Movie Talk

Was Ben Affleck’s ‘Daredevil’ Really That Bad? Try the Director’s Cut

Movie Talk

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Daredevil

When "Daredevil" was released in 2003, critics called it "depressingly average," "dull" and "kind of lousy." And so the drubbing continued, review after review, year after year, and right on through to the news this summer that the film's star had been signed to play another superhero in the upcoming "Man of Steel" sequel: "If you've ever watched Daredevil, you would know why we dont want Ben Affleck as Batman."

But is it possible that the Affleck opposition—its basic philosophy summed up nicely in the above tweet—hasn't been watching the right Daredevil?

"I have no doubt that the director's cut of 'Daredevil' is a much better movie than the theatrically released version," journalist Karl Hodge said.

Issued on DVD in 2004, the retrofitted "Daredevil" is rated R for violence and language, up from the theatrical film's PG-13. It runs a half-hour longer and, among other things, rescues Coolio from the cutting-room floor. (The rapper-actor played a defendant of Daredevil's secret identity, the crusading lawyer Matt Murdock.) And, more or less, it's the movie that writer-director Mark Steven Johnson wanted all along.

"The simplest things are a battle. Even having him wear a costume was a battle," Johnson told UGO in 2003. "I was constantly fighting over things like that, and if I was a more experienced director with a bigger track record, I might have won more than I did."

According to the likes of Hodge, who reviewed the director's cut for Den of Geek!, moviegoers might've been winners, too, had the 133-minute version been seen in theaters.

"It has a plot that actually makes sense, for example," Hodge said via email. "Affleck spends more time in civilian clothes and builds the Matt Murdock character more effectively. The subplot connects the dots so we can see the threat that Kingpin [played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan] poses."

Film writer Jeff Otto, who with Andy Patrizio covered the DVD release for IGN, essentially agreed.

"I thought it was a marked improvement in both the film's tone and in Affleck's performance, which was more layered in the longer version," Otto said in an email. "It also drastically downplays the Elektra character [played by Jennifer Garner, whom Affleck married in 2005], which helps."

A less frantic and more impactful childhood sequence with the young Matt Murdock (Scott Terra) and his father (David Keith) doesn't hurt, either.

Said Otto, "If people had seen this version over the theatrical I definitely think the reaction would have been better."

You easily can judge for yourself. The 2004 director's cut is still out on DVD and available via digital streaming and Blu-Ray. (Notably, it appears only the director's cut and not the 2003 theatrical version, which, admittedly had its fans—among them, Roger Ebert—has been issued on Blu-Ray.) For the time-crunched, Movie-Censorship.com has a comprehensive, minute-by-minute rundown of the two versions.

If you see the director's cut, will you see the greatest comic-book movie ever made? Maybe not.  While "better, dirtier and bloodier" than the original "Daredevil," Hodge said, "the director's cut...isn't' The Dark Knight.'"

And if Affleck lost you during his star-crossed Jennifer Lopez years, will he win you back now? Again, maybe not.

"I think the fans who are reacting negatively to the [Batman] casting news don't picture Ben Affleck, the indie film director and actor who's spent the last decade successfully rebuilding his credibility," Hodge said. "...They see Bennifer. I'm not sure what you could do to change those minds."

Although, really,  the "Daredevil" director's cut isn't a bad place to start.

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