Not Long From Now: Daredevil
by Alex Keen
Published: June 19, 2002
Comic Book movies have regained much of the ground they have lost following the “Batman & Robin” embarrassment. Specifically, Marvel adaptations have been the source of resurgence. “X-Men,” “Blade,” and “Spider-Man” have all performed well at the box office, leading to considerable sequel talk and development. Not surprisingly, 2003 already has three Marvel adaptations on the release schedule; in order, “Daredevil,” “X-Men 2,” and “The Hulk.” While most audiences will be able to recognize the latter two, “Daredevil” may have slipped beneath their radar.
“Daredevil,” also known as the Man Without Fear, has been on film before, but only as a minor role in one of those made-for-TV “Hulk” shows. If my memory serves me, I don’t even think he dressed up in the red tights; he just appeared as Matt Murdock, attorney. In 2003, his opportunity to break through onto the silver screen appears to be an interesting mix of casting decisions.
While Ben Affleck as Daredevil doesn’t seem to be that much of a twist, some of the other choices are markedly controversial; specifically Michael Clarke Duncan as the druglord Kingpin. In the comics, Kingpin is white. Duncan, obviously, is not. While this may appear to be only a minor setback (a lot of fans took issue with the casting of Anna Paquin as Rogue in “X-Men”), miss-steps like this have had major consequences on the perception of film adaptations. Three examples that come easily to mind are Arnold Schwartzenegger as Mr. Freeze (a much smaller and more verbose villain on TV), Danny DeVito as The Penguin, and Jim Carrey as The Riddler. All were big stars whose personal styles forced the characters to take second billing. Fortunately for “Daredevil,” Duncan is not a comedian, and will most likely play Kingpin as a bad ass (think Ving Rhames as Marcellus Wallace in “Pulp Fiction”).
Two other interesting casting choices are Colin Farrell as Bullseye, and Jennifer Garner as Elektra. Both stars have yet to establish themselves as Hollywood players, however they aren’t "no-names" either. Farrell is hoping to break out in this summer’s “Minority Report,” and to follow that with “Phone Booth” this Fall. While “Minority Report” is an almost guaranteed success, “Phone Booth” will have to overcome director Joel Schumacher’s tendency to deliver fluff in order to keep Farrell on the map. Luckily for Farrell, Bullseye is an entertaining character. As long as he can fawn dementia and train like Jet Li, he should be solid.
Jennifer Garner has a larger hill to climb. While she has proven to television audiences that she can believably kick ass on “Alias,” portraying a comic book legend femme fatale is a far more complicated task. Her filmography is limited to small roles in “Dude, Where’s My Car,” “Pearl Harbor,” and other lesser seen movies. In addition, the first picture of Garner in Elektra garb looks almost nothing like the comic book version’s costume. While this cinematic trick worked for Wolverine in X-Men, giggles can already be heard across the internet at how ridiculous some of these comic-to-film changes have become (Notably here, Daredevil’s costume has also become a target of criticism).
Other recognizable stars in “Daredevil” are Jon Favreau as Foggy Nelson, Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich, and cameos from Kevin Smith and Stan Lee. While Favreau and Pantoliano’s roles will most likely bill below the title, they should supply some needed comic relief for the other four actors, known mostly for their dramatic styles. Smith, who actively expresses his opinions on his website, has praised both actors' performances in “Daredevil.” Specifically, Smith posted on his message board: “And big, big props to Jon Favreau, whose [sic] turning in a really, really funny Foggy. I saw some flat-out brilliant takes of his that made me laugh out loud. He was an excellent cast.”
Director Mark Steven Johnson began his movie making career as a writer, penning screenplays for “Grumpy Old Men,” “Big Bully,” “Jack Frost,” and adapting “Simon Birch.” His sole directing credit thus far is for “Birch.” While Johnson is lacking any major action experience, he is fortunate to be directing his own words, considering he wrote “Daredevil’s” screenplay. Time will tell if Johnson is a capable comic director, or if he will struggle in the genre like “Mystery Men” director Kinka Usher.
Finally, the February release date for “Daredevil” appears to be an interesting gamble. Historically, February has not been one of the most profitable months to open a major release. While “Hannibal” shocked box office analysts in 2001 when it opened to a record box office of $58 million, “Daredevil” is not in the same league. Looking beyond “Hannibal,” to the past releases on the same weekend as “Daredevil,” “John Q” opened to $23.61 million in 2001, “Down to Earth” opened to $17.30 million in 2000, and “The Wedding Singer” opened to $19.10 million in 1998. With a budget of at least $60 million, “Daredevil” will need either a strong initial opening ($20 million or more) or outstanding word of mouth that encourages repeat viewings, and therefore sustaining consistent returns for multiple weeks.
With the first official moving glimpses of “Daredevil” hitting theaters this Friday, keep your ears and eyes attuned for imminent positive or negative buzz.