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REVIEW: 'Daredevil' DVD a Marvelous Collection

"Daredevil" opened the 2003 comic book movie season with a bang. Itspent its first two weeks at #1 spot of the box office charts and eventuallycollected $100 million. While the movie had critics divided, comic fans lovedit. Tuesday, "Daredevil" comes home on a two-disc special edition DVD.

Comics2Film/CBR News received a review copy of the set last week. While myaim is to focus this review on the DVD presentation, I will provide a quickrecap review of the movie just to keep things in perspective.

For me "Daredevil" is the least of the recent wave of Marvel moviesthat began with "Blade." In the plus column, the movie sports somegreat action sequences, a nice, heartfelt origin story and some fun performancesfrom Colin Farrell and John Favreau. In the minus column we have the shallowcharacters, scattershot plotting, a laundry list of nits to pick, all summing upto what is possibly the most ineffective big-screen superhero of all time. Inshort, "Daredevil" is an enjoyable action movie if you're willing tooverlook its numerous flaws.

Now, on to the DVD.

DISC 1

The new two-disc set will make a terrific addition to any self-respectingcomic-to-film fan's collection. The packaging boasts over eight hours of extramaterial. I didn't run a stopwatch, but I'll take their word for it.

Disc one contains the movie itself along with three special viewing modes:commentary track, trivia track and "enhanced viewing mode."

The commentary track by director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Fosteris a good one. The pair gives their insights into various creative decisions,tell amusing anecdotes, agonize over the parts of the movie they wished they'ddone better and even point out a few gaffes. It's a fun engaging commentary, ifyou're a commentary junkie, well-worth listening too.

The trivia track features on-screen text (playing in the letterbox area ifyou have the widescreen edition) pointing out various bits of interestinginformation. It's a treat for comic fans as the trivia often points out elementsthat are directly from the comics, including the issue number that the referencewas pulled from. It's a fun feature, nicely done.

Your guide to the "enhanced viewing mode" segments on the "Daredevil" DVD:

The "enhanced viewing mode," if you've never seen this feature onother DVDs, gives you access to behind-the-scenes footage while you're watchingthe movie. A small icon appears on the screen during key points in the film. Ifyou click the action button you're taken to a short clip that expands on themaking of that particular sequence.

While the clips shown in this feature provide an interesting look at how theCGI effects for the movie were accomplished, I find the "enhanced viewingmode" presentation to be an annoyance. You basically have to sit throughthe 105-minute movie to access the 10 minutes (or so) of behind-the-scenesfootage. If you're like me, you've already watched the movie twice (once in pureform, once with commentary) so to have to watch it again gets a little tiresome.You can do the "enhanced viewing" and commentary at the same time, butthere is no way to layer both those features and the trivia track in onesitting.

To that end, I very much prefer it when such "enhanced viewing"segments are available separately, so you can watch them without having to trackthrough the film again. As a service to you, dear reader, I've noted the timingsof the enhanced viewing mode segments, so if you want to speed through the movieand only watch them you can do so (see sidebar at right).

Disc 1 also containsDVD-ROM features, which are mostly just leftovers from the movie's officialwebsite and not terribly interesting.

DISC 2

It's Disc 2 that has the jackpot of features.

"Beyond Hell's Kitchen" is a one-hour documentary that delves intothe making of the movie. 

I found this documentary to be very interesting and informative. It goes intothe usual details about special effects, fight training, costume design, setconstruction, locations.

Like the feature, this documentary is also presented in "enhancedviewing mode" giving the viewer even more behind-the-scenes stuff. There'ssome pretty cool stuff to be found in this mode, such as fight choreographerMaster Yuen's raw blocking footage for the fight scenes (basically, him and hismen acting out the same fights you later see on screen).

  1. Select "Beyond Hell's Kitchen" from the main menu
  2. Cursor DOWN to highlight the on-screen "Play" button
  3. Cursor LEFT to highlight the hidden crossed sais
  4. Press the action button on your DVD remote

Also, mousing around the menu for this documentary reveals an Easter eggedclip of the gag reel for the film including some lost Favreau gems (seesidebar) 

After watching the "Beyond Hell's Kitchen" documentary, you mayalso want to check out the raw footage of dailies from the movie. It's here thatyou get to see Jennifer Garner accidentally kick Colin Farrell in the head.

Otherless interesting but worth-watching extras include Jennifer Garner's screentest, a profile on The Kingpin, the HBO First Look Special, a profile of blindconsultant Tom Sullivan, trailers, music videos and production design stills.

One happy side effect of all these Marvel movies hitting big is that alibrary of interviews recounting the early history of the characters is startingto emerge. "Daredevil" is the latest DVD to contain interviews withMarvel creators detailing the high points of the characters. 

"The Men Without Fear: Creating Daredevil" provides one hour ofinterviews Daredevil's creators. Unlike a similar feature on the"Spider-Man" DVD, the selected subjects of this documentary all havetruly had an impact on Daredevil. No Wizard editors here. No Steve Platt either.

The documentary opens with Frank Miller saying something weighty and portentousabout comics. That's followed by a clip of Stan Lee saying, "Maybe I oughtto start being intense. I hate Miller being more intense than I am."

That kind of breezy commentary makes the documentary a fun and informativelook at the history of Daredevil.

Other highlights include Stan revealing why the costume was changed fromYellow to Red. Frank comments from Gene Colan about art and family. Millertalking about how he fell in love with the character. John Romita Sr. aboutgetting bamboozled by Stan into drawing the character. John Romita Jr. aboutliving up to the family name. Joe Quesada about collaborating with Kevin Smith.A fascinating look at David Mack's creative process. Brian Michael Bendistalking about the Frank Miller influence. Kevin Smith talking about fumbling theball on the Bullseye relaunch.

The documentary ends with a card naming and acknowledging some thirty othercreators who have helped shape the character over the years. That kind ofattention to detail, along with the trivia track notes and Mark Steven Johnson'sfrequently expressed affection for "Daredevil" make the DVD a greathomage to the comic book roots of the movie.

COMPLAINTS

There's so much cool stuff on the "Daredevil" DVD my complaints arefairly minor. 

Aside from the previously mentioned "enhanced viewing mode" gripe,I'd also add that I didn't care for the discs' menus. They're rendered in sortof a poor man's version of the shadow world seen in the movie. The worst thingabout them though is the long transitions between certain selections. I don'twant to have to sit through a ten second animation between each menu press.

The other worrisome thing is much-rumored director's cut. Several scenes hadto be cut from "Daredevil" for various reasons. Some of those can beglimpsed in the extra features, but for the most part they're nowhere to befound on the DVD. This worries me for the simple fact that fans who buy this DVDset may find themselves coughing up another $25 a year from now when the studiodecides to milk us them a 1.5 edition.

THE BOTTOM LINE

All in all I'd say the DVD is a great collection of extras for any comic bookmovie fan. For fans of the "Daredevil" movie it's definitely a must-have.

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