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Comic book fans (and there are many) are getting a pretty good run lately. After the huge success of X-Men, a film which many thought would be the start and the end of more comic book adaptations, cinemas have been flooded with lycra-wearing superheroes, and more often than not this results in some serious cash at the box office. The latest effort to hit DVD, Daredevil, was nursed onto screens with a friendly release which ensured it came up against next to no opposition during it’s opening weekend. While the film was never really going to challenge Wolverine and his buddies or Peter Parker and his alter ego, it did attempt to give us a little more bang for our buck and hark back to the darker days of the long-lost Batman. But is this more like Batman & Robin than the original? And will the Daredevil name still be coupled with the greats? Read on.

Daredevil (Special Edition)

Movie
The film begins with the inevitable back story so that newbies can be clued in as to how the whole Daredevil universe came about. We start with a young Matt Murdoch (what is it with the alliteration in super-hero names? Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Clarke Kent and now Matt Murdoch), who lives with his father, Frank, a washed-up boxer. Little Matt stumbles upon a scuffle between his father and another man, then runs straight in front of a forklift. The forklift swerves into a drum of toxic waste, splits it open and the chemicals shoot straight into the eyes of Matt. His distraught father decides to try and rekindle his “Devil” nickname and step back into the boxing ring, but when he refuses to fix a fight for some money the poor bloke is gunned down, again right in front of his kid.

All this goes on with a neat little voiceover from Ben Affleck’s Daredevil, as he then goes on to explain how the toxic chemicals may have ruined his eyes but given his other four senses an astronomical boost. And in arguably the coolest aspect of the film, a grown-up Murdoch explains how he can “see” through soundwaves, allowing him to travel with at least some idea of where he is going. The visuals for these pieces have to be seen to be believed, as they’re neither over the top nor tacky.

Matt becomes a lawyer who only defends the innocent, much to the chagrin of his partner (played by John Favreau), as well as turning into Daredevil at night to roam the streets. Then the action really hots up, including chance meetings with a beautiful girl named Elektra (Jennifer Garner), the suave-yet-slimy Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan in a great casting choice) and his hitman for hire Bullseye (flavour-of-the-year Colin Farrell).

The breakneck speed of the opening act serves the film extremely well. We are informed as to how Daredevil acquired his “powers”, why he decides to don the leather and work the streets at night and how he is able to do so despite being blind, so the viewer just has to accept all this and move on or risk being completely left behind. Anyone who cries that Daredevil’s super-powers are too hard to believe needs their head read. This is from a comic book, people!

Daredevil (Special Edition)

Garner’s Elektra is quite impressive, firstly because she’s got some undeniably good looks and secondly because her character just fits right in. The fights between she and Daredevil (one when they first meet, one when she confuses him as her father’s killer) are particularly well done, even though the playground stoush might have seemed a little silly. Duncan as Kingpin is a great move, with the character’s white complexion from the comic book flipped upside down by the black Duncan in a tailored white suit. He is perfectly suited to the role which requires less fighting and more sheer presence than the others. The same can’t really be said for Farrell’s Bullseye, a messy kind of character who is merely there to give Daredevil a little opposition. Granted Farrell does his best but he doesn’t really have much to work with in this one. Never mind, ‘cause the guy’s going to be raking in the cash for a long time yet.

As I mentioned, the CGI is top-notch and not merely used for the wow factor. The special effects really do serve the story well and help to give it a darker edge more akin to the Batman movies than the kiddy schlock that was Spiderman. This darker feel does wonders for the action as the creators aren’t hemmed-in by restrictions on what the youngsters can see.

Affleck was quite a good choice as the hero and, despite his detractors, does a great job at the whole double-life gig of a superhero. The story isn’t exactly all that complex yet it all seems to work in a relatively short running time. Bring in some funky music, slick-looking costumes and a visual style that craps all over Spidey and you’ve got yourself a comic-book adaptation of the highest order. Bear in mind this is coming from a reviewer who has never laid eyes upon the printed versions, so devout fans of the comics might have a different outlook on things. Nevertheless I’m guessing this should appeal to most.

Video
Extraordinary. Efforts were obviously made to ensure the visuals on this film were carefully constructed and interesting to look at, not only in the action sequences but also in some of the down time during the film. I’m pleased to say the 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer is brilliant, with the sharpest visuals among the best of recent times and a colour palette that really stands out despite the dark look. Black levels are terrific and the print is as clean as can be, so there’s really not much to complain about with this one. Perhaps the only slight gripe would be some instances of grain appearing every now and then but really you shouldn’t be noticing most of it if you’re concentrating on the action. A near-perfect transfer with this one.

Daredevil (Special Edition)

Audio
I love the fact that because comic book adaptations are pure fantasy then the audio can be over the top without seeming too out of place. This soundtrack is no exception, so thankfully we’re given the choice of a DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the disc. The DTS mix is superior in most areas, from the obvious depth of bass and added punch in the sound to the clarity of the dialogue and directional effects. The music is also great to listen to on both tracks, thumping out of the rears at every opportunity. And for once the music isn’t set higher than the rest of the film, meaning you shouldn’t have to reach for the remote any time the action subsides for a while.

One track I have never heard before is for the visually impaired, which involves an announcer describing what is going on on screen. I didn’t think this would be all that effective (discounting the fact I’m not blind) but it would be great for those who don’t have the privilege of full-sightedness. Interesting addition and probably fitting for this film, really.

Extras
Fox have put together a great 2-disc special edition of this film, so there are some great extras to look at after you’ve picked up your jaw from the floor after seeing the brilliant menu system.

On disc one you’ve got the audio commentary with Director Mark Steven Johnson and Producer Gary Foster. The two have a good relationship and touch on some pressing issues with this film, most notably how to appease film fans and comic fans at the same time and how the film fits in with some of the other recent adaptations. This is a really interesting track well worth a listen for fans of the film.

There is also a text commentary which uses a subtitle track to pop up various text-based pieces of info on the film. This is worth a look and probably can be combined with the audio commentary at the same time. The other extra on disc one is the enhanced viewing mode where the film is broken with various snippets of info, mainly to do with the digital effects used during the film. This is great to watch, though obviously not recommended if you just want to watch the film. Again, this could be combined with the audio commentary and text commentary, almost giving you an overload of information.

Disc two is where the bulk of the extras lie. The disc is broken up into sub-sections, entitled the film and the comic book. In the film section we begin with an hour-long documentary entitled Beyond Hells Kitchen: Making Daredevil. There is some great behind-the-scenes footage to look at here as well as interviews with all the key players and rehearsal footage of the fight scenes. Interesting to see how the fight choreographer communicates with the actors through an interpreter.

Daredevil (Special Edition)

Next is the Jennifer Garner screen test, showing a couple of scenes involving Elektra early on in the piece with Jennifer running through the lines. Someone must have been impressed, though this isn’t the most exciting extra on the disc.

The multi-angle dailies section allows the user to view early takes of a couple of key scenes and use the angle button on their remote to change between shots. The pieces are shot but it’s good to be able to view the different angles on the scenes, especially the last angle on each which shows all the shots together. Neat.

A bit of padding best describes the piece called Featured Villain: Kingpin, which uses an interview coupled with clips from the film which include his character. It is short, yet still interesting to hear Duncan’s views on Kingpin. Next is the HBO First Look Special which seems to creep on to a lot of discs nowadays. This is just a promotional fluff piece about the film, usually screened before the film is released. It’s a slickly produced piece but doesn’t really offer anything of note despite it’s 25-minute running time. At least Jennifer Garner graces us with her presence as the narrator.

One of the best extras on the disc is Moving Through Space – A Day With Tom Sullivan. Here we spend a day with a blind man who consulted with the filmmakers as to how a blind man has to get through life. If anything just listen to how he popped out an eye during a wrestling match to win by default. A great piece.

The rest of the film extras is filled with press-kit style pieces, including theatrical trailers, music videos from Fuel, Evanescence and The Calling, and a stills gallery, rounding out what would’ve been enough for the average disc yet we’ve still got a whole section to go.

Into the comic book section we’ve got a piece called Men Without Fear, a chronicle of the creation of Daredevil, from Stan Lee to Kevin Smith to the eventual creators of the film. We start with Stan Lee’s thoughts on creating a blind superhero and the nervousness surrounding a possible backlash, move on to artist John Romiter’s thoughts on the character and its design, and finish with Kevin Smith, who was approached to write on Daredevil and gives his views on the Catholic aspect as well as bringing back Elektra from the dead. This is a great piece for anyone interested in the history of the character.

The Shadow World Tour piece is a look at how Daredevil sees the world, with clips from the film and shots of the original comic books intertwined. Not a bad piece, if a little slow. The Modeling Sheets section is just a list of particulars on each of the characters but will appeal to fans for sure.

And don’t forget there’s a nifty Easter Egg to be found somewhere so check out our easter egg section (or the menu bar on the right for this particular one) to find out how to get there. And with that the extras section is complete, making this a brilliant set with all the information you could hope for on the film.

Daredevil (Special Edition)

Overall
Move over, Spiderman, because you’ve got nothing on Daredevil. Wolverine and his buddies might still hold court (at least until another Batman flick is attempted) but DD is certainly nothing to be sneezed at. A great way of telling the back story, some great characters and action aplenty makes this flick very easy to watch. Bring in some stunning visuals, a pumping soundtrack and enough extras to hold you over until Christmas and this has to be one of the best 2-disc creations of recent times. Fans of the film and the comic won’t be disappointed so I urge you to add this one to your collections.


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