Thursday, October 8, 2009

Frank Miller On "Daredevil"

If you only know of the super hero "Daredevil" from the Ben Affleck movie a few years ago (or not at all), then the video embedded below is probably not for you. But Daredevil was one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters. As a teenager I faithfully bought his monthly comic book for most of the 1980s. Despite having been a big fan of the character, I thought that the theatrical version of the 2003 film, which had been heavily edited, was jarringly choppy and borderline unwatchable, even though it starred Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, and Michael Clark Duncan. Colin Farrell stole the film, flawed as it was, however, with a standout performance as the villain Bullseye.

Daredevil - The Director's Cut [Blu-ray]is a half hour longer (having restored the footage previously cut), and was a surprisingly vast improvement on the mediocre theatrical release. But here's where the video embedded below comes in. The film's script was actually a condensation of a seminal storyline from the comic book, when it was written and drawn by a young Frank Miller at the start of the 1980s. The story he told in the comic, which involved Daredevil's romance with the super-assassin Elektra and her eventual violent death at the hands of the villain Bullseye, catapulted "Daredevil" from an also-ran comic book to a premier title. It also made Frank Miller a star in the world of comic books in his early 20s.
He built on that success in 1986 with the release of the four issue "graphic novel" Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which catapulted the character Batman back into the broader popular culture. It also led directly to the 1989 Tim Burton film (and the ensuing "Batmania" which swept the nation that summer), and made Frank Miller the most famous comic book creator in the "real world" since Stan Lee. The subsequent success of the movie versions of his "Sin City" and "300" comic books in recent years only further cemented this status.
Anyway, in the 11 minute video embedded below, Frank Miller discusses in detail his run on the "Daredevil" comic book in the 1980s and his conceptualization of the character that underpinned that run. It's more nuanced than you might think. If you ever read Daredevil: Born Again, another string of "Daredevil" issues also written by Frank Miller in 1986, you may find this particularly insightful. But even if you haven't, if you watch this video and Frank Miller's discussion in it of the impact of the character's Catholic heritage, the mythological background of the Elektra character, and the metaphorical underpinnings of her brutal murder, and then flip your eyes back up to that movie poster above with Ben Affleck unconvincingly posed in a red leather bondage outfit, you'll immediately understand why that movie failed.

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