I was recently talking to my sixteen-year-old nephew about the excitement surrounding Black Panther, released nationwide today. We were discussing the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and how Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp and the films to come next year will be the culmination of a massive undertaking that has spanned over a decade.
As we chatted about MCU and all the incredible projects on the horizon, my nephew simply gazed his eyes at me and asked, “Has there ever been a bad Marvel movie?” I swiftly respond that there absolutely has been. With an unrestrained look of smug on his face, my nephew then challenges me to name one. “Name one” echoes in my head, looking off into the distance intrusively as the world becomes wavy.
I am mentally transported back fifteen years to February 14th 2003. A frosted tip haired, puka shell necklace wearing teenager is getting SUPER excited while he waits in line to see one of his favorite comic-book characters on the big screen. If you guessed that teenager to be me, you’d be more correct than Ken Jennings during his 73-day Jeopardy run. Approaching the front of the line, I look at the cashier with a big smile as I joyously say “One for Daredevil please”.
15 years have gone by since, but here we are, encountering a bit of an anniversary for what is probably the worst movie to ever brandish the Marvel logo. Daredevil.
If you don’t know much about this mess of a movie (In which case it’s interesting that you have chosen to click on this article), it’s the story of a lawyer named Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) who moonlights as a vigilante named Daredevil in New York’s, Hell’s Kitchen. After an accident as a child blinds him, his other senses are immensely heightened. Using these heightened senses to fight crime and injustice, he takes on NYC’s underbelly along with the guy who runs it all, King Pin (Michael Clark Duncan)… Sounds awesome right?!?! Yeah, no.
Saying Daredevil has a TON of issues, in all honesty, may be an understatement. So here are just a couple that immediately cross my mind. The Campiness. This thing is campier than a Boy Scouts weekend in Yosemite National Park. And not campy in a good way, like 1960’s Batman TV series-campy, but instead in the absolute worst possible way. It’s as if the film doesn’t realize why it was made or what its actual purpose is. The entire run-time seems to go back and forth like a see-saw between two movies, one that is dark and serious and another that is comical and ridiculous.
For example, there’s a scene when Ben Affleck meets a girl at a coffee shop (Jenifer Garner) and then moments later is playfully fighting her in a playground while kids chant “fight, fight fight”. Uhhh, what? Another unfortunately memorable sequence has one of the main villains, Bullseye (Colin Farrell), doing a crazy ass “Jesus on the cross” pose whilst standing on a speeding motorcycle… attempting to assassinate someone with ninja throwing stars. The sort of scenes that make Tommy Wiseau’s acting believable – It really is just too over the top.
If you think that’s bad though, the screenplay and direction are even worst. Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson (Guy hasn’t made much since), the plot is absurdly lazy, the dialogue is so clichéd that it’s predicable and unintentionally comical, and the characters are boring and tedious.
Even the characters intentions I would deem ludicrous. For instance, Bullseye’s whole motivation for wanting to kill Daredevil is because Daredevil “made him miss”. Aka Daredevil had gotten out of the way of something Bullseye had thrown. It makes me actually sit and wonder if Bullseye has ever drank too much whiskey… gone to a bathroom, accidentally peed on the toilet seat and thought “I must kill John Jameson for making me miss”. All throughout the film’s duration, you just get the sense that not a lot of time or thought was put into this.
An interesting theory is that after the success of Spider-man, which came out the year before, studios were rushing to get super-hero movies out to capitalize on the new craze. That being said, I just think that Johnson is bad at writing and directing comic-book productions. And if you dare beg to differ, then I guess you also haven’t seen 2007’s Ghost Rider, a god awful excuse of a movie also written and directed by him.
But hey, we still owe SOME gratitude to this ever so talented individual. I mean, after all, Marvel did start their own film studio one year after Johnson destroyed his second MCU character. And ever since, things have only gotten better for comic-book fans.
With a slew of amazing films like Iron Man, directed by John Favreau (the same guy who had played Foggy Nelson in Daredevil four years earlier), some amazing TV shows including Netflix’s Daredevil series, which is more than teenage-me could have ever hoped for, and Ben Affleck jumping the Marvel ship for DC (playing one of the better Batman roles we’ve seen) – Perhaps a little trial and error was the only thing needed to make things right.
So, to my teenage-self who was vehemently disappointed after seeing Daredevil 15 long years ago this week. Cheer up kid. It’s going to get way fucking better.
By Kyle M. Gager