Justice versus crime, passion versus revenge, white versus black, gothic churches versus sleek skyscrapers - "Daredevil" has all the ingredients for a gritty urban legend tale depicting the struggle between good and evil. Yet it all seems as though it has been done before and in a better manner.
Following a spate of comic book adaptations, starting from the legendary "Superman" and the "Batman" series to the more recent "Spiderman" and "X-Men", director Mark Steven Johnson attempts to cash in on this commercially-successful trend of morphing a Marvel comic superhero into a live-action hero.
Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) meets with a tragic accident at the age of twelve, when radioactive waste destroys his eyesight - but his loss is compensated by supersensory powers. This simply means that he's as blind as a bat, but, just like a bat, receives radar signals from objects, which allow him to perform death-defying and gravity-challenging stunts. The death of his father at the hands of the mob plays a pivotal role in Murdock's decision to become a crime fighter. A lawyer by profession, Murdock becomes Daredevil at night, lurking in the streets of Hell's Kitchen in New York City when he takes justice into his own hands.
Of course no crime caper is quite complete without a love interest. Enter the beautiful Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), daughter of the millionaire Ambassador Natchios (Erick Avari). An unintentionally hilarious fight sequence ensues in a playground and Murdock realizes that he has met his match. Thus the two lovers literally hit it off.
But their love is doomed by the evil Kingpin, Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan) and the psychotic assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell), who have other plans for the two lovers. After finishing off Ambassador Natchios, Bullseye cleverly frames Daredevil, leading Elektra to embark upon her own vendetta. Will the revenge never stop? After numerous climatic fights, which all look as though they've been ripped off from "The Matrix" (Daredevil dodges shards of stain glass) and are even reminiscent of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon", justice predictably reigns supreme. The director and scriptwriter even manage to end the story to allow for the possibility of a sequel. And of course they remain politically correct with their jingoistic closing speech on the unsung heroes of New York City who fight for justice at all costs.
There is absolutely nothing that distinguishes this film from other action hero movies: "Daredevil" lacks imaginative sets - the dizzying zooms on New York's skyline are tiringly repetitive; the characters are hollow in spite of the attempt to give them psychological depth and, unlike the baddies in "Batman", the villains lack a wicked sense of humor. Only the feisty Garner adds a spark to the movie. Watch it only if you are a die-hard comic fan.This article was first published on 21 Apr 2003.