Wednesday, February 19, 2003


Note from Barbara: I have invited some of our Act One alumns to submit guest reviews. Primarily, so I can avoid having to see movies like Daredevil. Here is one written by Sean Domoachowski, Act One Chicago ’02. Thanks Sean! )

I wanted to like this movie. The last three movies I have seen were utterly dreadful, and I was hoping I would be transported and invigorated by a good, reliable comic book movie.

Alas, such was not to be the case. Daredevil lost me with the opening fight scene: it served no purpose to forward the plot, and the "villain" being pursued was a bit character. The only purpose of the fight scene was, well, to have a fight scene. It did nothing to get Daredevil out of the cinematic starting gates.

So, the movie lost me there. But it got worse. Eventually, the writers lose all credibility when they change the rules of the film's arena for no reason except to show off some special effects. The film’s prologue establishes the story here as science-based, but then before long, the movie morphs into a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon clone in which mere mortals start scaling buildings in single bounds. Either a film is science fiction or fantasy-- you can't have both.

Apart from its flaws in storytelling, Daredevil is very problematic in its themes particularly in its depiction of evil. Played with disturbing zest by Colin Farrell, the villain, Bullseye, is simply set up as "an assassin." He has no compelling motivation for the dastardly deeds he performs throughout the film. And does he ever perform some dastardly deeds... Early on in the film, Bullseye kills two people in as many minutes BECAUSE THEY BOTHERED HIM. From one standpoint, this is simply sloppy and transparent storytelling, in which the filmmakers are just trying to quickly and indisputably establish how really BAD Bullseye is. But it is perplexing that there are no lessons to be learned in this character’s embrace of evil. There is no kernel of truth or insight for the viewers here. It turns us into voyeurs of depravity in a way that degrades us too.

The 1980 comic book film, Superman is now a classic, largely because of the moral dilemma that the villain Lex Luthor incites in our hero, Superman. Lex’s misdeeds force Superman to choose between goods, and ultimately drive Superman to break his father's commandment never to interfere with human history. The film is very much a teaching moment for the man in royal blue tights, and the viewers through him.

Daredevil is particularly troubling because of its exploitive victimization of female characters. Towards the end of the film, Electra, played by Jennifer Garner is killed by Bullseye, in a revoltingly misogynistic and cruel way. Actor Colin Farrell makes his character’s terrible cruelty to women look positively fun. (Besides Elektra, he murders an old lady on an airplane by flicking a peanut into her throat. No, really!) The amused grunts coming from the teenage boys in the row behind me told me everything I needed to know about whether this violence was having a bad effect or not.

Hence, Daredevil panders to the worst inclinations of the largely young, male audience for whom it was created. There is a reason the Old Testament tells us to care for widows. Men have have been infected with the evil tendency to degrade and dominate women since the fall. This manifests itself in men as a dismissal of the value and integrity of women; to see them as good only insofar as they can be used - be it as sexual object, mother of progeny, servant, or whatever. This sin is so ingrained, that God has to remind us to care for widows. So, when a movie has the villain kill an overly talkative old lady, simply because he was peeved by her, and then the audience laughs, I GET UPSET. And so should you. And I'm repeating myself here, but the murder of Elektra was just pornographically violent.

There was, furthermore, no resulting catharsis for the hero in Elektra's death. There is no mourning over her lifeless body. Daredevil, having been severely injured, all of a sudden picks himself up and offs the two villains. Both of the following sequences are absurd. Bullseye gets a pseudo-stigmata in a Catholic church's choir loft, and the "real" villain, "Kingpin", sends all his goons home so he can personally teach Daredevil (seriously wounded, mind you) a lesson. Our hero then vanquishes the ineffectual "real" villain with relative ease. So the true villain is merely a mobster who outsources his crimes to cheeky Irish charlatans-- oops, sorry, I'm mixing up the actor with the character.

So, all comic book movies are NOT created equal. Spare yourselves and your kids the degradation of Daredevil. Go rent Spiderman instead, which has well developed themes of self-sacrifice and treats women much better. Daredevil is just bad. Very bad.

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