Wednesday, 4 December 2013

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: DAREDEVIL

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

10. DAREDEVIL (2003, dir. Mark Steven Johnson)

25/11/2013

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Rarely will I start one of these with a quote from an interview printed in "Playboy," and am only too eager to point out it was reprinted elsewhere:

“The only movie I actually regret is Daredevil... It just kills me. I love that story, that character, and the fact that it got fucked up the way it did stays with me. Maybe that’s part of the motivation to do Batman.”

If you have a favourite book, and you see a bad job made of a film adaptation, it will hurt, as your own hopes, dreams and anticipation is dashed. If you were part of that bad job, that must be even worse, so here is hoping Ben Affleck has a better time when he plays Batman in the sequel to "Man of Steel". 

I bought my first issue of the "Daredevil" comic book, issue 167 from 1980, ten years ago from a market stall. In it, a routine superhero yarn featuring a forgettable villain named "The Mauler" - it doesn't help that his eventual gravestone, in the final frame, stated "He was... and that was enough" - was followed by a five-page guide to the title character titled "Dark Secrets", revealing more about how Matt Murdock, a lawyer, blinded as a child by radioactive waste when saving someone (it is a Marvel Comic book that started in the 1960s), his other senses amplified beyond any compensation for his lost sight.

What potential for a comic book, and yet Daredevil was played out as almost a clone of Spider-Man, but when Frank Miller - he of "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" and "Sin City" - took over drawing the book in 1979, he saw the potential to give the book the proper sense of grit, action, ninjas, and sex, with the introduction of nemesis-then-lover Elektra. The comic book went from a tiny seller, printed only every other month, into one of the biggest selling books, inspiring an animal-based parody by the name of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

I hope the above shows my own interest, as I had high hopes for the film version, based on Frank Miller's 1981-83 run, after he took over writing the book. I knew I had to be realistic about how the film needed to be made realistic, if you see what I mean - leather costumes for the big-name stars, and a need to make the film appeal to a wider audience than the mere thousands that buy comic books these days...

But, as "Iron Man" and "Avengers Assemble" have proved, all you need to do sometimes is to simply play out the book as a film and, if it holds up, people will go with it - you don't have to play down the lawyer side of the character to focus on the romance, or forget the Catholic guilt that informs why Matt Murdock works on both sides of the law, in order to make a good film. A director's cut of "Daredevil," later released to DVD, inserted 30 minutes of footage not thought to have been appropriate for the theatrical release, i.e. all the above, and yet this would not be done if the film was made today.

Marvel Comics are to release a "Daredevil" TV series, among others, on Netflix in 2015, saying that the character would not work as a film again. Perhaps, if priorities were right, it could still be possible, but allowing more time to build the character and story, as in comics, will be the better substitute. Maybe, I will like it next time. 

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