Will Marvel Studios Save Daredevil from Production Hell?

Seriously, it wasn’t THAT bad.

It has been nearly ten years since Fox released the poorly-received Ben Affleck vehicle Daredevil to theaters. Though much of the criticism of that film was justified, it was certainly exaggerated. Yes, it was far from perfect, but much of the hostility about that film had more to do with Bennifer “Gigli” Affleck’s shaky career and tabloid popularity at the time, and less to do with the actual quality of the film. Given Affleck’s meteoric rise in the director’s chair in the last few years, if Daredevil were made with Affleck today, I doubt very much it would have been panned so harshly. It still would have received its fair share of deserved criticism, but Affleck wouldn’t have gotten a Razzie for it. Daredevil definitely had its problems, but many of those were remedied in the 2004 Director’s Cut version of the film. If you’re a Daredevil fan and were disappointed with the theatrical release, then you need to check out the R-rated Director’s Cut. It’s darker, more violent, and includes an interesting subplot that was entirely cut from the theatrical version. Yes, some unforgivable problems still remain, such as the atrocious soundtrack where the orchestral score would have sufficed, and the unintentionally funny fight scene in the park still made the cut. But in general, it’s a vast improvement over the original, and certainly worth two hours of your time. It’s a very fun movie, and it looks great. And frankly, I think Ben Affleck looks the part and did a good job playing it too.

There are some superhero films that, when they fail, will never be attempted again. The Spirit comes to mind, and though Ghost Rider has had two appearances on film, I don’t think we need to see any more Rider adventures. But Daredevil is not a property that falls into that category. This is especially true now, given two key factors. 1. Mark Waid’s Daredevil series is extremely popular right now and has received both critical and fan acclaim. Long story short, Daredevil is back on top. And 2. The film rights to Daredevil were relinquished by Fox in October and reverted back to Marvel Studios where he belongs, because Fox failed to have a Daredevil film in production by September 2012. So, Daredevil is not only enjoying immense popularity in print right now, but he’s also in more capable cinematic hands as of two months ago. The Fox/Marvel tug-of-war over Daredevil ended with some rather amusing circumstances. Apparently, Marvel offered Fox an extension on their Daredevil rights provided that Fox give back the rights to Silver Surfer and Galactus. Fox refused. Are you laughing yet? Why Fox would let go of Daredevil in order to keep two comparatively small-time and lesser-known properties like Silver Surfer and Galactus is, at least to me, hysterically baffling.

Fox’s handling of Daredevil was terrible. Three different directors either expressed interest, or were hired to do another film, but Fox still had nothing to show for it. Michael Steven Johnson (director of the first film) wanted to do a sequel, which would either have followed the plot of Frank Miller’s famous Born Again storyline, or would have used Mr. Fear as the primary villain (I doubt he could have juggled both in one film.) In March 2011, David Slade was hired to do a reboot, but had to drop out. And after that, Joe Carnahan campaigned to do his version of the film, which would have been very different and original. Carnahan’s idea was to do a gritty, crime noir version of Daredevil set in the 1970’s, and would also have followed the plot of Miller’s Born Again. Carnahan was so committed to the project, that he even produced a pretty cool NC-17 rated short film to show Fox his vision. Fox did nothing with it, and the rights went back to Marvel, proving once again that Fox is nothing more than production hell.

Several actors have also expressed interest in working on a Daredevil film. Jason Statham has said he would don the horns, and Frank Miller approved. But I’m not sure how I’d feel about Matt Murdock in a wig. Michael Clarke Duncan said he’d like to reprise the role of Kingpin, but with Duncan’s unfortunate passing this year Marvel will have to find a new Kingpin. Supposedly, Vin Diesel also expressed interest in playing the Kingpin of Crime. Not sure how I feel about that one (ugh.) For those who were disappointed with Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the Man without Fear, fear not. He has said he’d only reprise his role provided that his friend Kevin Smith direct it and that it follow the Born Again plot. But as Kevin Smith has retired from filmmaking (at least for now), it appears that Marvel will have to find someone new to play the character.

A lot of this sounds disorganized and up in the air, no? Waaay back in 2005, Marvel Studios creator Avi Arad said that he would definitely make a Daredevil movie should the rights to the character return to Marvel. Now that they have, it’s likely we’ll see a Daredevil movie in production in the next couple years. Though it’s still possible that Marvel will tap Joe Carnahan to do his 70’s noir Daredevil idea, I think that given the onset of The Avengers and the way Marvel Studios integrates all their recent films into that continuity, a Daredevil film outside of that would probably not happen at this point. It’s possible, but unlikely. We’ll probably see a Daredevil reboot very similar in tone and style to last summer’s Amazing Spider-Man. That is, a dark origin story. Pretty standard. But as a die-hard Daredevil fan, I have faith in Marvel Studio’s capacity to produce a solid film. Marvel Studios won’t dick around with their own properties the way Fox did. And given Daredevil’s increased popularity in the last two years, it should be clear to the Marvel higher-ups that this character is profitable and can hold his own on the big screen. There are so many cool things they could do with this character. Daredevil has at least a trilogy’s worth of villains: Mr. Fear, Bullseye, Kingpin. Plenty of stories from the comic books to pull from: Miller, Bendis, Waid. And obviously many people in Hollywood interested in making another movie. So what are they waiting for?

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