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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"Time to give the Devil his due."
DVD ReviewThe past few years have seen a remarkable number of big screen adaptations of comic books. This new batch is a long cry from the old Superman movies, since they feature a lot more visual style and their superheroes aren't the all-American good guy, but desperate vigilantes who are isolated by their superpowers. The Spider-Man films and X2 are the most popular of this new lot, but 2003's Daredevil is a rather intriguing entry into the comic book action genre.
The theatrical cut of the film debuted in the spring of 2003, less than a year after the phenomenon of the first Spider-Man adventure and only a couple months before the X-Men sequel. It got lost in the shuffle, being caught between two of the best comic book movies ever made. The dark style and lightning-fast pacing made it too harsh for young children and the lack of character development kept it from being a major hit with critics and audiences. That said, it was the only superhero movie since Tim Burton's first two Batman films to take a serious look at its character's psychological state of mind.
Matt Murdock (played as a little boy by Scott Terra) goes blind after an accident on the docks. His dad, Jack (David Keith), is partly responsible, since Matt ran away after seeing his dad roughing up a man for the local mob boss. The two make a pact never to give up, which prompts Matt to direct his attention to school and his dad to restart his boxing career. Things get interrupted, however, when Jack refuses to throw a fight and is killed. Matt becomes more resolute than ever to uphold his promise to fight for the little guy.
As a grown man, Matt (now played by Ben Affleck) takes pro-bono lawsuits to help the impoverished and abused members of New York's Hell's Kitchen. But at night he pursues justice using a different modus operandi. Matt dons a red suit and becomes Daredevil. Just how is a blind man able to be a superhero? The script, written by director Mark Steven Johnson, never explains how Matt's becoming blind increases his four remaining senses; but after losing his sight, Matt's hearing becomes like a radar and his sense of touch increases his balance and strength. (Strange that other blind people don't experience such dramatic changes.)
This is the origin of Matt Murdock's story, where he plays by the laws of the court by day and makes his own laws by night as Daredevil. The original version of the film is a nicely made action yarn with a bit more smarts than most blockbusters—something ideal for popcorn fare that won't insult your intelligence too much. However, it feels rather clumsily put together, with none of the characters being fully developed. Certainly Matt Murdock was developed in the theatrical cut, but those around him felt like cardboard cutouts. His love interest, Elektra (Jennifer Garner), seemed only to serve the purpose of a plot device. His best friend, Franklin Nelson (Jon Favreau), seemed like an incessantly yipping puppy. Even the villains, Bullseye (Colin Farrell, in a delightfully over-the-top performance) and the kingpin Mr. Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan), never appeared to be terribly intimidating. Those problems are resolved, thankfully, by this new director's cut, which contains about 30 minutes of additional footage.
Some of the additional footage is devoted to brief extensions of fight scenes, which have landed this new version an R rating from the MPAA (though, despite the inclusion of more swearing, it doesn't seem to be deserving of a rating different from the original's PG-13). Other additions are extensions of already existing scenes, including a rather comical continuation of Matt and Franklin's conversation prior to meeting Elektra. One of the best changes to the director's cut is the omission of the love scene between Matt and Elektra, which makes the drama for our title character all the more intense and engrossing.
Those changes are the improvements to the director's cut, but the new version also introduces a subplot that ruins the flow of the film. In this new story, Matt takes the defense of a drug addict, Daunte Jackson (Coolio), who is accused of murdering a prostitute. As Matt and Franklin delve deeper and deeper into the murder mystery it inevitably leads to the kingpin's growing crime organization—which is now entering into Matt's turf. There is nothing wrong about the way this story is told; in fact, Johnson's direction does a nice job of handling suspense and keeping the viewer guessing. The problem is that this story belongs in a different movie, perhaps a sequel, and ultimately disrupts the third act's course. It may make the happenings at the film's conclusion more believable, but it slows down the conflict and lessens the finale's impact.
Daredevil: Director's Cut is at once an improvement and a weakening of the original film. The rich style of the cinematography and editing come through even better with the added scenes of character development, particularly with regards to Matt's loneliness, and the performances, especially Garner's, are enhanced. On the other hand the entirely new subplot, although interesting on its own, hampers the narrative's drive.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer does not appear to be any different from the original DVD release. The night scenes look fantastic, with rich blacks and remarkable contrast. Blues and reds come across well, though the cinematography makes their tones darker and thus not especially vibrant. The image suffers from no noticeable grain or edge enhancement, making it a pleasant viewing experience.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1. mix is nearly identical, at least to the naked ear, to the original DVD. It is a lively mix, full of plenty of sound separation and directionality, with dialogue being well balanced. The DTS 5.1 mix is even more lively, with better phantom imaging between the surround speakers. At times the surround speakers are too revved up and drown out the front soundstage, though only on brief occasions. There also is a French Dolby Stereo mix available.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 44 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Alien vs. Predator, I, Robot
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Avi Arad, Mark Steven Johnson
Layers Switch: 01h:06m:23
Extras Review: This new cut of Daredevil is equipped with new extras. First, there is an all new audio commentary by producer Avi Arad and director Mark Steven Johnson. A lot of what they discuss is why they chose to include the added scenes and Johnson admits that some of what he has included here does not improve the film, but he wanted to make it different. They point out which special effects shots never got completely finish in time for this release and talk about some of the controversy with the studio. It isn't an especially informative commentary about the making of the film, but more of an explanation about the reasons for releasing the director's cut.
Next is Giving the Devil His Due—The Making of Daredevil: Director's Cut (15m:27s), featuring interviews with producers Arad and Gary Foster, as well as director Johnson. Shown in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen, this feature includes footage from the editing room and comparisons between scenes of the original and director's cuts. It ultimately covers the same territory as the commentary, but in a fraction of the time. Finally, there are two teasers, one of Alien vs. Predator and the other of I, Robot, presented in nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and Dolby Stereo. This collection of extras is nothing special, but at least makes it less painful to indulge in this double dip.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsDaredevil: Director's Cut is a mixed bag, being in some ways better and in others worse than the original. The image transfer and sound mixes for this new release don't have any noticeable differences from the original release, except for the DTS sound mix being more juiced up in the surround speakers. The all-new extras are not especially informative in terms of how the film was made, so the original release is preferable in that regard. Recommended for die-hard fans of the comic.
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