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The theatrical version of Daredevil was a fairly mediocre comic book adaptation that became a modest hit at the box office when it was released almost two years ago. While the film had its moments, it felt too disjointed and the screenplay lacked a clear narrative direction. New to DVD comes an R rated director’s cut of the film that extends the film’s running time from 103 minutes to 133 minutes, adds some scenes while changing others and restores much of the character development and subplots that were left on the cutting room floor for the PG-13 rated theatrical version.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
The story begins with Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) as a young boy growing up in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. When a toxic waste accident claims his eyesight, he finds that his other remaining senses have grown stronger and more acute, allowing him to perform extraordinary feats other people only dare to dream. After the murder of his father at the hands of local gangsters, young Matt vows to protect the weak and innocent from the evils of others. Several years pass and he becomes an attorney helping those in need by day while at night meting out justice to those who would make a mockery of the law as the masked Daredevil.
 
While the original cut of the film had myriads of problems, many are corrected with this new cut. The main difference is that the story flows better this time around and much that didn’t quite make sense before all comes together now thanks to the addition of a subplot involving the murder of a local prostitute that is tied back to the Kingpin. While this may not seem like a large change on the surface, it makes all the difference in the world in explaining much that went unexplained before. It also involves all of the film’s characters and grounds the story better in the real world by presenting a mystery to be solved by the non-superhuman characters of the film and Matt Murdock as opposed to having the film only play out with Daredevil fighting atop buildings against the film’s villains.

The character development has also been greatly improved. Matt Murdock is a much more conflicted and haunted soul and Ben Affleck’s performance is even improved with the additional scenes and changes made to the film. Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin is also afforded more scenes and overall paints the portrait of a much more menacing and dangerous character and a more worthy adversary for Daredevil. The added scenes also improve some of the supporting cast’s characters as well, such as Jon Favreau’s sidekick Frank 'Foggy' Nelson and John Pantoliano’s reporter Ben Urich, allowing them to be more important to the overall story of the film in a way that they weren’t before.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
There is even enough room for more of Colin Farrell’s twisted mercenary Bullseye too, and since he was the best thing about the theatrical cut that isn’t a bad thing. But the main difference in the character does not come from the added scenes featuring him, rather different added scenes where the other characters are fleshed out more and additions have been made to the story. These other scenes make the character seem a little less important in the larger scope of the film, and in this case less is a good thing. Story wise Bullseye is the film’s second banana bad guy, but in the theatrical cut there is too much emphasis placed on him making the showdown between Daredevil and the Kingpin anti-climactic. This new cut re-centres the story in such a way that the overall emphasis is placed back on The Kingpin, just as it should be.

The only character that is not greatly improved this time around is Jennifer Garner’s Elektra Natchios who seems to be pushed, along with the love story portion of the film, further into the background. Even the obligatory love scene between Garner and Affleck has been excised from the film and replaced with another scene, but with its removal character development and logic of are greatly improved. The choice of scaling back the character of Elektra overall in the film is a good direction that the screenplay takes. Whereas in the theatrical cut the character and her relationship to Matt Murdock seemed like the backbone to the film, it plays thankfully more like a subplot here and the focus is shifted back to what the story should have been about all along—bringing down the Kingpin.

While better overall than its theatrical counterpart, there is still much room for improvement in this new version. The screenplay still isn’t that great with a relationship between Matt Murdock and Elektra that remains forced and laughably bad dialogue and scenes…yes the school yard sparring match is still in there. On the technical side, the cinematography and lighting are still on the level of a badly made music video and the effects still aren’t all that special, but I am unsure as to whether all of the editing changes in the world could have helped these portions of the film much at all.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
I wasn’t a big fan of Daredevil when I saw it in the theatre back in 2003 and this director’s cut still hasn’t completely made me a convert, but I did enjoy it much more this time. With additions and changes that have made the story and characters a great deal more interesting, enthralling and darker, the director’s cut is a big improvement over the theatrical version and closer in spirit to the works of Frank Miller that much of the film is based upon. It is a shame that this was not the version shown theatrically, but to have had Daredevil as an R rated film over two hours in length would not have exactly been standard Hollywood procedure, hence the dumbed down and more family friendly PG-13 rated mess that could be shown about two more times a day was released instead.

Video
Fox Home Video has presented Daredevil: Director’s Cut with an anamorphic transfer at the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Initially the transfer seems to be of identical quality to the first DVD’s, but upon closer inspection the transfer is not quite as good as the previous disc. There are a few instances of grain here and there and some edge enhancement, but nothing that detracts from the viewing enjoyment of the film overall. For the most part this is a very good and sharp transfer that contains few problems.

Audio
The audio presentation contains the choices of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 in English and Dolby Digital 2.0 in French along with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The sound on the disc is excellent when listening to either the Dolby Digital or DTS track with a slight nod though going towards the DTS channel. Dialogue is clear coming from the centre channel and the disc makes good use of the surround speakers for an immersive effect during the action scenes and Dardevil’s flights of fancy above the New York skyline. This is an excellent auditory experience on DVD and one that is near reference quality.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
Extras
Daredevil: Director’s Cut features only two special features worth of note, an audio commentary with director and screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson and producer Avi Arad and a fifteen minute featurette entitled, ‘Giving the Devil His Due: The Making of Daredevil Director’s Cut’.

The audio commentary, recorded specifically for this cut of the film, focuses mainly on the differences between the two versions and the reasoning behind most of the changes in the film. Mark Steven Johnson and Avi Arad are rarely dull during the track and portray a real passion for this particular cut of the film making for a rather informative and entertaining commentary to listen to. Those looking for more background on the making of the film during the commentary track however should stick to the original DVD release as this one does not go into any great detail into those aspects of the filmmaking process.

The aforementioned featurette delivers exactly what its title implies in taking a look at bringing this version of Daredevil home to audiences. Many of the new scenes and differences are pointed out, scrutinized and explained and the overall process of incorporating the new scenes into the film is explored. Overall the featurette is a nice addition to the package. The rest of the disc’s features are rounded out with trailers for Aliens vs. Predator and I, Robot.


While the quantity of extras may seem slim for the release, you must ask yourself the question as to what else could have been included that is not already present in the previous package and this release combined without creating redundancies. The features here are perfectly suited for this release, and assuming those who purchase the director’s cut already own the theatrical edition, this disc makes the perfect companion piece to that set; even the artwork on the disc matches the others. The lower retail price also makes it an attractive purchase for those who would like to transform their two-disc into a three-disc set.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
Overall
While I would have rated the theatrical version a four out of ten, Daredevil: Director’s Cut is a much improved film to its theatrical counterpart in almost every way possible. Featuring better developed characters and a better story to go along with the action, this is the film that should have been released theatrically back in 2003. I would suggest to anyone that wavered on liking or disliking the film before give it another chance as I have a feeling it may just find a few more fans. Rather than a disc loaded with redundant special features that would have driven the retail price up, Fox Home Video has done something unique in offering those who already own the theatrical edition’s two-disc set a great third disc to add to that package with extras that focus squarely on the director’s cut. For those new to the film Daredevil on DVD or otherwise, this is the best place to start.


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