For a comic-book avenger with extrasensory powers and the ability to leap from building to building in kinky leather outfits, Daredevil is not your ordinary superhero. For one thing, he's blind (yes, like Justice). For another, Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck), lawyer by day, masked vigilante by night, is a tormented, brooding guy, carrying around a heavy load of Roman Catholic guilt and prescription painkillers. Mistaken for a miscreant on a Manhattan rooftop, he protests: "I'm not the bad guy," as much to convince himself as anybody else.
"Daredevil," fashioned by writer-director Mark Steven Johnson from the Marvel comic, is an appropriately dark, doom-shrouded affair. Its depiction of the accident that cost 12-year-old Matt (Scott Terra) his sight, and his discovery that his other senses are working on superhuman levels, is both visually sophisticated and emotionally terrifying. But after grabbing our attention with considerable style, the movie proceeds, slowly but surely, to evaporate. The portentous angst of the grown-up Matt doesn't mesh with the generic plot or the campy, broad-stroke silliness of the other characters: Jennifer Garner's Elektra Natchios, kung fu expert and billionaire heiress; Colin Farrell's flamboyantly fiendish Bullseye; Michael Clarke Duncan's cigar-smoking archvillain Kingpin. Torn between moody grandiosity and cartoonish mayhem, "Daredevil" tries to have it both ways, and succeeds at neither.