Today if we talk about the Marvel superhero Daredevil the general public cannot fail to immediately think of Charlie Cox, protagonist of the acclaimed Netflix TV series set (almost timidly) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and close to a reboot under the aegis of Marvel Studios (at least according to rumors, that Matt would like Murdock return to court for Spider-Man: No Way Home).
Yet in 2003, practically at the dawn of the new era of cinecomic, Mark Steven Johnson had ventured a film adaptation of the Devil from Hell’s Kitchen: released between the first two Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (released in 2002 and 2004 respectively) and with an invisible Kevin Feige working behind the scenes as executive producer, in “hindsight” Daredevil takes special interest as a small experiment (including franchises) which would open cinecomic to many future trends.
In presenting the film to today’s public, let’s analyze the most curious ones together.
On the side of good
History, told in flashback with the most classic of tricks, is that of young Matt Murdock, a boy from New York who lives with his father Jack Murdock. One day Matt is the victim of an accident that exposes his face to a radioactive substance, he becomes blind forever but at the same time all his other senses acquire extraordinary abilities, and together they are able to “restore” his sight through a very fine radar sense.
The father, a boxer on the avenue of the sunset, is killed by a gangster after refusing to rig a very important match, and to avenge this wrong Matt today acts as “violent arm of the law”: during the day he is a lawyer at the service of the weakest, helping the victims of the criminal activities of the Kingpin boss, at night he is the superhero Daredevil, the fearless man.
The tormented and impossible love story with Elektra Natchios, the machinations of Wilson Fisk, the duels in court side by side with colleague Foggy, the intervention of the deadly Bullseye and the investigation of the journalist Ben Urich in search of the identity of the “Devil” will give the “the” to a nocturnal adventure, still more violent than the standards of the cinecomic genre and with some really interesting ideas.
Meanwhile, there is the obvious and nice quote to Rocky 4 by Sylvester Stallone during the decisive match for the life of Jack Murdock. Not only will the video clip sequences be different, but close to the gangster played by Mark Margolis, the director immortalizes a tailor-made character of Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla Drago.
The use of computer graphics is inherited from strength Matrix: the visual rendering of the radar sense in the rain looks the same as the digital world of the Wachowski sisters’ film with Keanu Reeves, not to mention the overabundance of leather costumes.
Daredevil reasons the opposite from Ang Lee’s Hulk (again 2003) in staging the world of comics.
A container film
With an almost exaggerated predilection for oblique shots, made up of sometimes extreme angles more children of the pages of comics than of the Hollywood noirs of the 40s and 50s, Mark Johnson’s film despite all its limitations it is a clear example of modern cinecomic ante litteram, sometimes due to its own ambition, other times by pure chance (which makes it even more interesting seen today).
In the field of randomness, think of the cast: Ben Affleck, Jon Favreau, Colin Farrell, names and faces destined to forcefully return to the world of cinecomics (the last of the three will be in The Batman with Robert Pattinson as the Penguin) and Michael Carke Duncan himself (an unforgettable Wilson Fisk, very bad and not at all shades of gray compared to the equally successful version of Vincent D’Onofrio), who would have taken on the role of the character for an episode of Spider-Man: The New Animated Series.
In the field of ambition then it is enough to mention the director’s cut (as often happens much higher than the film version) e even plans not only for a saga but for a franchise, with a sequel (which would follow the plot Born Again and would have had Mysterio as villain) later canceled after the failure of the first Elektra spin-off.
From container film what it is, Daredevil also has quite a few references to Christian figurative art (Bullseye takes charge of it unexpectedly) that Zack Snyder would later use as a model of his Snyder-Verse for DC, but at the same time it takes up moments from the past of the genre (in particular from Tim Burton’s Batman, a strong influence for Mark Johnson) for unknowingly become one of the last bastions of cinecomic of the early 2000s.
A film that is often fallacious and very naïve when seen today, but also tremendously identifying a specific moment of transition of the genre destined to become the most popular in the world.