dir. Johnson

Opens Fri Feb 14

Various Theaters

Truth: Nobody likes Daredevil as much as they like Spider-Man. You can write in as many letters as you want disputing this fact, but you're in the minority, because Spider-Man rules and Daredevil drools. Why? Because more people can identify with a nerd who has radioactive spider blood, than a blind lawyer whose claim to fame is really good hearing. What does this mean for the Daredevil movie? Since last year's Spider-Man was thoroughly awesome, it means this year's Daredevil is going to have it doubly tough. Making very few mistakes is a priority, and while DD gets off on an extremely bad foot, by the end it does a good job of playing catch-up.

The film opens with a huge mistake recounting the secret origin of Daredevil, which is one of the lamest origin stories ever. Young Matt Murdock sees his good-hearted father embroiled in some criminal behavior, and as he runs off crying like a goddamn baby, he gets squirted in the puss with some radioactive waste. Now, in the regular universe, Matt would be blinded and suffer painfully for about three weeks until he croaked; but in the Marvel Comics universe, the radioactive spillover from a cellphone can turn you into a super-powered god. Therefore, Matt goes blind, but the rest of his senses are accentuated. Big whoop, right? Right.

Thankfully, after the tedious, overly dramatic backstory is out of the way, we can get to the juice of this tale, which is the grown-up Daredevil (Ben Affleck) taking on the criminal mastermind Kingpin, and humping Elektra (Jennifer Garner from Alias). She's a martial arts expert and the rich daughter of a Kingpin associate, who is a big lusty fan of Daredevil until he's framed for murdering her father by the evil Bullseye (Colin Farrell). Because both Daredevil and Elektra are driven by revenge, they soon find that vengeance comes at a predictably hefty price.

As mentioned, the first quarter is crap, but once the melodrama leaves, the script relaxes and lets some of the fine supporting actors take over, including Jon Favreau as Matt's partner, and Joe Pantoliano as a snoopy reporter. Even the normally oily Ben Affleck keeps the believability of his character in check, while Colin Farrell chews the scenery in hilarious abandon. Even Jennifer Garner makes you momentarily forget her booty-gazing turn as Sydney Bristow in Alias.

But be warned! As in Spider-Man, some of the special effects are laughably bad. Nevertheless, the dark tone of Daredevil sets it apart from its web-spinning competition, making it an acceptable diversion that's not as handicapped as it is handi-capable.