Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Preview Post: DAREDEVIL

Are Dru and Dave men without fear? Nope. That’s why James Hrivnak is once again joining the 24 Panels duo as they confront the director’s cut of Mark Steven Johnson’s fearsome 2003 film, Daredevil!

Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett in 1964, Daredevil first appeared in Daredevil # 1. Daredevil is Matt Murdock, a man born and raised in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan, who is blinded by a radioactive substance when he saves a blind man who is about to be hit by a truck. While the substance takes Matt’s sight, it also enhances the rest of his senses, including boosting his hearing to the point where he can “see” in a radar-like manner. 

When Matt’s father, boxer Jack “the Devil” Murdock, refuses to throw a fight, he is killed. The young Matt swears to avenge his father, and when he grows up becomes Daredevil, basing his costume on his father’s old boxing robes. By day, Matt is a defence lawyer sticking up for those who cannot defend themselves in Hell’s Kitchen; by night, he prowls the streets as Daredevil, defending his neighbourhood and the people within it.

While a creation of Lee and Everett, throughout the character’s first decade and a half, the creative teams running his title were rather erratic and changed frequently. However, in the early 1980s, comic legend and current madman Frank Miller became the title’s writer and artist, reinventing the book into a darker, noir-influenced title defined by moral ambiguity, backdoor politics, femme fatales and Greek tragedy. During this period, long time Spider-Man villain Wilson Fisk, AKA the Kingpin, was transformed into Daredevil’s primary foe, while increasing amounts of attention were spent on the psychological aspects of the titular hero.

Perhaps most famously, Miller introduced the character of Elektra in issue 168. A former love of Matt’s from his university years, the murder of her father from around that period led to her transformation into a master assassin, a position which puts her at direct odds with Matt. Becoming involved in the increasingly complex battle between Matt and the Kingpin, Elektra is perhaps most famous for her brutal death at the hands of long-time Daredevil villain Bullseye, who murders her in an effort to restore his place as the Kingpin’s number one assassin. Arguably one of the most famous deaths in comics, the scene is also notorious for the sexual undertones of the murder.

While the character has not been the most prolific of Marvel’s characters outside of comics, Daredevil has made it onto television a few times, appearing in several different cartoons, including Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, the 1990s Fantastic Four series, and the 1990s Spider-Man series:


In 1989, the character made his live action debut in the backdoor pilot for a Daredevil series in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. In the film, Matt Murdock (played by actor Rex Smith) becomes the defense lawyer for David Banner for a crime he didn’t commit. Involved in the frame up is the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk (John Rhys-Davies), Matt’s arch-nemesis. Surprisingly faithful to the comics with only a few alternations, the film is somewhat notorious for the change made to Daredevil’s costume, which shifts from its classic all red appearance to a pure black outfit which hues closer to ninja garb rather than a superhero costume.

In 2003, the character finally was adapted into a feature film. The film is written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, whose career began as the writer of the comedy Grumpy Old Men in 1993:

In 1998, Johnson made his directorial debut on the film Simon Birch, an adaptation of John Irving’s famous novel A Prayer for Owen Meany:

Daredevil was Johnson’s second directorial effort. Following the film, Johnson worked on another Marvel character, Ghost Rider, in 2007. It is a film which we have previously looked at on the program:

While Daredevil was critically slammed upon release, the film was financially successful enough in its theatrical release that a follow-up film was produced. Instead of a sequel however, 2005 saw the release of Elektra, a spin-off film starring Jennifer Garner. Directed by one-time X-Files director Rob Bowman, Elektra was a a more modestly budgeted production than Daredevil, but was both a critical and financial failure, earning a mere $56 million dollars against an estimated $43 million dollar budget.

While no further follow-ups to the 2003 film have since followed, a reboot of the property is currently in the works, with 30 Days of Night director David Slade guiding the proposed film.

But how does the extended director’s cut, with approximately forty minutes of footage not included in the theatrical cut of the film, hold up? Join James, Dru and David to find out!

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