Featured Stories

A toxic waste of inspiration

Ben Affleck demonstrates little dramatic range in 'Daredevil'

A geeky young boy develops superhuman powers after a run-in with some radioactive material. After the death of a beloved relative, he becomes a costumed superhero, using his extraordinary new gifts to battle the forces of evil.

No, it's not 'Spider-Man.'

Really, it's not. It's 'Daredevil.'

Sure, it looks just like 'SpiderMan,' with all those shadowy rooftops and rainy alleys, artfully designed to conceal any flaws in the computer-generated effects. And, yes, it's another superhero origin story from the folks at Marvel Comics so the plot structure is almost identical.

But, see, 'Spider-Man' starred Tobey Maguire. 'Daredevil' stars Ben Affleck. So it's completely different.

Affleck plays Matt Murdock, blinded as a boy after being doused with some toxic waste. But the radioactive sludge that took his sight gave him overactive supersenses Ñ he can 'see' using sound waves. Combined with his uncanny physical prowess, Murdock can fly around the city as impressively as, well, Spider-Man.

By day Murdock's a lawyer, defending the downtrodden in Hell's Kitchen. He's burning with the need to wreak vengeance on the wicked because of his father's murder years earlier.

All of this back story with the childhood blinding and the father's murder and the training to be a superhero takes up a lot of screen time. As does the romance between Murdock and Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), the daughter of a billionaire who knows a whole lot of martial arts moves for no good reason whatsoever.

All of which leaves what feels like about 10 minutes for the Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) to call on his outrageously gifted hit man, Bullseye (Colin Farrell), to shake things up and for everybody to fight with one another on those dark, rainy rooftops.

The bulk of director Mark Steven Johnson's uneven, pedestrian story comes from the Daredevil stories penned by comics genius Frank Miller back in the 1980s, before his breakthrough Batman saga 'The Dark Knight Returns.' Johnson doesn't do them justice.

Miller's stories were tragic, operatic tales, full of dark symbolism and seething regret. Elektra was Murdock's childhood sweetheart and a deadly assassin. In this film, the relationship is compressed into two dates before she's shoved into a leather Wonderbra and then gets her butt royally kicked the first time she steps into a real fight.

The embarrassingly miscast Affleck does his best to look blind by staring off into space and crossing his eyes. When called upon to look serious, he clenches his jaw and furrows his brow. Unfortunately, this seems to be the entire range of his acting chops. He also looks completely ridiculous in the 'Thriller'-goes-to-a-leather-bar fetish ensemble devised for his character.

Garner fares far better in her limited role, as does Farrell, who chews scenery with righteous glee. Jon Favreau stands out as Murdock's law partner, making far more of the 'clueless sidekick' role than this movie really deserves.

The potential was there, with Miller's wonderful stories, to create a truly amazing superhero movie. But 'Daredevil' misfires so badly, with it's cheesy rock-video songs, frenetic editing and bland leading man, that at its best the film is only moderately entertaining.