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Better than They Told You - 'Daredevil - Director's Cut' (2003)

I strongly recommend you ignore the theatrical version entirely.
20th Century Fox

Daredevil (2003)


The buzz about Batfleck has dwindled to a low hum at this point. Despite the lull I thought it would be interesting to tackle the Gigli (2003) star's prior superhero outing, Mark Steven Johnson's Daredevil (2003). Having been forgiven for prior cinematic sins thanks to his efforts with Argo (2012) and The Town (2010), people still tend to grouse about Affleck's big screen Matt Murdoch.

Seeing the film in theaters during its initial release, I can easily agree with plenty of the strikes against it. They overplayed the romantic angle, minimized Murdoch's role as an attorney, and wasted opportunities to showcase Daredevil's strengths in order to prepare audiences for the Elektra film. I was generally on the fence about Ben Affleck prior to seeing it, and afterward I found myself less than impressed.

The surprise came when I made my first discovery of the executive meddling on the part of 20th Century Fox. While on an outing to a now-defunct Blockbuster Video, I spied on a shelf an interesting DVD case: Daredevil - Director's Cut. The price tag of $9.99 and promise of a different version of the story piqued my curiosity and I snatched it up going straight home to watch. What followed was a story with good pacing, likable characters, and a superhero movie about a superhero that even allowed the protagonist an arc. It wasn't on par with Goodfellas, but I found it to be one of the best comic book movies I'd seen in a good, long while.

After enjoying the feature, I cycled through the bonuses, interviews and commentaries. I learned that the film we saw in theaters was the version written by marketing and mid-level management at Fox who, after seeing the success of their own X-Men (2000) and Sony's Spider-Man (2002) wanted to upscale the simple revenge and mystery plot into something more epic with bigger effects budget and an increased focus on the love interest, eyeing a potential spinoff for her. The result of a film created by marketeers and MBA's was precisely what you'd expect: trite, stupid, and without any understanding of flow or storytelling.

Unfortunately for Daredevil, the damage had been done. Fox greenlit Elektra (2005) and released it based on Jennifer Garner's star power, but it fared poorly, drawing meager box office and classifying the entire property as worthless as far as Fox was concerned. Recently, the character of Daredevil defaulted back to Disney's Marvel Studios who are developing a new TV series for Netflix based on the Hell's Kitchen attorney.

As for the director's cut itself, the story is streamlined and simplified. We follow Daredevil's track for revenge as guided by a court case where Murdoch attempts to defend a wrongly-accused man (Coolio in a decent turn). We see the vigilante's more violent vengeful side on full display, along with his feelings of isolation. Further, we see something in the Daredevil movie completely absent from all of the Batman films, including Nolan's - Matt Murdoch does actual detective work to solve the mystery plot.

By excising the needless romance plot and keeping his interactions with Elektra to a livable minimum, we no longer sit through so many painfully awkward romantic scenes that have little place in a superhero adventure story. However much real-life chemistry may exist between the now man-and-wife, their screen time together generally fell flat unless supplemental to the scene itself.

I would never have bought the theatrical version of the film on DVD. I do, however, on occasional rainy days, pull out my copy of the director's cut of Daredevil and put it in. While no masterpiece, it scratches a superhero semi-noir itch I get from time to time.

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