Compared to media juggernauts like Spider-Man or the Hulk, ol’ Hornhead hasn’t made that big of a pop-culture splash yet. There was a fairly awful TV-movie back in the ’80s that teamed up the Hulk and Daredevil. Entitled TRIAL OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK (in which the Hulk is never put on trial, by the way; the only courtroom scene is a dream sequence), it’s memorable mostly for the horrendous Daredevil costume Rex Smith was sporting: all black with a blindfold over his eyes.
Okay, we get it. He’s blind. No need to advertise. The Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno snoozer also featured John Rhys-Davies (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, LORD OF THE RINGS) as a bearded Kingpin, and DAREDEVIL creator Stan Lee giving a memorable performance as Guy in Jury Box.
Daredevil’s animated appearances have also been pretty sparse. He appeared for about two seconds in an episode of the 1980s SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS cartoon on NBC, in which Matt Murdock acts as Spidey’s lawyer. DD’s next appearance on video was considerably more substantial, when he guest-starred on an episode of the 1994 syndicated FANTASTIC FOUR animated series. While the first season of FANTASTIC FOUR featured some of the worst Marvel cartoons ever made, the second season, in which DD appeared, was rock-solid, with serious-minded scripts and vastly improved animation.
Daredevil’s most recent TV appearance came on the FOX Network’s SPIDER-MAN animated series, which aired Saturday mornings in the mid-’90s. The series was a fairly faithful adaptation of the Spidey comics, with decent animation by Saturday-morning standards, but suffered in comparison to the vastly superior BATMAN and SUPERMAN animated series that Warner Brothers was putting out at the same time. Daredevil guest-starred in two episodes of the series, “Framed” and “The Man Without Fear.”
The Daredevil episodes of SPIDER-MAN were made available on DVD as DAREDEVIL VS. SPIDER-MAN, and is certainly worth renting. Also on the disc is the aforementioned FANTASTIC FOUR episode, as well as a series of interviews with Daredevil and Spidey co-creator Stan Lee. A nice little package for the hardcore Daredevil fan.
The Man Without Fear hit movie theatres in early 2003, in an overblown and occasionally unintentionally funny adaptation by director Mark Steven Johnson, starring Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Jennifer Garner as Murdock’s ninja love interest Elektra, Colin Farrell as the murderous assassin Bullseye and Michael Clarke Duncan as crime boss the Kingpin.
Well-intentioned and far more faithful to the comics than one might expect, the movie suffered from a slightly too angsty, melodramatic script and an at-the-time overexposed star in Affleck, who in any case may not have been the best choice for the brooding, intense Matt Murdock. It stretches the suspension of disbelief pretty far here and there, but not the worst movie you’ll ever see. What strikes me most about it now, not even a decade later, is that it somehow already seems dated, and more like a parody of a big-budget superhero movie. And Affleck’s overblown voice-over may have forever killed first-person narration in superhero flicks like this.
Not satisfied to let DC claim the “worst comic-book movie ever” crown with CATWOMAN, Marvel rallied in a big way in 2005 with ELEKTRA, their spinoff from the Affleck DAREDEVIL film, with Jennifer Garner reprising her role as Elektra Natchios.
The film takes its cue from much of the Frank Miller comic-book run, involving the sensei Stick (here played by onetime General Zod Terence Stamp) and the ninja organization known as The Hand. Bad script, bad performances, bad fight scenes, just bad all around. Unless you’re in the mood to hurt yourself, this can safely be avoided.
You hear talk now and again about plans for another Daredevil movie (last I heard, TWILIGHT director David Slade was attached), but I wouldn’t expect it at the cineplex anytime soon…