Or: How I Learned To Stop Loving And Worry The Bomb.
I’ve heard that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
Guys, I’m here to talk of my love for 2003’s cinematic masterpiece, Daredevil.
I realize at this point that I’m pushing the term “cinematic masterpiece” out to the farthest edge of it’s meaning. You may even be starting to suspect that I’m speaking some new version of English, whereby all phrases mean the opposite of what they used to.
But that’s the point. That’s what we had to do. There was a time, which can be loosely narrowed down to “almost all of it,” when comic book fans had to feel grateful for even the most terrible adaptation of their favorite characters.
Have you seen 1978’s Dr. Strange? I have, on a cable channel in the middle of the day, one afternoon when I was supposed to be at school. You know what happened? I loved it.
I remember going to the cinema at some point in 1989 and seeing a poster on the wall, between two video games where they tended to put the posters for the least anticipated films, for Captain America. Holy crap! A film about Cap? How lucky were we? It never came out. Not at the cinema, anyway. Sometime before it reached the UK’s shores they seemed to realize the film was terrible, and it died the kind of death that wasn’t granted to Tank Girl. Sometime later the film appeared at the video rental store near my grandparents house. I watched it five times in one weekend. Guess what happened?
We felt lucky that someone might come along and make a film based on a character and a medium that he or she completely looked down on. We would watch the half-baked camp that followed and find ways to enjoy it. The films that did manage to find the right tone and spirit for the character, such as The Phantom or The Rocketeer, were ones that barely registered.
The closest thing we’d had to a screen outing for Daredevil was The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk. It was a stretch, but I managed to pretend I enjoyed some of it, because that’s all we were going to get. Then the winds changed, and a Daredevil movie was on.
I followed every announcement, every rumor, and every casting call. I never for one minute believed the film would make it to production, and when in production I still secretly felt it would be shelved. Nobody outside of comics had heard of the character, nobody outside of the Jack Lemmon household had heard of the director, and Ben Affleck wasn’t enough of a star to carry either of them.
Still, I was a Daredevil fan and I already knew I was going to love it, even if it was straight to DVD.
The best example of my unconditional love for the project came when I read an early script review on a website. It quoted the first paragraph of the text, something about this not being a world with adamantium or healing powers, and about a man on a rooftop bleeding to death. Up until that point, I wouldn’t have considered any of that to be important information in adapting Matt Murdock’s tale, but by the time I’d finished reading I had convinced myself that the script sounded like exactly what was needed.
I was there on opening night when the film came out in he UK. Then again the following night. I went a couple times more in the week that followed. Despite the film not looking, feeling or sounding like the comic I’d been reading since I was a child, I managed to convince myself it was perfect. I would check the box-office results online, hoping the figure would creep high enough to guarantee a sequel.
Then the hate started. I was getting complaints from Friends and family who had paid to see the film off the back of my rave reviews. An airing of the grievances with no steel poles in sight. One of them called it “Mighty Mouse: The Movie,” another said that the fight scenes felt like a musical with the songs removed. Could I have been so wrong? No. George Orwell had said that clinging to the truth against a majority did not make a person mad, so George and me were going to defend the film against the world.
The job was made easier when I started to hear about the Director’s Cut. There were scenes in the trailers that were not in the film. There were many things we’d been told about in advance that were nowhere to be found and Fox promised we would get the alternate version on home release.
Hot damn, there we go. I had my straw to clutch. I told people they simply needed to wait.
After waiting for (at my closest guess) a million years, the new version was released. I watched it. Guess what? Yeah. Loved it. There was a story. An actual story. I could now accept that the cinematic version had been terrible, because here I finally had a film with plot and character. We saw Matt Murdock working a legal case and playing detective. The film no longer stopped dead for a pointless sex scene, and we had an interesting exploration of just how difficult it would be for someone to live with those powers.
I started the process again, passing it out to friends and family, asking them to give it one more chance. One by one the answer came back, “Well, yeah, it is a better film, but it’s still terrible.” I told them all they were wrong, and that George Orwell had said it was the best superhero film of all time.
Then Batman Begins came out, followed by The Dark Knight. Then Marvel got in the game.
George Orwell lied to me about Daredevil. It was not a good film. Luckily, Warner Bros. came to my rescue with Watchmen, Man Of Steel, and The Dark Knight Rises. In three simple moves they showed me that we no longer needed to play the game of finding merit in bad movies. This was an important realization, because we’ll soon have another screen adaptation of Ol’ Hornhead, and I don’t think my relationships could take another battering.