As we are just a few days from the April 10 premiere of the Marvel Studios Daredevil series on Netflix, it’s amusing to turn back the clock 12 years and look at another once-anticipated live-action rendition of Marvel Comics’ "Man Without Fear" in the form of the 2003 Daredevil , starring a certain future Dark Knight in Ben Affleck. On non-braille paper, the film seemed to have all its dramatic p’s and q’s minded. Yet, it was notoriously underwhelming. Now, the folks at Screen Junkies give the film a timely focus in their "Honest Trailers" series.
Honest Trailers’ designation of Daredevil being "Catwoman for men" might be somewhat of harsh comparison to 2004 lineup of litter box leavings that was Halle Berry’s Catwoman. While it was an average-at-best action film that was an uninspired product of contemporaneous cinematic trends, it at least contained the framework for a decent film. Unfortunately, its association with a comic book property, specifically one that was once so poignantly handled by Frank Miller, could not be done any kind of justice in a simple one hour and 43 minute generic superhero origin yarn.
For the most part, Honest Trailers does manage to get down to the crux of a lot of the contextually qualitative aspects of the film’s presentation that, at the time, either rubbed moviegoers the wrong way, or put them to sleep. Plus, they correctly point out that 2003 was kind a watershed time for Ben Affleck’s career. The early 2000’s was a period when a lot of the "good will" the industry had bestowed upon him was just starting to fade, and the box-office bombs like Gigli, Changing Lanes and later, Jersey Girl were starting to take their toll on his career - relegating him to being seen as a plastic, vacant pretty boy relic; a late 90’s phenom that had already peaked. It was certainly a time when his current resurgence would seem inconceivable.
As a result, the temerity of Fox to drum-up a feature film rendition of a Daredevil with THAT guy on the top of the marquee along with "the chick from Alias" already made the reception hostile from the get-go. Of course, that is not to say that the film didn’t deserve much of the criticism it received. It’s just that, coincidentally, the film may not have been given a fair shot, regardless of the fact that it generally did suck. Was it a Batman & Robin level puss-gushing goiter on the neck of comic book movie history? Hardly, but, it’s safe to say that it was generally a forgettable affair.
In the meantime, we can look back on the 2003 Affleck vehicle with a level of nostalgic relief in that the property is now safely back in the hands of Marvel, reinvented in a proper vehicle that seems to have a firm grip on the mythos' atmosphere. Best of all, it WON’T be starring the former "proprietor of Fashionable Male." While next year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice can’t quite say the same, we think that Affleck will be taking valuable lessons from his Daredevil experience on what NOT to do with superhero movies. In that sense, the 2003 movie may have justified its existence.
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