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"Hell's Kitchen is my neighborhood. I prowl the rooftops and alleyways at night, watching from the darkness. Forever in darkness. A guardian devil."
— Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Based on the comic series of the same name,Daredevil is a 2003 film about the story of Matt Murdock, lawyer and Catholic by day, vigilante hero by night. Young Matt is blinded by chemicals in a freak accident after seeing his father participating in a beatdown working for the mob. But soon, he and his father work together to better their lives, as Jack Murdock (David Keith) leaves his mob past and resurrects his boxing career while Matt learns how to live life blind, even as he copes with his other senses becoming incredibly heightened. However, his father is murdered as a result of a hit at the hands of mob hitman named Wilson Fisk, who will eventually rise to become a powerful crime lord...As an adult in the corrupt, crime-ridden New York neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen, Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) works as a pro bono attorney to help those in need — and when he cannot find it in court, he finds other forms of justice as the costumed avenger known as Daredevil. He becomes mixed up with the beautiful Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), whose father is a wealthy businessman who runs afoul of the city's Kingpin of crime. Things get messy when the Kingpin brings in his hired assassin, Bullseye (Colin Farrell, accent in full gear) — all accompanied with a lot of Evanescence and Seether on the soundtrack.In part due to the character being more physically normal than other heroes, the movie aims to deconstruct the hyperactive fight scenes in films such as Spider-Man by showing how physically taxing a vigilante's life would be — Matt is covered in scars and regularly takes pain killers, and his superpowers never turn off. This film is also notable for being one of those instances where the Director's Cut was better received than the theatrical version; it features alternate versions of familiar scenes, and a restored subplot about Matt tracking down a chain of evidence to the Kingpin, resulting in a more proactive hero than originally shown.The movie received a bit of a spin-off in the Elektra movie, carrying on from the film but not featuring Daredevil.There have been some talks of a sequel. The film rights for the property reverted back to Marvel in September 2012, and now a new Netflix series is being developed for 2015.
This film contains examples of:
Ability Over Appearance: The Kingpin, traditionally a large, bald white man◊, was played by Michael Clarke Duncan. He was the best actor with the size that they could find, and even then, he had to gain some weight for the role. Ironically, the Kingpin was originally supposed to be black in the comics, but an editor thought it would be racist to have a black villain.
This carried over into the short-lived Mainframe animated Spider-Man series on MTV, to the point of actually having Michael Clarke Duncan voice the character.
Adaptational Heroism: In the comics, Elektra was an assassin for hire with a past romance with Matt Murdock that landed them the Dating Catwoman status, as well as working for the Kingpin and Bullseye's top rival. This film's interpretation instead has her motivations for fighting Daredevil and her death by Bullseye in a more sympathetic light, she only opposes Daredevil due to a misunderstanding. While she is an assassin in her spin-off film, she's still portrayed as this.
Same with her father. In the comics, Hugo Natchios (see Adaptation Name Change) was an abusive husband and father, implied that he molested Elektra as a little girl. While not much is seen of him in this film, it's implied Nikolas Natchios does care for his daughter, if a bit overprotective, having made her study with a different sensei since childhood to avoid making her a victim.
The Kingpin of Crime is the man who killed Matt Murdock's father and set him on his vigilante career, rather than Roscoe "the Fixer" Sweeney, the Token Motivational Nemesis from in the comics.
Additionally, Elektra starts her own career after Bullseye kills her father, and he is her primary enemy in the film; in the comics, her father died in the crossfire of a botched hostage rescue attempt involving a SWAT team and some generic Western Terrorists.
Almost Kiss: While grabbing a weakened Elektra by the neck, Bullseye comes closer to kiss her, but she pushes away to avoid lip contact. When it looks like he's about to, he stops, only to smile and gut her with her own sai. Subverted in the Director's Cut, where he afterwards, he kisses her.
Amoral Attorney: Matt's partner Foggy is a humourous version as he doesn't mind taking on guilty clients for money.
Ascended Fanboy: Ben Affleck was reportedly a fan of the Daredevil comics as a kid and wrote the foreword for the collection of Daredevil issues his buddy Kevin Smith wrote.
Badass Normal: Although Murdock's heightened senses certainly come in handy, his physical capabilities and weapon handling (not to mention the physical injuries he sustains on a nightly basis) are still just those of a well-trained man.
Big "NO!": Daredevil, when Bullseye impales Elektra with her own sai.
Blessed with Suck: Matt Murdock's hearing is so potent, he can hear everything in at least a block radius, which forces him to sleep in a sensory deprivation tank simply to blot out the noise. Oh, and the whole being blind thing, too.
Bloodstained Glass Windows: Daredevil and Bullseye face off in a church. And this would be a literal trope if Daredevil did not evade Bullseye's hurled shards of said glass windows.
Kevin Smith makes a quick appearance as the man at the morgue; he wrote a Daredevil story arc in the comics.
A young and blind Matt Murdock prevents Stan Lee from getting hit by a car.
Frank Miller, who redefined the Daredevil character and whose run the movie took its inspiration from, appears as a guy killed by Bullseye with a pencil in his head.
Chekhov's Skill: Not so much a Chekhov's Skill as a Chekhov's Loophole in Matt's Achilles' Heel. Early on, Matt reveals that he can see perfectly when he's in the middle of a rainstorm because of the multiple echoes from falling raindrops. In the final battle, he uses this to get the upper hand on Fisk.
Composite Character: Elektra's back story and motivations have much more in common with Echo (another of Daredevil's martial artist love interests) than her comic namesake.
The Kingpin is combined with Sladenote No relation, the hitman who killed Jack Murdock in the comics.
Confessional: Murdock's priest refuses to give him absolution for sins committed as Daredevil, as he isn't truly repentant.
Crippling the Competition: Bullseye's hands are injured in the climactic battle with Daredevil, and he says, "You took away my hands! Show mercy!"
Darker and Edgier: In the comics, Daredevil became this trope compared to a lot of other superheroes, especially under Frank Miller's tenure. In terms of movies, the Daredevil movie was certainly a Darker and Edgier take on superheroism compared to the previous year's Spider-Man. Reality Ensuesa lot in terms of the injuries sustained by Matt and Elektra, and Daredevil's struggle against the entrenched power of the Kingpin is definitely very gritty and monumentally difficult.
Death as Comedy: Bullseye kills a old lady on a flight simply for talking his ear off, which would be such a dick move if the manner he did it (ricocheting an airplane peanut off the back of the seat in front of him into the woman's throat, posing her as asleep, then politely asking a stewardess for more peanuts) wasn't so darn funny. Then again, in-universe Bullseye seems to think every death he causes is this trope.
Fisk: *seeing two of his guards dead* "Was that really necessary?"
Death by Origin Story: A notable subversion with the film's depiction of Matt's father, Jack Murdock. Not only does Jack survive long past the accident that gives Matt his powers, the incident actually brings the two of them closer together, with Matt's struggle to cope with his blindness inspiring Jack to be a better father, reignite his failing boxing career and quit drinking. It's only after we've gotten a chance to know Jack that he's killed for refusing to throw a fight, with his murder inspiring Matt to use his powers to fight crime.
Death Dealer: An ace of spades is one of the multitude of things Bullseye hurls in the film as a weapon.
Demoted to Extra: Removing the murder case subplot in the theatrical cut means Coolio's role as Matt & Foggy's client was completely gone, Ellen Pompeo's role as Karen Page is reduced to a one scene walk-on, and the majority of Jon Favreau's screen time as Foggy Nelson (Including every scene where his name is mentioned) is cut from the film.
Did Not Get the Girl: Unlike their actors in real life, Matt and Elektra do not stay together due to Elektra getting gutted by Bullseye and then brought back to life in a sequel that never re-unites them.
Disability Superpower: Although blind, Murdock can utilize his other (super-heightened) senses to help him fight crime.
Notable for examining this to its utter limit; Murdock can smell on gun oil from across a room, hearing that can not only detect lies by heartbeats but act as sonar, kinesthetic reflexes on par with V's, touch that can not only allow him detect depressions in paper well enough for him to read but act as an alternate sense of balance... but he still has to fold the money in his wallet in idiosyncratic ways to keep up appearances as an average blind person.
Distracted by the Sexy: A rare dramatic example. After Matt and Elektra have their first kiss, Matt hears a carjacking in the background and tries to leave so he can intervene... then Elektra looks deep into his eyes and says "Stay with me". Cue sex scene. This only exists in the theatrical cut; Matt answers the call of duty in the director's cut.
The Dragon: Kingpin's hired gun, Bullseye. Kingpin was this to Fallon back in the day.
And in Russia he's renamed "Mecheniy" (The Marked One).
Easter Egg: Try and count how many Daredevil writers and artists get name-dropped, either as character names or background signs. Hell, the dude who gets run over by the train is named after Marvel's EIC!
Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: In this version, Jack Murdock descends from boxing into being a small-time enforcer to pay the bills.
Fighting Irish: Matt is a native of the Irish-American neighbourhood Hell's Kitchen. His father Jack Murdock was a professional boxer (and secretly a mob enforcer). And of course there's Bullseye (played by Dubliner Colin Farrell), who is just completely Ax-Crazy.
Flaming Emblem: Matt apparently drew his famous "DD" emblem in gasoline and let it set at a crime scene, knowing that someone would flick a cigarette on the ground and set it off.
For the Evulz: Bullseye killed an old woman because she annoyed him. He later killed a guard at Fisk Corp and admitted to Fisk it wasn't necessary, just fun. Finally, while his first attempt on DD's life was because DD tried to prevent him from killing Natchios, he'd later try to kill DD just because he missed the first time.
Dardevil's costume is crimson leather instead of the spandex seen in the comics, largely because Daredevil (Enhanced senses aside) is merely a Badass Normal & he would need the extra protection that spandex wouldn't provide.
Bullseye's wardrobe is predominantly black leather.
Elektra, when she sets out to avenge her father, wears a leather top & pants, as opposed to the bright red leotard seen in the comics.
Heroic Fatigue: We see the hero going through his before-bed routine, getting everything put away in just the right place, climbing into the sound-proof casket (necessary due to his super hearing), only for him to hear a woman somewhere nearby crying for help. He only lets out an exhausted sigh before slowly closing the casket to close out the sound.
Hollywood Healing: Subverted. Matt is often shown in noticeable pain from injuries and is shown popping his knee back into place towards the start.
Hollywood Hype Machine: The film is considered part of the series of films Affleck did that lost some of his momentum in his acting career.
Honor Before Reason: One of Matt's defining traits. He's struggling financially because he refuses to represent wealthy clients who he knows to be guilty, but he often represents innocent people who are too poor to pay legal bills.
Hyper Awareness: Daredevil can hear a gun preparing to fire...even a sniper rifle from across the street!
I Have You Now, My Pretty: Even though he was there to gut her, Bullseye seemed to act this way during his fight with Elektra, especially before doing so as he holds her and tries to lovingly (and mockingly) kiss her. While holding her, attempting the kiss, he even speaks to her in a loving manner. During his fight with Daredevil after killing her, he even reminisces about her for a brief moment.
Elektra tells Daredevil she wanted to look into the eyes of her father's killer as he dies. Instead, she looked into the eyes of her father's real killer, Bullseye, when he kills her. Her last moments of life are looking into Daredevil's, but because of his mask and blindness, he can't look back.
More meaningful in the Director's Cut. Elektra's first seen kiss in this movie is on a rooftop with Matt, who touches her with his right hand first, and leaves soon after. Her last kiss, albeit unwanted, is from Bullseye, on a rooftop, after he touches her, or grabs her neck, with his right hand first, while killing her and also leaves afterwards.
Large Ham: Colin Farrell certainly enjoyed playing the hell out of Bullseye, that's for sure. His Bullseye chews up the scenery as if that's what Kingpin hired him for. Epitomized by his line: "ME HANDS! OH, YOU TOOK AWAY ME HAANDS!"
Living Lie Detector: Matt Murdock listens to the heartbeat of people to deduce if a person is lying or not in his cases. In the director's cut, he takes on a client despite every sign pointing to him as the correct suspect, but his heartbeat confirms he's telling the truth about his innocence. Likewise, the person setting him up almost foils Murdock's method because he too has a steady heartbeat while telling his side in court...until Matt realizes he's on a pacemaker.
Which is a Continuity Nod to a Frank Miller story where Matt was duped into believing his client was innocent because he had a pacemaker.
Love at First Punch: Elektra didn't have much of an interest in Matt until the two had a fight in a park, where she immediately takes a shine in the middle of it, especially when he encourages her not to hold back.
Downplayed example, Bullseye seems to show more of an attraction to Elektra when she slices his cheek with her sai.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Although Daredevil has no qualms dispatching of criminals rather than sending them to the big house, the only criminal he actually leaves dead is, you guessed it, a rapist.
Subverted. Quesada was just unfortunate enough to be the last bad guy Matt came across before deciding Thou Shall Not Kill; that he was a rapist was less important than he was an utter bastard. Matt actually tries to kill Bullseye later as well, but its later revealed that he survived.
Also, it seemed an act of desperation: he was able to trash an entire bar-full of goons, but had to hit Quesada so hard he can't walk away because his senses were overwhelmed by the incoming subway train.
Reality Ensues: Much of the beginning of the film delves into how a superhero would probably live in real life; Matt has scars all over his body, is on pain medication, his powers make sleeping difficult, and he has a shambled ruin of a personal life. Special mention is made in the commentary and Matt is a man "who really doesn't have long to live" if his vigilante activities keep up they way they do.
The trope also comes into play in horrifying detail with Elektra. Her father dies and she goes into vengeance mode, training like a maniac for her big chance to get revenge. Then, on her first night out she tries to pick a fight with Bullseye and gets stabbed in the hand, injured in the neck, stabbed to death gruesomely, and then tossed off the roof like nothing. Yikes.
Run the Gauntlet: In succession, Daredevil has to fight Elektra, Bullseye, and then Kingpin in a matter of hours in the third act, and takes an ass-whooping in all of them, leaving him visibly fatigued and injured as he moves to the next.
Scully Box: Used on Michael Clarke Duncan of all people. While he is every bit as imposing as his comics counterpart at 6'5", They still had to make him appear more imposing when next to Ben Affleck, who stands at 6'4". Helped by the fact that Duncan is far more muscular than Affleck, making him seem bigger.
Ben Urich eventually becomes this in the end. In the theatrical release, he's also a Secret Secret Keeper; in the Director's Cut, he confronts Matt about it.
The priest as well from almost the very beginning, and a reluctant one too.
Sensory Overload: Bullseye clangs together giant organ pipes to overwhelm Matt Murdock's senses and render him helpless for moments.
Shout-Out: Several shots and dialogue are taken directly from the comics.
Also, near the beginning of the film, Fallon mentions 3 fighters that Jack Murdock defeated named Miller, Mack, and Bendis, all three named after people who wrote on the Daredevil comic, and later, we see that the man Jack defeated that night was named John Romita, a name shared with an artist who briefly worked on Daredevil.
A criminal that DD hunts down in the beginning of the film is name Jose Quesada. JOE Quesada also did work on the series.
And then there's "Mr. Lee", the client who pays his legal bills with fish.
When asked about cuts, Matt says that he is in a Fight Club to which Foggy says he has never seen the film.
Matt is essentially Atticus Finch if he moonlighted as a superhero. The first scene of the movie has him futilely standing up for justice in a rape trial, and he often accepts random gifts from impoverished clients in lieu of cash.
Early on Jack Murdock says he once beat a fight by the name of Colan. Gene Colan drew Daredevil from September 1966 to June 1973 (making his run the first of the many long runs the character is known for) and Daredevil is often considered his signature character.
Shower of Angst: Matt takes a brief Shower of Angst after a night of vigilantism. While showering, he pulls a broken tooth out of his mouth.
Soft Glass: Averted. After being thrown through an already cracked window, Bullseye lands on a windshield which doesn't break. Later on, the massively built Kingpin throws Matt full force at a window which only cracks but doesn't break.
Take-That Kiss: Averted and played straight depending on what cut you're watching. Bullseye goes to kiss Elektra but simply kills her in the theatrical version, but does plant one on her while running her through with her sai in the director's cut.
Terms of Endangerment: Because he likes to mess with her and knows his obvious interest sickens her, Bullseye calls Elektra "Baby" right before slitting her neck with a playing card, gutting her and, depending on what version you watch, kiss her.
The Stinger: Bullseye incapacitated in the hospital, but still able to kill a fly. In the theatrical cut, anyway; the director's cut places it during Matt's closing monologue as he laments that evil will never die.
They Just Dont Get It: Fisk has Wesley send away his guards after he learns about Bullseye's failure, intending to deal with Daredevil himself. When Wesley tries to interject, Fisk points out Wesley wouldn't understand, as he didn't grow up in the Bronx.
Throwing the Fight: Why a hit is put on Matt Murdock's father, who refused to take a dive.
Unbuilt Trope: Though it's certainly not the first superhero film, Daredevil actually deconstructed many aspects of superhero stories back in 2003, when the 2000s superhero movie craze was still in its infancy. It also may be the first movie ever to try the "gritty and realistic" approach to superhero films that Batman Beginsis often credited with starting. Aside from the costumes, it's essentially a gritty crime drama about an all too human vigilante whose constant injuries from fighting criminals have left him covered in scars and dependent on painkillers, it fully examines the implications of the hero's typical Honor Before Reason mentality (showing us that Matt Murdock's idealism has left his legal practice struggling because he refuses to represent wealthy clients who he knows to be guilty), and it ends with a Pyrrhic Victory, as Matt puts the Kingpin behind bars (fully aware that he'll be freed soon) but fails to save his love interest.
We Have Reserves: Fisk isn't particularly bothered when Bullseye kills two of his guards for fun, indicating this is the case. The director's cut makes it more apparent, as Fisk's Establishing Character Moment has him kill two of his guards himself.
Weaksauce Weakness: The one main thing that seems to render Daredevil incapacitated, however briefly, is loud noise, even from everyday occurances such as loud trains and organ pipes.
Wham Episode: Similar to an event in the comics but unexpected in the movie, Elektra is killed a bit more than halfway through the movie when she tries to fight Bullseye.
What You Are in the Dark: Matt chooses not to kill Kingpin. When asked why, he replies "I'm not the bad guy." The line itself is an Ironic Echo to a line he says after he'd beaten up a crook in Hell's Kitchen only to find out that crook was a father, and he had been beating him up with his child present, while claiming he wasn't the bad guy.
Wolf Whistle: Bullseye does this to Elektra once they meet. Both to address an attraction towards her and to disturb her that her father's murderer, and about to be her murderer is hitting on her.
You Can Barely Stand: Daredevil goes to confront Kingpin after taking a beating in his fight with Bullseye. His priest actually tells him this before his fight with Bullseye after his injuries sustained fighting Elektra.
The pre-Kingpin Wilson Fisk killed Daredevil's father whilst he was still an enforcer for Fallow. Matt remains unaware of the Kingpin's involvement until Bullseye reveals the red rose calling card is Fisk's thing.
Bullesye kills Elektra's father using Daredevil's billy club, and she subsequently believes that it was Daredevil.
Zorro Mark: Matt leaves his insignia written on the ground in oil at the scene of one of his fights. It proves very convenient for a reporter being told that there's no proof his "so-called Daredevil" was involved - one thrown cigarette later...