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Daredevil

Daredevil

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In light of the recent trailer debut of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and the high acclaim garnered by the Netflix “Daredevil” series, today’s feature is the infamous “Daredevil” film, which marked Ben Affleck’s first superhero role.

“Daredevil” was written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson (“Ghost Rider,” “Grumpy Old Men”), adapted from the lauded comic book character and series created by Stan Lee, Bil Everett, and Jack Kirby.

The cinematography for “Daredevil” was provided by Ericson Core, who is best known for his work on “The Fast and The Furious” and “Invincible.”

The production designer for “Daredevil” was Barry Chusid, who also worked on films such as “Mystery Men,” “Blade,” “Anaconda,” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

One of the producers on “Daredevil” was Kevin Feige, which was one of the first producing credits of his career. He has gone on to become President of the enormously successful Marvel Studios, and has overseen such hit films as “The Avengers,” “Thor,” “Iron Man,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

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The special effects team for “Daredevil” included coordinator John McLeod (“Howard the Duck,” “Sin City,” “Face/Off,” “Batman Returns,” “Planet Terror”), foreman Mike Edmonson (“The Avengers,” “Iron Man,” “Theodore Rex”), makeup by Eddie Vargas (“Epic Movie,” “The Midnight Meat Train”), as well as elements from films like “Pulp Fiction,” “12 Monkeys,” “Training Day,” “Deep Blue Sea,” and “R.I.P.D.”

The score was provided by Graeme Revell, who has also composed music for films such as “Street Fighter,” “Spawn,” “Red Planet,” and “Sin City.”

The cast for “Daredevil” is headlined by Ben Affleck (“Gigli,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Argo,” “Gone Girl,” “The Town”) and Jennifer Garner (“Alias,” “Juno”), with an accessory cast that includes Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Swingers”), Colin Farrell (“Winter’s Tale,” “In Bruges,” “Phone Booth,” “Minority Report”), Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile,” “Armageddon”), Ellen Pompeo (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Catch Me If You Can”), Joe Pantoliano (“Memento,” “The Matrix”), and Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy”).

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Apparently, “Spider-Man” crossover references had to be removed from the screenplay due to the rights divide between Sony and Fox over the characters. The Kingpin and Ben Ulrich, characters who are regulars in both franchises, were given specifically to Fox and “Daredevil” for the film, and couldn’t be mentioned in association with Spider-Man specific institutions like The Daily Bugle.

The story of “Daredevil” centers on a blind criminal defense lawyer with superhuman senses who moonlights as a vigilante in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. His activities run him afoul of a number of criminal elements in the city, who try with all of their might to take him down.

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“Daredevil” has a 5.3 IMDb rating, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 45% (critics) and 36% (audience), making the reception generally negative. However, it was a significant box office hit, grossing over $179 million worldwide on a budget estimated at $78 million. It even justified a spin-off / sequel in “Elektra,” an arguably even more infamous and reviled superhero film.

Apparently, attempts to make a “Daredevil” film started in the 1990s, but took a long time to get of the ground. Likewise, there were a couple of attempts to reboot “Daredevil” by Fox after the 2003 hit, in order to prevent the rights from reverting to Marvel. These ultimately failed, however, which resulted in Marvel and ABC creating the acclaimed Netflix “Daredevil” series that debuted in 2015.

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It has been claimed that the original concept for the “Daredevil” film was to aim for an R-rating, including nudity and extreme violence. The film still certainly maintains a very dark tone for a superhero movie, and the Director’s Cut features a good deal more violence than the version that ultimately made it to theaters.

Jon Favreau, who plays Foggy Nelson in “Daredevil,” was apparently already in talks about making “Iron Man” during filming on “Daredevil,” which launched the eventual Marvel Cinematic Universe that would absorb the Daredevil character in 2015.

It reportedly took 8 months to perfect the “Daredevil” costume, and the ultimate product was apparently very uncomfortable for Ben Affleck to wear. Affleck has been quoted as saying:

“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.”

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Of the many criticisms of “Daredevil” that I have heard, two consistently stand out. First, most people feel that the film is far too melodramatic, and hard to enjoy because of it. Second, many feel that the pacing and action in the film is far too slow to hold their interest.

Personally, I have never felt that “Daredevil” was excessively dark or gritty in comparison with, say, the Nolan “Batman” movies. However, it certainly isn’t written well, which is where I think the weakness is. Nothing is particularly subtle, so all of the dark elements are bashed over the audiences heads, which isn’t exactly the best way to go about that. As far as the pacing goes, there’s no arguing that “Daredevil” is a high-octane action movie. I honestly think that would have been even worse: Daredevil strikes me as a character that needs to be a bit more atmospheric and human. That said, that doesn’t make the movie any more interesting to watch.

My biggest problem with the film is the amount of digital effects used throughout that have aged about as well as shrimp lost in the back of the fridge. It was still pretty recent technology at the time, but looking back now it really doesn’t hold up, and makes the whole film look more artificial and strange. The other major issue I have is with the obnoxious soundtrack, but that is neither here not there: just a product of the times I suppose.

Overall, “Daredevil” is certainly one of the lesser modern superhero movies. It isn’t nearly as bad as the 1990 “Captain America,” “Howard the Duck,” or even “Green Lantern,” but it is certainly a pretty long way from good. However, I don’t think of it as all that bad, either. It certainly isn’t bad enough to enjoy as a bad movie. Mostly, “Daredevil” mostly serves as a cautionary tale of how not to do a superhero movie, and as a warning that audiences will eventually tire of “gritty, realistic” heroes after a while. It is probably worth a rewatch given the release of the Netflix series and in anticipation of Affleck returning to the realm of superheroes, but there isn’t all that much to get out of it as far as laughs go.

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State of Play

Clerk’s Pick

Clerk:
Hannah, Video Central (Columbus, OH)
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Movie:
State of Play
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Pitch:
“It is an absolutely formulaic thriller movie, but executed really well. Like, somebody had a concept for this movie, and pulled it off exactly as they wanted it. The movie is like a really good hamburger: all of the elements are simple, but it is definitely enjoyable”

Background:

“State of Play” is based on a successful and highly acclaimed six-episode BBC serial of the same name from 2003, which featured notable actors such as James McAvoy, Jon Simm, and Bill Nighy, and David Morrissey (among others).

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The American film adaptation of “State of Play” is directed by Kevin Macdonald, known for acclaimed films such as “The Last King of Scotland” and “Touching the Void.” However, the film is reported to have been passed on by acclaimed directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Brian De Palma, Richard Linklater, Ang Lee, and Edward Zwick.

The casting of “State of Play” was somewhat of a revolving door during pre-production, resulting in a number of delays. Initially, it was intended to be a reuniting of the “Fight Club” duo of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. However, delays from the 2007 writers’ strike led to scheduling conflicts, which inevitably led to more delays and conflicts, ultimately resulting in the two central roles going to Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck after both Norton and Pitt had to back out. The rest of the deep cast features Jeff Daniels prior to his resurgent role in “The Newsroom,” Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, and Robin Wright. However, the all-star American casting was criticized by some media outlets in the UK (most notably The Independent), in particular because none of the brilliant original serial cast were asked to return for the film.

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As mentioned previously, “State of Play” went through extensive re-writes throughout production, passing through a variety of hands. Included among the writing credits are Tony Gilroy of the “Bourne” series and “The Devil’s Advocate,” Matthew Michael Carnahan of “Lions for Lambs,” and “The Kingdom,” and Billy Ray of “Volcano,” “Shattered Glass,” and “Captain Phillips.” Although not ultimately credited, Peter Morgan of “The Queen” was also brought in at one point for rewrites.

“State of Play” features an Academy Award nominated cinematographer in Rodrigo Prieto, who has lofty credits including “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Babel,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Argo,” and “21 Grams.” Elsewhere in the crew is prolific casting director Avy Kaufman, who assembled casts for movies like “Lincoln,” “AI,” “The Sixth Sense,” and “Life of Pi” (as well as another Clerk’s Pick: Scotland, PA).

Review:

“State of Play” is a slow-burning movie that incorporates interesting elements from action movies into what is without a doubt a political / journalistic thriller. There are a number of frenetic, tense sequences that feel like they are pulled from a Jason Bourne movie, whereas most of film bears significant similarities to dark, political dramas like “House of Cards.” It makes for a really interesting and tense watch, to say the least.

Director Kevin Mcdonald specifically cites “All the President’s Men” as the primary inspiration for the movie’s direction, and odes to that film and the Watergate scandal are scattered throughout the movie. However, as I mentioned previously, I think “State of Play” feels and looks far more like the recent, lauded American adaptation of “House of Cards” than anything else. This is particularly interesting, given the “State of Play” BBC serial drew a lot of comparisons from critics to the earlier, original 1990 BBC version of “House of Cards”, creating a curious sort of ouroboros between the two properties.

One of the most impressive aspects of this movie, in my opinion, is the stellar performance by Ben Affleck. “State of Play” immediately predates his recent renaissance: the very next year saw the release of his second directorial feature “The Town,” which I credit as the start of his revival into prominence.

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The casting in general for “State of Play” is top notch, and features a number of memorable performances. Outside of Affleck and Crowe, Jason Bateman particularly stood out to me despite having a very small supporting role in the movie. His skeevy character manages to bring a little bit of comic relief into the movie without ruining the tone or distracting from the story, which could easily have happened with someone else in the role.

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The cinematography in “State of Play” is absolutely fantastic. Just as the story splits time between the political world and journalistic world, the shooting styles differ depending on the focus of the scene. Parts that center on Russell Crowe and the journalists resemble the shaky, handheld style that Rodrigo Prieto later used in “Argo”, whereas the political side of the movie is filmed in pristine, well-lit high definition.

“State of Play” is a pretty solid recommendation from me, particularly for anyone who is dying for more “House of Cards.” The pacing is probably too slow for people expecting an action-packed movie, but I think the tension is well built throughout the film. I admittedly would have preferred to see the initially intended Pitt / Norton version of the film, but Crowe / Affleck are definitely on point here.