starring Ben Affleck, Jeniffer Garner and Colin Farrell
4 stars

Man, I've got a good feeling about 2003, otherwise known as the Year of the Superhero. We kick it off with Daredevil, then there's Matrix 2, then X-Men 2, then the Hulk, and then Matrix 3. We're talking unbelievable superhero movie times, here, folks, and it all starts with Daredevil, which rocks.

Really, all Daredevil had to do to be okay was not suck. It didn't have to blow us away with crazy special effects, it didn't have to top Spider-Man or X-Men, it didn't have to reinvent the superhero genre. All it had to do was take the basic premise, treat it with a scrap of respect, and be better than The Crow. Mission accomplised.

Easily accomplished, as it turns out, thanks mostly in my mind to two scenes that go above not sucking, go above good, and are actually great. I don't want to say too much about them for fear of spoiling, but I'll say this: they're both romantic scenes between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Their meeting scene is so alive, so crackling with energy, that I cheered and yelled "Yeah!" as I watched it. It's clean, simple, fast-paced, and it totally sells the idea of a man and a woman discovering each other, pushing a little bit only to be surprised and delighted that the other can push back. They fall in love right there, and it's a love between equals, people who can face each other, even though one of them is blind. In fact, that scene left me with kind of a sad feeling when I thought about the parallel romance in Spider-Man. Sure, Tobey and Kirsten have some cute moments, but their relationship is built on inequality, on him being the hero and her being the girl he rescues. In Daredevil, neither Matt nor Elektra needs to give an inch, and it's exciting to watch.

So those scenes, those romantic scenes, are the punchy ones, the real winners, but the movie also works damn well on most other levels. The story is tough and straight, and shockingly, doesn't wimp out on the crucial details. Making a superhero movie is as much an adaptation challenge as making something like Lord of the Rings, except in some ways it's harder because there's usually such a large volume of material to consider. Daredevil the Movie takes the right approach, sifting through Daredevil's various stories and keystone ideas, emphasizing a few of them while reinventing others. Some of the changes veer a bit far from the source --the comics Daredevil would never dump a rapist on the train tracks to die like the movie one does-- but mostly, the changes make sense. The film sticks to its comic-book roots and paints its story in bold, heavy strokes. Hell, when the first scene is Daredevil slumped over a cross, dripping blood, you know you're in for some serious metaphor-slingin'. And yet, it works. Young Daredevil's relationship with his father, an aging boxer? Simple, straightforward, makes sense. Daredevil swallowing a fistful of painkillers after a rough night? Hell, that makes a lotta sense! And on it goes.

Some more stuff they got right: Daredevil's sonar effect. It's a simple idea, the way they do it, but it's cool and immediately makes sense, and suddenly for the first time I have an idea in my head as to what DD's sonar would actually be like to have. That's cool.

Other sucesses: Colin Farrell as Bullseye.  He's a right psycho in this film. He shows off who he is in this movie, and he does it the best way a character in a movie can: by his actions. He's got some cool lines here and there as well, but mostly he's the kind of guy who just does things, and the things he does are cool. Plus, Farrell brings a host of twitches and tics to the role, like wiping the sweat from his forehead bullseye with his middle finger, and he holds your attention.

Sure, I had my complaints. They use a little too much CGI jumping bullshit when some good ol' fashioned  Hong Kong wire fu would have fit the tone of the movie better. They didn't get quite as deep into some of my favorite characters, like Ben Urich or Foggy Nelson, as I would have liked. But the virtues of the movie far, far outweigh the flaws. It was like: I went into the film wanting Daredevil's suit to be redder, like the comics, but as I watched,  I realized it made no sense at all to wear a big red suit when you're a superhero that likes to work in the dark. And besides, after that first awesome scene between Murdock and Elektra, I quit worrying about whether stuff was quite the way I thought it should be and just started digging what it was.