Sunday, October 21, 2007

I liked Daredevil, goddamnit!

I was just reading an article from a magazine about Ben Affleck's recent resurgence and it said something like "after failed films like Gigli, Daredevil, and Jersey Girl, Affleck's career is finally getting on track." I'd cite the magazine, but what's the use? Pretty much every publication has written an article about Ben Affleck and attempts to summarize his career in terms of hits and misses

The writer of the article is not making a comprehensive attempt to define the success of the three films in question but that's understandable because that's not his goal. The goal of discussing Daredevil is to succinctly provide backdrop to put the relative success of his Oscar buzz performance in Hollywoodland and directing debut and do it in half a sentence (9 words to be exact). The goal of the article for the reporter was to have access to Ben Affleck and in that respect, the reporter had to appease him. The only point of Ben Affleck to be there is to promote his new project, so an introspective look at past films gets relegated to a 9 word summary and although, I might have even been guilty of doing this myself, that's the lesson here: The inevitability that as time passes, all the years of work, crative energy and man hours that went into the film will come down to just one of two words: flop or success.

So were Jersey Girl, Daredevil, and Gigli "failures" and how do we define failure? Obviously, films are forms of art and it's incredibly hard to get a room full of film critics or even casual viewers of film to agree on anything. Generally a film director or whomever it is that was the primary mover behind getting the project green lighted and completed is usually happy to see their idea converted into a feature-length nationally distributed movie, no matter what.

However, criteria as to whether the film was successful usually ranges from critical respect, cultural impact (A film like Borat or Inconvenient Truth, for example, might have done more to impact culture, generate water cooler buzz of get people talking, than they might have had to do with anything else), whether audiences in general liked it (something like cinemascore might measure that), domestic box office grosses, international box office gross, potential for TV circulation, or maybe generation of a certain group of fans (for example, Kevin Smith usually has a fan-following that's loyal to him and gives him encouragement, even if he doesn't meet the above criteria).

On these levels, it's pretty hard to make an argument against Gigli being a failure in terms of critical respect. Only two out of over four-hundred critics gave the film a positive review (Byron Allen and Susan Grainger, if you want to google them and see how well-respected they are among other film critics at this point), and the film did get a lot of water cooler talk going but only in very negative ways. As to whether audiences liked the movie or not, most of them didn't get a chance to see the film since it was only playing for a single week.

For pretty much everything other than Gigli, it's somewhat of a gray line. So when looking at Daredevil, I personally liked it. It wasn't my favorite film of the year or anything, but I felt the characters fit the tone of the film pretty well and the casting was well-placed, I liked that the angle of a blind superhero was actually relevant to the real world (in that we do actually have blind people) as opposed to spiders, and I felt it lent itself to special effects, and lastly, I liked the interplay between Favreau and Affleck.

I could give you a percentage of critics, who liked Daredevil from rotten tomatoes, but that's not really saying much since it doesn't take into account the degree to which they liked or disliked it nor the time when they submitted the review (i.e. they could change their mind 2 years later). Besides, it's just a number and it's too often treated as the definitive number. Perhaps, though, we should settle on the fact that the film isn't a flop by the actual definition of the word. The film made over twice its money back before the end of its run in theaters, and that's not counting DVD sales, so at the very least, it's fair to say that even if it's for an introduction to the main clause of a sentence, calling Daredevil a flop is irresponsible, iffy, and offends fans of the film like myself.