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Warning: this page contains spoilers!

In brief, I liked this film. I would say that it is to Spider-Man as Angel is to Buffy - a bit darker, and more mature. They've made various changes from the comics - most of them I agreed with, it's just one or two that I didn't. And I really liked the way they handled his hyper-senses. Key tip: there's an extra scene in the middle of the end credits, so don't leave the cinema as soon as the cast list appears.

To give some background, I've been a fan of the character (in the comics) for quite a while now - since 1992, in fact. However, I stopped reading his actual comic a while back... (see why).

I think that the film captured the important aspects of the character. Obviously, when you're compressing 35 years of comics into 2 hours of film, you have to be selective about what you use. So, they skipped over the mystic elements and ninjas (e.g. Stick training Matt Murdock, and the Hand recruiting Elektra), but that's ok. The biggest change (and probably the most controversial) was when he left the rapist to die on the tracks. The nearest he came to that in the comics was when he accidentally pushed a prostitute out of a window (killing her), and he was very remorseful about that. However, if you take the film in isolation (e.g. if you haven't read the comics), then that's a plausible action for a vigilante, so I can live with that.

Another change was to do with the origin. In the comic, young Matt pushed an old man out of the way of a speeding truck (which was carrying radioactive chemicals). He saved the man, but paid for his heroism with his sight, when one of the barrels fell of the back of the truck, and splashed his face. I'm guessing that this was changed to make the story more plausible. Thinking of modern health and safety regulations, I don't think you would normally see traffic like that in the street (and certainly not loose barrels!). This way, he shouldn't have been in the alley, and the barrels were sufficiently secure that it took a fork lift truck to puncture one (which was Matt's fault for running out in front of the driver). They also dropped radioactivity, as in the Spider-Man film last year, since that was a catch-all excuse for superpowers in the 1960s, but doesn't work quite so well nowadays. So, this all makes sense, but it does have a downside. In the comic, it was interesting that he did the right thing, then got shafted for it by the universe. Not much of a karmic reward... This pattern continued throughout his life, but he still struggled to do the right thing, which defined him as a hero - someone who would choose to climb, even though he would enjoy the fall. It's a shame to see that go.

On the plus side, there were some nice in-jokes and cameos, for fans of the comics. All of the boxers that Jack Murdock fought were writers and/or artists on the Daredevil comic: John Romita, Frank Miller, David Mack, and Brian Bendis. The old man who almost stepped out into traffic (who Matt stopped by barring him with his stick) was Stan Lee. I also thought that the use of a sensory deprivation tank was an inspired choice.

As I mentioned above, I liked the way they handled his hyper-senses, specifically his "radar vision". Actually, I think they handled this slightly better than the comics, in that he needed to have a sound to detect the echo (bats are constantly screaming, at a frequency we can't hear, to provide this). So, the way he saw Elektra's face in the rain was pretty nifty. Mind you, they could have handled that the same way that "normal" blind people see faces, i.e. by him touching her. I would have liked to see a special effect for him reading the embossed card. The way I'd imagine that working is that you'd see one letter at a time, as his finger moves along, or even just part of each letter (e.g. one stroke of a W). It wasn't clear from the film whether he could read normal writing (as he does in the comic), or whether he had to use braille - possibly that was a deliberate choice to be vague. I certainly think he should be able to read handwritten stuff, as even I can detect the indentation in the page that a pen makes. The printed page would be more of a grey area.

My only real complaint about the film is that they overpowered him. Basically, there's no way he should be able to leap around the way he did, or be fast enough to dodge a speeding bullet. That's fine for Spider-Man, but not for Daredevil. Personally, I was far more impressed by him doing a hand-stand on the edge of the roof of a tall building. That's something that I could theoretically do, if I trained hard enough. It's also something that could easily kill me if I did it wrong. Whereas leaping 10 feet up in the air is clearly out of my league, and if I do a small jump then I just stay put where I am (i.e. no harm automatically comes to me). I hope that they tone this aspect down if they make a sequel.

I liked the way they handled the Kingpin and Bullseye. Minor changes from the comics (i.e. the Kingpin is now black, and Bullseye doesn't have a costume), but I have no problem with that. In fact, they almost Bullseye made into a likeable character, much like the Terminator (from the first film), with the way he casually killed people who were irritating him. I have mixed feelings about the scene where he got a bullet through his hands. The Punisher did this to him a while back in the comics (when he was experimenting with non-lethal forms of punishment), and I can see why it's appropriate for the character, since he relies on his dexterity so much. On the other hand, the film played up the stigmata association, which just felt clumsy. Digressing slightly, I've never attached any religious significance to people who get wounds in the palms of their hands, since when the Romans crucified people they put the nails through the wrists. There's a gap in the wristbone, which holds a nail quite conveniently, whereas if you had a nail through your palm, then put your weight on it, it would just rip through your hand, and you'd fall off the cross. Anyway, back to the film.

One odd aspect about the Kingpin was his public image. In the comics, the idea is that everyone knows who he is, but nobody can prove it (much like Al Capone). In the film, they said that nobody knew who the Kingpin was, which is how he was able to frame Elektra's father. So, that suggests that his cover story works - everyone thinks he's a legitimate businessman. On the other hand, Matt Murdock refused to take him on as a client at the party, saying "We only represent people who are innocent." There are ways around that, but it feels like a bit of a mismatch between two versions of the plot.

Anyway, I'll conclude as I started, by saying that this is a good film, and well worth watching. Following on from Spider-Man and X-Men, it bodes well for Marvel's future projects in this area.

This page was last updated on 2003-12-29 by John C. Kirk

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