Daredevil

Thanks to Matt, now with having watched Daredevil I have only a handful of films to go* and before long I will be up to date with all the superhero films that I would like to see.

First, I should say that prior to watching this film I knew nothing of Daredevil, i.e., don’t know him from the comic books. This is my first exposure to the character. Also, I watched the Director’s Cut which is reportedly markedly better than version released for the theaters in 2003.

I really liked this film. A lot in fact. I think it is seriously underrated. One might be surprised where I rate it on the list of the superhero films that I have seen. (See below.)

The main litmus test for whether I enjoy a film is how much I care about what happens to the characters. I cared about Daredevil’s protagonists. And I found the story to be a captivating one. The tale quickly drew me in and held my interest throughout.

Ben Affleck did an excellent job, I thought. He made me like Matt Murdock and care about what happens to him. Matt Murdock’s story, and what moved and motivated him, mattered to me. Affleck makes Matt Murphy very likable and relatable.

The romantic chemistry between Ben Affleck/Matt Murdock and Jennifer Garner/Electra Natchios worked for the love story aspect. Jennifer Garner gave us a character that is simultaneously lovely and gritty, in equal measures. The supporting characters provided good fun, especially John Favreau as Matt’s law partner “Foggy.” The courtroom scenes were enjoyable.

The fights scenes surpassed my expectations. They were made much more entertaining and novel by having revealed for us Daredevil’s strange world of sensory experience. In some cases we literally “see” what Daredevil “sees,” and otherwise as such it is set up for us to imagine. I bought into Daredevil’s supernormal sensory powers. And the fact that he has some key vulnerabilities definitely added to the suspense for me when he was fighting. (Addendum: Take a look at this video to add some real life plausibility to some of the things Daredevil does.)

The story held together well, and came together in a pretty coherent and satisfying way. The love story and crime fighting story arced, interwove, and merged well.

I particularly liked the symbolism of Daredevil vis-à-vis the church. And the fact that Matt Murdock is a defense attorney who strives to rescue the innocent by day as he metes out street justice for the wicked at night. Both are interesting ways of framing the antihero. As Matt sometimes has to ask himself, “Am I (really) the good guy?”

About my only criticism of this picture is that the villains were a tad more cartoonish than perhaps should ideally have been. I mean, this is a superhero film so we expect them to be a bit outlandish or extravagant. And I think Michael Duncan Clark as Kingpin was good. His physical stature alone makes him “larger than life.” But even with him the director had him kind of ham it up a bit. And Collin Farrell’s portrayal of Bullseye as “(tw)itching to kill”, let’s call it, was so overdrawn that I nearly felt embarrassed for him. But the fight scenes with both of them were extremely well executed regardless.

Okay, anyway, without further ado, where does Daredevil fall on my list of superhero films in order of my most enjoyed ? I know many will disagree vehemently with some of this ordering if they compare it with their own list. But here it is:

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. The Avengers
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger
  5. Iron Man
  6. Hellboy
  7. The Wolverine
  8. Thor
  9. X2: X-Men United
  10. Daredevil
  11. Spider-Man
  12. Iron Man 2
  13. Thor: The Dark World
  14. Man of Steel
  15. X-Men
  16. Superman (1978)
  17. The Dark Knight Rises
  18. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  19. Batman Begins
  20. The Dark Knight
  21. Superman Returns
  22. The Amazing Spider-Man
  23. Batman (1989)
  24. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  25. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  26. X-Men: The Last Stand
  27. Iron Man 3
  28. The Fantastic Four (2005)
  29. Spider-Man 2
  30. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  31. Spider-Man 3
  32. Green Lantern
  33. The Incredible Hulk
  34. The Phantom
  35. The Crow
  36. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  37. Mystery Men
  38. The Punisher
  39. Hulk
  40. Judge Dredd
  41. Batman Forever
  42. Batman and Robin
  43. Batman Returns
  44. Superman II
  45. Superman III
  46. Catwoman
  47. Blade
  48. Darkman
  49. Superman and the Mole Men
  50. Batman (1966)
  51. The Mask

Now granted, this high placement for Daredevil to some degree reflects the pleasure of just having discovered a new character in the superhero arena that I like very much. But even now I’m pretty sure that Matt Murdock/Daredevil will remain one of my favorite characters as time goes on.

And please be aware that this list is not a ranking of which film is “better” than another. Rather it is my personal, idiosyncratic ranking of the ones for which I find myself caring most about the characters and the story. Although how much I care about the story does depend substantially on craftsmanship on the part of the filmmakers.

* Namely: Watchmen, X-Men: First Class, and Elektra. There are other superhero movies I haven’t seen (here is the Wikipedia list), but I don’t have much interest in them unless someone sways me.

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Daredevil

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