Daredevil (Director's Cut)
Review by Bird Boy

Say what you will about theatrical cut of Daredevil (corny, cheesy, too quippy), but when Fox decided to give director Mark Steven Johnson the opportunity to release a new cut of it on DVD, he was able to do all he had originally wanted with the film. This included making the films rating switch from a tame PG-13 to a more brutal R-rated cut due to the heightened fight sequences which entailed more punches, kicks, and blood. Fans certainly got a bigger kick out of it as well—a whole plot removed from the theatrical version was reinserted and we got to see more of Matt Murdock out of the suit and working in his day-to-day life. With over a half hour of new footage put in, Daredevil: Director’s Cut made for one devilishly good time (I apologize for that).

Blinded by toxic waste as a child, Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was taught to use his ears as his eyes. Soon he realized that the toxic waste that took his vision away gave him a new kind of vision where he could “see” what objects looked liked by the sound reverberations. Honing his remaining senses and training his body, Murdock dons the guise of Daredevil and fights crime in his home, Hell’s Kitchen. Soon Murdock finds his life turned upside down when the assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell) and Elektra (Jennifer Garner) find their way into his city and begin creating all kinds of turmoil for him.

I’ll readily admit that I enjoyed the original cut of Daredevil, but it definitely was cheesy beyond belief. The over-the-top performance given by Farrell, as entertaining as it was, really camped it up while the interactions between Affleck and Garner became downright unbearable towards the end with the sappy romance. Still, the fight sequences were entertaining and the Daredevil character as a whole was quite impressive on screen. The costume, the fight choreography…all of it was quite amazing and aside from one horrible sequence in the park, there wasn’t a single action sequence in the film that wasn’t visually impressive.

Looking at the theatrical cut now I can see why people didn’t like it; it was similarly cheesy in a Batman Forever kind of way, but at the same time it was entertaining simply because it was a good time. What the director’s cut changed, however, was the tone in the movie in some ways, making it darker and more adult in nature. Sure some of the camp remained, but overall the film just felt like it wasn’t being whittled down to a PG-13 rating and that it was for adults. Murdock’s attitude is darker in some sequences and some of the visuals that accompany his investigation into someone’s murder were downright frightening. Based on the newly reinserted subplot alone, the film certainly felt different and was quite honestly the most drastic change I’d seen a film undergo for a director’s cut.

At this point with the director’s cut being several years old (it saw its original DVD release alongside Spider-Man 2 back in 2004), most who have wanted to see it have already done so. In many instances the versions seen in most stores is now in fact this updated cut, which is fantastic as it clearly sold well enough to warrant that. With interest obviously waning, however, it seemed like a good time for Fox to release it on Blu-ray and I can’t blame them, especially since it will be right on shelves next to Iron Man when both hit the Blu-ray format.

There isn’t too much more to say about the director’s cut of Daredevil that hasn’t been already. It’s a fantastic update to the original 2003 film and I can’t think of any Marvel fan alive that doesn’t prefer this edition over the PG-13 cut. For the most part the performances remain intact and nothing changed too drastically about the films story, there was just more to it. In all this director’s cut still comes Recommended and I greatly enjoyed watching it again, as I hadn’t laid eyes on it for several years now. It still holds up and is still a lot of fun to watch, even more so with the fantastic Blu-ray transfer.

The Blu-ray
Fox seems to agree that the director’s cut of this film is the “one”, as they’ve included all of the original PG-13 DVD releases extras on this release as well, which means you can safely upgrade your old DVD editions without worry, all of the extras are included here. The disc itself comes in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with inserts for firmware updates and an advertisement for other Fox Blu-ray’s. Menus for the release are really impressive and rather deluxe in nature…I was really quite impressed by the effort put into this release.

So how does the video fair on this release? Well quite frankly it’s pretty amazing. The detail and depth on the image is impeccable and the grain infused scenes are well defined. Fox continually impresses me with their re-releases on Blu-ray, first Patton and now Daredevil. They really have a strong grip on what makes a Blu-ray release great and their handling of the AVC encoded video, peaking at around 20mbps, is just exceptional.

The audio, a DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track is even more impressive, thudding the music and dispersing the sounds Murdock hears throughout the channels. If the film was of a bit more quality (and had some really incredible scenes to watch) then this could very well be a reference disc, the video and audio are that good. While Transformers may wow with the loudness, Daredevil will immerse you in a world of surrounds that is like no other. Absolutely amazing in every way imaginable.

As stated before the extras from the previous DVD releases return here and all are presented in standard definition. I don’t have a complaint about them being in standard definition and in fact I’m just glad they’re included at all; the first few waves of Fox re-releases on the Blu-ray format often found them nigh bare bones in most cases. Here we get everything, so there are no issues about upgrading and you can safely toss out the old releases (unless you want a theatrical cut of the film for some reason). The first extra up is a commentary with writer/director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Avi Arad who keep it lively throughout, save for a few dead spots. They cover everything from newly added scenes to the budget issues over the film and how they worked with it. Overall a solid commentary track the first time I heard it and it still remains an entertaining listen.

“Enhanced Viewing Mode”, Fox’s picture-in-picture mode, is up next and is narrated by the visual effects supervisor for the film (John Kilkenny). An icon will pop up on screen that will denote that the user has to select it and from there they can view selected shots of the special effects work through various stages. “Fact and Fiction” is a pop-up trivia track that looks entirely like a subtitle track. I’d complain about that too, but after the trivia tracks on the Rambo films and their desire to devour 40% of the screen, I’m not going to.

Coming off of the theatrical set is “Beyond Hell's Kitchen: Making Daredevil” (58:51), a (very) in-depth documentary on the processes of making the film that covers every aspect you could hope for, while “Jennifer Garner Screen Tests” (2:31) gives us a look at the audition that Garner gave for the role that would later spawn a spin-off film (which makes me cry just thinking about it). “Featured Villain: Kingpin” (2:20) very briefly goes over the character, “Daredevil: HBO First Look Special” (24:50) is some more making-of fluff piece and “Moving through Space: A Day With Tom Sullivan” (8:28) shows the life of the sight-impaired consultant for the film. A trio of music videos (“Won’t Back Down”, “For You” and “Bring Me to Life”, three songs I’m now sick to death of hearing at this point) are included as well. Thankfully my favorite song of the film, the Rob Zombie track played during the motorcycle sequence, isn’t submitted to the music video torture; otherwise I probably wouldn’t enjoy listening to it anymore. A music advertisement wraps up the extraneous extras , aside from the usual teaser and theatrical trailers.

But we aren’t done yet! First is “Men Without Fear” (59:15) an incredible featurettes on the comic book origins of the character, with interviews from a slew of comic greats including Stan Lee, John Romita, Frank Miller, and Kevin Smith to name a few. In all this is a fantastic documentary and one that is complemented by “Shadow World Tour” (6:17), a look at Daredevil’s powers both in the film and in the comic books.

“Giving the Devil His Due” (15:25) returns from the original director’s cut DVD and is as entertaining as ever. Here we get to hear a bit of the same stuff as what Avi and Mark talk about on the commentary, although Avi acts like a bit of a jerk here, which made me end up not liking the guy. Ever since I originally watched this extra, every time I see him on the newer films extras I feel like I should punch the screen.

Overall this is a fantastic release and anyone who is a fan of the film shouldn’t hesitate to upgrade. The audio and visual quality is just outstanding and I am truly blown away by the quality of this release. I expected it to be a half-assed cash in, but Fox really put some time and effort into this one. Highly Recommended.

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