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Sunil Peck

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Sunil is a journalist based in London. He supports Manchester United, and says he will never forget the time he answered his mobile phone to be greeted by the unmistakeable Scots burr of Sir Alex Ferguson.

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The fearless superhero

16th February 2003

Blindness is synonymous with heroism when it crops up in the popular media.
Whether it's because a blind person has reached the summit of the highest mountain in some far-flung country or managed to stroll along their local high street with his/her new guide dog, you can bet your life that the story will conform to this formula: courageous victim battles against all the odds to triumph over his/her disability. So, I wondered, would Daredevil, the new film about a blind superhero, live up to the age-old stereotype? Well, after whiling away some of Saturday afternoon among a few hundred popcorn-crunching, coke-guzzling cinema-goers in north London, I can tell you that it doesn't!

I flopped into my seat in the auditorium knowing absolutely nothing about Daredevil - so for anyone else who needs bringing up to speed, Daredevil (played by Ben Affleck) is a Marvel Comics character who first appeared in the early sixties. He's the alter ego of New York courtroom lawyer Matt Murdock, a champion of the down-trodden residents of Hell's Kitchen. However, when court is adjourned at the end of the day, he dons a mask and a tight-fitting leather costume and transforms himself into a karate-kicking, knockout-punching vigilante, dishing out his own form of rough justice to NYC's villains. His lack of sight poses no problems as he springs from rooftop to rooftop patrolling the New York skyline, as his remaining four senses have become so heightened that he has a radar sense of vision.

I'm led to believe that the film will be available with audio description in the next couple of weeks, which should be great for anyone who relies on the dialogue in a film to follow what's going on. The first half an hour or so was OK because there was a lot of dialogue as the young Matt related how he was blinded by radioactive waste and, having seen his father bumped off by a bunch of criminals, vowed he would thenceforth go to any lengths to ensure that social justice was enforced. The story suddenly leapt, in a Matt Murdock-stylee, twenty or so years into the future to when Daredevil had become a qualified lawyer. During the remaining two-thirds of the action-adventure I found it difficult to follow who was bounding over what tower block, whose throat was being slit and which homicidal maniac was knifing which gangster in the battle for supremacy in the crime-ridden metropolis.

As mayhem and violence raged during the rest of the film, I found myself wrestling with the moral issue underpinning the whole story. Could the altruistic masked avenger be considered a 'good guy' when his law code hinged on perpetrating acts of brutal retribution and violence? I never quite resolved that one, and after a few minutes my mind drifted to why I couldn't buy butter popcorn in the shop outside and had to settle for the normal stuff with sugar sprinkled over it, and how on earth Ryan Giggs managed to miss in front of an open goal in the FA Cup game against Arsenal earlier that afternoon.

As a film, Daredevil did nothing for me. As a blind superhero though, he's great! He's blessed with superhuman powers like Spiderman or any other comic book hero, but is set apart from them because he happens to be blind too. His blindness isn't depicted as something he needs to overcome and isn't the overriding issue in the film. Instead, it provides a device for Daredevil to distinguish himself from similar characters by using different methods to rove the streets and obliterate his evil adversaries. It's schoolboy fantasy stuff. If you're into that kind of thing you'll probably be gripped by it. Even if it's not your thing and you're a mere blind mortal, you can't help but admire Daredevil for his way with the women. His superhuman senses help him to spot, woo and screw the gorgeous Elektra (Jennifer Garner). She's gorgeous - according to several reviews I've read, anyway - and she sounded pretty fine to me too.

Daredevil, our fearless superhero, Elektra and their fellow combattants look set for a return to the big screen in a future sequel. I wouldn't bust a gut to go and see it, but if the second film eschews blind stereotypes and clichés, that would make it a roaring success as far as I'm concerned.

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