Unleashed in over 3,400 movie houses and on 4,000 screens across North America, Daredevil, the high tech comic book movie about a blind superman, may earn $55 million in its first week -- excellent numbers for a February release.
But the film, with Ben Affleck in the title role, is pedestrian and devoid of the warmth, spectacle and wit we associate with such superhit movies as Spider-Man. Word of mouth -- not competition -- could undo this film.
There is hardly any chemistry between . Her death towards the end of the movie unfolds without tugging at the heartstrings.
One of the few saving graces in the film directed with earnestness but without distinct flair by Mark Steven Johnson (Simon Birch), is one of its villains played with considerable menace by Colin Farrell.
Though overexposed in the last 15 months over four films, including The Recruit, he is a welcome sight as the malevolent and gleeful Irish assassin called Bullseye who can even turn paperclips into lethal weapons.
He is the only bright asset in this miscalculated film without any pulse-quickening moments. The maniacal energy he brings to the role and his enjoyment in executing it prompted several reviewers to wonder whether the film would have gained something had he been cast in the title role.
Blinded since childhood, Matt Murdock works as an attorney in New York while moonlighting as the masked Daredevil in the night, diving off roofs of Manhattan buildings, bouncing off scaffolds, demolishing barriers and half a dozen villains.
When villains go free, he punishes them. A rapist who gets away thanks to his suave attorney, for instance, finds himself destroyed by Daredevil's wrath. But confronting someone like Bullseye is a new and dangerous game.
Stan Lee's comic hero Daredevil -- also a haunted man -- is presented as a person with little sense of humour in the film. Here lies one of the big problems in the movie. The ruggedly handsome Affleck cannot do justice to the part. His scenes in the confessional when he tries to reach out to the priest are among the silliest in the film.
Young Matt who, after losing his eyesight, acquires extraordinary sensory powers but has to fend for himself. But the scenes between Matt and his boxing hero father who has fallen on bad days, are without emotional resonance. Remember how well the sentimental scenes were handled in Spider-Man, adding considerable appeal to the movie?
Affleck, an Oscar-winning screenwriter (Good Will Hunting) and an actor who has held his own against the mesmerising Samuel Jackson in Changing Lanes, has plenty of awful lines to mouth. He fails to bring any conviction to such corny lines as 'I waited outside for my father. In some sense, I am still waiting.'
We have seen many films about vigilante heroes and watched, among many actors, Clint Eastwood, excelling at them. Even Charles Bronson, the usually stiff-faced actor, brought some passion to his part in the first of half a dozen Death Wish movies.
Affleck's vigilante hero is among the worst.
Though Garner has several terrific action scenes that she seems to enjoy, she appears anemic for most of the film. She seems cold in the romantic scenes. Elektra (Garner) who, in the comic book, was a paid assassin, is the only child of a billionaire businessman. When her father is killed by an underworld associate, Elektra a trained martial arts expert, works harder to avenge his death.
For some time, she thinks Daredevil killed her father. But she has no opportunity to challenge the real villains. She is no match for them and pays for her weakness. While her dialogue delivery has to improve, Garner is fun to watch, especially in her Matrix-like fight with Affleck.
While we are not sorry to see her wasted (partly because she has not done anything worthwhile in films, though her work in television series Alias has a big following), we do feel sorry that Michael Clarke Duncan, as a criminal kingpin is given little to do.
Filled with many Matrix-style fight sequences, the film has been rushed into movie theatres several weeks before the sequel to Matrix. A surprise hit, Matrix grossed $460 million worldwide. It earned more in video and DVD rentals and sale. The sequel is reportedly more exciting than the first Matrix.
By all means, wait for that sequel.