay clear from any gothic and action movie clichés. Revell tried to avoid too much individual motifs but some characters would have an identifiable sound, like Bullseye would have guitar undertones, while Kingpin would have bass beats. Guitarist Mike Einziger of Incubus collaborated with Revell for any additional rock elements. Revell thoroughly enjoyed working with Johnson, describing the director as "positive" and "responsive" when it came to experimenting (as opposed to feeling "locked in a box of preconceptions") which he felt lead to "cool stuff." Varèse Sarabande put together the score record.

Release

Marketing

Aside from expected TV commercials during such TV hits as Friends and Law & Order, as well as one in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, there was also a tie-in with Kraft, an in-store promotion at Wal-Martmarker, a marketing campaign with Hamilton Watch Company, who designed the watch Matt wears in the film, and a weeklong Daredevil segment on Entertainment Tonight. As part of an online form of marketing, a viral e-mail drive was started, where participants would be entered in prize draw where they could win things such as Daredevil t-shirts, Game Boy Advance games and cufflinks. To enter the drawing, the user to booked tickets for the film online, then passed an e-mail on to someone else, making them eligible. The idea was to encourage online ticket booking, which at the time was seen as a growing trend. The Game Boy Advance game was released on February 14, 2003, and was created by Encore, a subsidiary of Navarre Corporation. The soundtrack to the film, Daredevil: The Album, was released in February 2003.

Box office

Daredevil opened theatrically on February 14, 2003, on 3,471 screens. The film took first place in its opening weekend, making $45,033,454. At the time, it became the second biggest February release, behind Hannibal. By the second weekend the film saw a 55.1% decline in takings but managed to maintain the number one spot, beating new release Old School by $639,093. By the third weekend release, Daredevil saw a further 38.5% drop in sales, and so fell to third place at the box office. The film grossed over $102 million in North America, and over $76 million in the rest of the world, totalling the film's worldwide takings at just over $179 million,meaning the movie has grossed well over double its budget of $78 million. Avi Arad addressed the top spot success by saying "we are five for five with record-breaking box office successes and have two more Marvel releases slated for this summer. It's a testament to the broad appeal of these characters before mainstream audiences outside of the core comic fans. These super heroes have been successful within the Marvel pantheon for decades; it only makes sense that their translations to the big screen are just as fruitful."

Due to the film's violent scenes, Daredevil was banned in Malaysiamarker. 20th Century Fox had appealed to Malaysia's censorship board to change its decision, hoping that the film would be due for release in Malaysia on February 27, 2003. Malaysian newspaper The Star also noted that the ban was due to the film theme being "focused on the dealings of a secret society," as well as some sensuality. The article criticized the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia for having these reasons to ban the film, but at the same time allowing films such as Final Destination 2, which contained violent content, and Infernal Affairs, which focused on the dealings of a secret society, before suggesting that the board should have considered banning The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for "having scenes containing violence using weapons and hands," a direct quotation of which the article cited as being another reason why Daredevil was banned.

Reception

Daredevil received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 44% of critics gave the film positive feedback, based on 201 reviews, with a 44% rating from selected "notable" critics. At the website Metacritic, which assigns its own subjective rating out of 100 to each review, the film has received an average score of 42, based on 35 reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of a possible 4 stars and called the film good, despite noting the almost typical superhero background. Of the actors, he stated that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were suitable for their roles, whilst Michael Clark Duncan's presence alone was menacing. He finished by saying "I am getting a little worn out describing the origin stories and powers of superheroes […] Some of their movies, like this one, are better than others." Houston Chronicle's Bruce Westbrook considered it "the best Marvel movie to date, it's as well-written and character-driven as some of today's Oscar contenders, and its story doesn't stall with hollow flamboyance." The Austin Chronicle's Kimberly Jones praised the film, the actors, and felt that though an unproven director, "Johnson has just signed his meal ticket with this marriage of big brains, big brawn, and–most happily–big heart."

Empire's Kim Newman gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, and felt people "will like the characters more than the film," before adding that there are enough strong moments to guarantee a good viewing. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw stated that the film held "unconvincing touches" but was more enjoyable than Spider-Man and as dark as Tim Burton's Batman. BBC film critic Nev Pierce believed the film had spectacular set-pieces, but felt there was no strong narrative arc to keep the viewer interested. The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern considered the film to be neither original nor great but felt it maintained "many grace notes and interesting oddities." The Globe and Mail's Rick Groen said the film was "not woeful, not wonderful, merely watchable." The Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea thought the film brought a variance of humour and violence, but felt it didn't work as well as it could have. James Berardinelli felt the film was merely a satisfactory superhero film. TV Guide's Frank Lovece noted that for a superhero film the characters are more grounded to reality, respectively, but also felt it was "a movie for grown-ups, not kids."

Particularly negative reviews included the one by The New York Times Elvis Mitchell, who said the film was "second-rate and ordinary," whilst Variety's Todd McCarthy considered it "a pretender in the realm of bona fide superheroes." Time Out's Trevor Johnston praised Ben Affleck, feeling he "persuades us of the pain of sightlessness and supersensitive hearing," but also felt writer/director Johnson's construction fails all involved in the film. Slate's David Edelstein believed Johnson copied a lot of Batman, and concluded by saying "that's not so bad: The movie looks best when it looks like other, better movies." The Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington thought the film grabs the attention, but felt it doesn't reward it. The New York Post's Lou Lumenick panned the film, describing it as a "mind-numbing, would-be comic-book franchise, which often seems as blind as its hero -- not to mention deaf and dumb."

Director's cut

A director's cut of the film was announced for a spring 2004 DVD release. This version contained new additions like previously unseen footage and a removed subplot, and was to be a bit darker with an R rating. The film, released in 2.35:1 widescreen format, was release with DTS and Dolby Digital sound. The new version of the film has newly recorded commentary to accompany it, featuring Mark Steven Johnson and Avi Arad. A "Making of Director's Cut" featurette also accompanied the film. The release date of the DVD was later pushed back to November 30 2004. On September 30 2008 the director's cut was released on Blu-ray. The DVD release of the directors cut removed the wealth of bonus material included on the theatrical cut's DVD release, but it was restored for the Blu-Ray release (although the Blu-Ray release only contains the director's cut).

Kevin Feige commented on this version of the film, believing "the people who had other opinions [of Daredevil] will be won over by this new version." Reviewers like Empire s Danny Graydon seemed to reaffirm this opinion by considering this version a "considerable improvement on the original version," notably preferring the more violent undertones, a lesser focus on the romance, and the equal focus of Daredevil and his lawyer alias Matt Murdock and the subplot involving Coolio. Some gripes still remained though, as Graydon felt Affleck didn't suit himself in the Daredevil outfit, and that Michael Clark Duncan as the Kingpin was done in an over-the-top manner. IGN's Jeff Otto & Andy Patrizio also deemed this version an improvement over the original. They felt this version was more loyal to the Frank Miller feel of the Daredevil world, with more focus on themes such as Murdock's struggle with his Catholic upbringing. On the whole they felt the film would be far more pleasing to the fans, and overall better than the theatrical release.

Sequel

Kevin Feige has stated "there are many more stories to be told with old Hornhead and we'd love to tell them someday." Avi Arad has also said that a sequel will begin development once the rights go from 20th Century Fox to Marvel Studios. Director Mark Steven Johnson showed interest in returning to direct with the Born Again storyline, as well as suggesting Mr. Fear as a possible villain.

During 2004, Ben Affleck shot a cameo role for the spin-off film, Elektra, at the request of Daredevil co-star Jennifer Garner. In October 2004, Affleck stated he would only return in the lead role if Fox would renegotiate to tell the darker stories of Daredevil, and showed interest in a Kevin Smith graphic novel which included Mysterio, as well as the Born Again storyline. However, in November 2006 Affleck stated that he would never reprise the role, having felt "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."

In July 2006, Michael Clarke Duncan showed interest in returning for the role of the Kingpin, but stated that he would not be willing to gain weight as he felt "comfortable" being down to 270 pounds. However, he jokingly showed willingness to change his mind if he was offered $20 million. Duncan suggested that the character is portrayed to have been training a lot in jail in order to become faster in combat against Daredevil, also working as a way to fit his weight loss into the story.

In July 2008, Jason Statham had expressed interest in appearing as Daredevil in the future. Statham requested "just give me the chance, I would love to be Daredevil." Frank Miller commented in agreement "I think he should be Daredevil too." In October 2008, 20th Century Fox executive Tom Rothman said that "a Daredevil reboot is something we are thinking very seriously about." Rothman added that "what it really needs is, it needs a visionary at the level that [The Dark Knight director] Chris Nolan was. It needs someone, it needs a director, honestly, who has a genuine vision."In 2009 Fox studios confirmed that they were going to try to make a daredevil movie along with Ghost Rider 2.

Further reading



References

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