Monday, August 4, 2003

Looking To The Stars: The Devil Digested Redeux

Some of you might remember that six months ago back in “The Devil Digested”, I wrote a review of the Daredevil Movie that was, at parts, less than flattering. I apologized for most of my harsher comments a week later, after realizing that I was watching the movie as a fanboy who was seeing his favorite character messed with and not the film critic judging the film on its own merits.

With Daredevil’s release out on DVD this past week, I thought this as good a time to take a look back at the film and examine some of the much ballyhooed (at least in the DVD advertisements) extra features.

After watching the movie again, very little of my opinion of it changed. Visually, the film is gorgeous, but lacks much of the heart and soul of the original characters due to time constraints. Only two characters really get developed to the mythic heights they hold in comicdom; Daredevil and Bullseye. Affleck and Farrell BECOME their characters and you honestly do forget that you are watching J-Lo’s and Britney’s boyfriends duking it out in front of a camera.

Jennifer Garner and Michael Clarke Duncan do the best with what they have, which is not much. Duncan’s Kingpin isn’t given nearly enough screen time and Garner isn’t able to convincingly harden Elektra in the few days movie-time she goes from rich girl with some fighting skills to hardened ass-kicker that was developed over years in the comic.

Technically, the film is proficient. More on all this in a moment, but the costumes, sets and lights truly do create the feel of a world as drawn by Frank Miller. And let’s not forget the revolutionary “Shadow World” effects that let us “see like a blind man”.

In the end, I still think the movie was flawed in several respects. Most of the characters weren’t fully developed. Everything felt far too rushed and way too short. And the fanboy in me screams to be heard… one moment…


Sorry…. I feel better now. Anyway, now we know the movie. So what extra goodies does the DVD have to offer us? Well, going down the list of features…

Director’s Commentary

It’s the director/writer and producer talking about the movie. Pretty standard as far as DVD’s go.

Enhanced Viewing Mode- Takes You Behind The Scenes As You Watch The Film

Probably the biggest disappointment of the extras, you don’t really go behind the scenes; i.e. backstage. A symbol flashes, you push a button and you can see the stop-figure animation that was used to create the special effects shots. This feature would have been better on the second disc instead of the Multi-Angle Scene Studies. (more on this later)

Still, this does have one cool feature- we get to see one scene in animation that they never had a chance to film due to time constraints, where Daredevil chases a limo from car to car and eventually rides an ambulance. (Insert your own lawyer joke here)

On-Screen Trivia Track

One of the more enjoyable parts of the Spider-Man DVD, this Trivia Track for Daredevil is actually an improvement upon the smaller trivia boxes that appeared at random points on the screen. In the Daredevil Trivia Track, full text runs unobtrusively along the bottom of the screen, making note of actor and creator’s past presence, telling what visual elements of the story are inspired by what comics (ie: the very first view of Daredevil in the movie was inspired by a cover from “Guardian Devil”) and even noting all the moments when a Daredevil writer or artist’s name was slipped into the movie. There were a few that even I missed, like how Matt’s priest is named Father Everret- a tribute to Bill Everett, the artist who co-created the original look for Daredevil.

Audio Description Track For The Visually Impaired

An absolute must for a movie about a blind superhero. Among all the other options for languages and the hearing impaired, there is a special track where, during the action scenes and during transitions, a narrator describes the visual action. The narration never intrudes on the dialogue, though I do wonder about some of the descriptions… such as Daredevil “seeing a blue light” as he jumps off a roof ledge. It’s a good description of the effect used to show Matt’s super-senses, but probably not the most useful imagery for an actual blind person.


Not having access to a DVD ROM drive, I can’t review this part. But the DVD book says it comes with a history of the comic, a quiz, web links and “More!”


The second DVD boasts three documentaries: one on the making of Daredevil, one on the comic book itself and one done by HBO.

The HBO documentary… is an HBO documentary, more concerned with promoting the movie and actors and comic than the technical elements of the movie. Probably useful when the movie came out in attracting all those who knew nothing of the comics, but not so interesting now.

The “Beyond Hell’s Kitchen” documentary is vivid, showing details of the costume design, stunt work and computer effects among others. Sadly, the documentary is hampered by the inclusion of an “extra hunting” feature; look for the sai, hit enter and watch another track about the movie. I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys these little “hunts”; even theatrical types like me who will watch and enjoy a documentary about how they had to put Ben Affleck into a full body mold in order to create a sculpture to build his costume around.

The real treat though, is “The Art of Daredevil” where darn near everyone who has a major influence on Daredevil in the last 40 years (except for the conspicuously absent Ann Nocenti) is interviewed and talks about their work on the book. From Stan Lee to Brian Michael Bendis, the whole thing is a treat. It even manages some genuinely touching moments (John Romita Sr. talking about plotting Daredevil stories with his son on their way to go fishing), funny moments (Romita Jr.’s recovery while talking about the need to meet deadlines and how most artists “work on speed”) and unintentionally funny moments ( Kevin Smith discussing his chronic lateness and how he hopes to have “The Target” done “before you all see this on the DVD.”)

Multi-Angle Scene Studies

More suitable as the “hunt” feature on the first DVD, this lets you view several of the fight scenes from different camera angles. Sadly limited to two cameras on some of the scenes, you still get a good idea of what things might have looked at and this feature does put the Elektra/Bullseye fight in a whole new light.

Jennifer Garner Screen Test

Why Jennifer and nobody else? I can only assume it is for the cheesecake potential, much like her presence through most of the movie. That, and I don’t think Michael Clark Duncan showed up to audition in a low cut top. At least, I hope not… Still, there’s not much point to show her reading through the lines here.

Shadow World Comic Book-To-Film Comparison

Scenes from the comic are shown before we see the scenes in the movie that they inspired and the use of the “Shadow World” effects. For example, we read the text from a Frank Miller story (I can’t tell which one, but I know it was Frank) where Matt recognizes his girlfriend from the smell of her perfume and thinks “I can tell match any smell after having it one; I can identify a woman by her perfume and a man by his hair tonic!” Then we see the scene where Matt navigates a staircase, working his way past a plate of hot food and a smoker before getting to the top and “seeing” a cloud around Elektra.

Too short, but enjoyable. I wish they had not limited this to the Shadow World effects and, much like the Trivia Track, shown us the pictures that inspired key scenes… right down to showing how the Elektra/Bullseye fight of 181 stacks up to the filmed fight. (I should note that having read the story as I watched it… it does stack up. Very well. Right down to the dialogue.)

A Day With Tom Sullivan

A quick look at the life of Tom Sullivan, a very active man despite being blind, who acted as an advisor to the film on how blind people live and helped train Ben Affleck in tricks like folding different denomination bills in order to tell money apart. Nice and inspiring, proving it is not unimpossible for someone to train like Matt Murdock.

3 Music Videoes

In case you don’t, like me, live in an area where Clear Channel owns all the rock stations and the song “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence ISN’T being played once every four hours by the pop rock, Top 40 and alternative stations, now you can see their video and hear “the wake me up” song over and over until your heart is content.

Watching the video though, I can’t help but wonder about how accurate my comment in my review of the movie was about Elektra’s training scene looks like a music video… and how that was a much better music video than this one.

Ah, but I’m a film critic and not a music critic… so let them play on. And on. And on. And on…

Character Bios, Trailers & More!

Not sure about the “& More”, but the trailers and biographies taken from The Marvel Encyclopedia are here.

Overall, it’s not that bad but it isn’t great either. The fault lies not what with what is there, but with what isn’t. I really would have liked to have seen some outtakes and cut scenes. We know that a half-hour was cut from the movie to get it down to an hour and a half. Maybe it’s being saved for a “Daredevil 1.5” to be released when the inevitable Daredevil 2 or Elektra movies come out. I don’t know for sure. But in the end, there’s only one thing that can be said about this DVD.

“It’s good. But me? Heh. I’m magic, baby.”

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

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