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Superheroes. There was hardly ever one around when you needed one—theatrically speaking—and then the blighters started popping up everywhere. Of course, the profit machine that is the movie industry doesn’t always believe in the sanctity of the properties they have hold of and sometimes goes for the ‘reinvention’ approach, betraying the comic book origins.

Spider-Man and X-Men have shown how things should be done with respect to the source material, and are both on their way to outing number three. Future outings for Batman and Superman (‘Begins’ and ‘Returns’ respectively) are looking to reinvigorate franchises that have been on extended hiatus, and look promising in the process. Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Ghost Rider are heading for the big screen as well. It’s a good time to be a comic book fan.

Back in 2003 though, Daredevil hit the theatrical circuit and while not panned outright, it wasn’t what you could call ‘critically acclaimed’ by any stretch of the imagination. In an attempt to regain some respect and to get his original vision—if you’ll pardon the pun—seen by the public, Mark Steven Johnson re-cut the film. Extending or excising original scenes, and inserting some more thoughtful moments as well adding some much needed depth to the fight scenes, this new release give the UK a chance to see what the US has had available since November 2004.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
Film
”Friend of yours?”
“Y’know, I’ve never seen him before.”


The City of New York is a dangerous place, and organised crime is rife. Even some of those brought to justice get away with murder thanks to Underworld connections.

Jimmy Fallon is a powerful man and makes a lot of his money from fixing the fights of his boxers. Jack ‘The Devil’ Murdoch (David Keith) doesn’t fight anymore, preferring the respectable graft of a building site in order to provide a stable home for his son Matthew. At least that’s what Matthew believes. The fighting has stopped, but Jack still works for Fallon as a hired thug.

Venturing to the building site to show his Dad a Straight As report card, Matt finds that his father hasn’t worked there in months. When he does track him down, the truth only leads to disaster as Matt falls foul of a chemical spill on the site. Father and son vow to rebuild their lives, and Jack gets back in the ring only to fall under the shadow of Fallon again. Pride does, however, come before a fall.

Some years later, and the blind and orphaned Matt (Ben Affleck) is a lawyer helping those that need him the most. This does from time to time lead to him and his partner—Franklin Nelson (Jon Favreau)—being paid in the strangest ways (fish, anyone?), but that can be the price you pay for helping the helpless. Their current case involves the prosecution of one Jose Quesada (Paul Ben-Victor), but he is another to escape justice, at least in the courts. The night holds other dangers.

You see, Matt may have been blinded but something in those chemicals altered his other perceptions, honing them to perfection and leaving him with an uncanny sonar-like ability. The ability to hear everything that happens in and around Hell’s Kitchen can be overwhelming, but at night—when he is not asleep in an isolation tank to keep the world out—he uses his abilities to mete out justice where the law has failed. All his dealings with the shadowy underbelly of New York, both in the court and on the street, seem to point to the existence of the mysterious Kingpin, but just who is he.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
To further complicate things Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) flits in and out of his life, and her father’s dealings with the powerful Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan) may reveal the true identity of the Kingpin. As long as Kingpin’s assassin, Bullseye (Colin Farrell) doesn’t take care of business first.

The original cut of the film seemed to be going purely for the adrenalin-rush approach to the superhero genre, something confirmed by producer Mark Foster elsewhere on this disc. Here, however, we have an added subplot regarding the murder of a source of reporter Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano) which runs through the film and serves to underpin the whole Kingpin story. The character of Matt’s partner benefits from this inclusion as well, and a lot of the humour and the interplay between the two colleagues has made its way back into the movie. Also added back in is a bit more development of the relationship between Matt and his father, and scenes that show the true ruthlessness of the Kingpin.

So the story benefits from the new and extended bits, especially now that the fights aren’t over pretty much before they begin. How the producers could say there is too much punching and kicking in a fight is beyond me—isn’t that the point? Get a decent fight choreographer in and it ceases to be a problem. The action here is nothing particularly new, though.

The acting is nowhere near Oscar-quality, but you do get nice turns from Colin Farrell and Jon Favreau. Coolio gets re-inserted into the film courtesy of the murder subplot, and provides a bit a light relief. Of course, Ms. Garner is as lovely as ever but she doesn’t really have that much to do in the grand scheme of things. Ben Affleck doesn’t seem like his heart is in it however, and it came as no surprise when he said he’d only reprise the role when his career was over (so next month then?).

Still, this is a definite improvement over the original cut, and the film just feels more rounded. The investigation into the murder ties things together nicely and makes a bit more sense of the ending as well. It is still not an auspicious outing—and not a patch on Spider-Man—but an improvement nonetheless.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
Video
Presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, the picture is very good indeed—with only a few reservations.

The overall look of the film has a slightly higher contrast than the norm, which does mean that colour can just be that little bit off from ‘natural’, but it still does a good job.  The stained glass window in the church is finely detailed with the colour shining through, and whites—such as Fisk’s shirt—are well represented. The playground fight gives the film a good chance to show its true colours in a bit of daylight, but I will say that some of the dark scenes (of which there are many) can sometimes lose a little definition.

Detail doesn’t seem to be a problem though. Skin texture is good, with even freckles showing up nicely, and that attention also makes its way into the background detail. The tiniest bit of edge enhancement is used throughout—most evident when Jack walks to the ring and near the end outside of the courthouse—but the bane of digital transfers is not overused and doesn’t detract from the overall picture quality.

The layer change could have been better placed—sitting at 1h07m49s in a gap in a conversation, just a few seconds later and it would have been on to chapter twenty-two and in a scene break instead. The English subtitles are easy enough to read, and the disc authors have also seen fit to provide a track for the commentary, which is nice of them.

This is a very good effort for something that has been re-edited and not even released theatrically. The new footage fits seamlessly with the old, but then it’s not that old anyway.

Audio
There is very little to choose between the Dolby Digital and DTS English tracks. Both create a nice sound-field where required—especially during the ‘echolocation’ moments. The sound design in some scenes does mean that things seem to drop out, but this is intentional and not the fault of the tracks.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
However, there is the odd occasion where the vocal are a bit too quiet. The best example of this is the rooftop moment between Matt and Elektra at around 59m00s in, but there are other places that seem lacking. Moving onto the treble and bass ends the DTS track just has the edge with the clarity of the high-end of the track, and there isn’t much between the two tracks in terms of bass. The DTS track can hang on to the rumbles a little longer than the Dolby Digital track on occasion though.

You shouldn’t have much of a problem with either track. Neither is quite reference quality, but apart from the odd vocal shortfall they perform well enough.

Extras
Having been released this as a single disc edition the extras are a bit sparse. Ignoring the minute long ‘Piracy is Bad’ FACT trailer when you insert the disc (and it is bad by the way kids), the first real extra you get is a short featurette.

Giving the Devil His Due (15m26s, Anamorphic 1.85:1, DD2.0 Stereo English, English subtitles) gives us a little insight into the how and why the Director’s Cut came about, with input from director Mark Steven Johnson, Avi Arad (producer and CEO of Marvel), film editor Dennis Virkler and producer Mark Foster. The latter can be credited with the decisions that resulted in the original cut of the film, but the rest of those that appear seem much happier with the Director’s Cut. Not in depth, and certainly not ‘must-see’, but it does give some idea of what went on in the background.

Lastly—yes, already—is a commentary with director Mark Steven Johnson, although the promotional materials and the disc menus neglect to mention that Avi Arad is also a major participant. There is plenty of discussion here, and it’s nice to hear two people with differing viewpoints on certain parts of the film because it makes for a more interesting listen. This is a good track, and it is obvious that both were invested in the source material, but it’s just as obvious that they still wanted more from the final product. So, basically just the commentary in terms of decent content then.

Daredevil: Director's Cut
Overall
The new version improves over the old, while keeping up a very good presentation. Sound-wise it’s okay but nothing spectacular, and the extras are minimal. The latter can probably be excused though, given that a second disc would probably be very close in content to that of the original release.

If you are a big fan of the film (I’m sure there must be some out there) then this will make a nice companion for the Daredevil: Special Edition set, but by itself it is not tremendous value for money. The RRP is unforgivable for a single-disc release, especially when you can pick up the original cut for under a tenner—even in its two-disc incarnation.


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