In 2003 the world was given the abysmal comic book movie, Daredevil. Mark Steven Johnson poorly directed Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, and Michael Clarke Duncan in what was supposed to be a gritty film based on the popular Marvel comic book property. Unfortunately the movie rights to the characters were owned by Fox Studios, who haven’t had the best track record in the genre. 2003’s Daredevil suffered from all the classic issues: poor writing, acting, and special effects. Back then, comic book movies weren’t the money making powerhouses that they are today so very little care was taken in bringing them to the silver screen. Take a look at the original trailer below and compare that to the likes of Iron Man, The Dark Knight, or the wildly successful blockbuster, The Avengers.
Fast forward to 2008, talk of a sequel was circulating in Hollywood based on the now famous Born Again comic story arc. Talks fell through and once again “old Hornhead” went back on the shelf. At this point Marvel Studios was well on its way with successful build up films for The Avengers. Marvel had now established itself as THE de facto standard for properly executed comic book movies. In 2012 we finally got some movement on the Daredevil property and a reboot seemed imminent. Fox brought in David Slade (30 Days of Night) to helm the reboot and it looked as if Fox might have actually made a proper decision for this property. Unfortunately, Slade had to leave the project due to scheduling conflicts and it left Fox Studios in a bit of a bind. October 10, 2012 is the ticking time bomb for the movie rights reverting back to Marvel Studios so Fox needed to get someone in and fast. Enter, Joe Carnahan who has directed Smokin’ Aces and The Grey. This choice in my opinion might actually be better than originally going with Slade. While Carnahan’s movies aren’t the deepest, neither were Slade’s for that matter, The Grey was certainly gritty and visceral, which might work perfectly for Daredevil.
Once again the property was moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, Carnahan had an original idea, and in Hollywood that’s not really celebrated. Talking on the Radio Dan Show here is what he had to say:
“I was brought in pretty late in the game, and my take probably didn’t help matters since they had an existing script. But I just thought that if you were going to do it, this was the way to go. This is the way that intrigued me…It was initially something I passed on because Christopher Nolan had done such a lovely job with Batman and unless you’re going to go after that trilogy, then that’s how you have to think. You can’t out-hurdle that, then what’s the point of trying? So it set the bar extraordinarily high, and I thought ‘Well, if we’re going to do this, let’s have a discussion about Hell’s Kitchen, and how it was really Hell’s Kitchen in the 70s,” so that got me really excited. But as I mentioned, the clock ticking and this kind of October drop-dead date, it wasn’t tenable. And having gone down this road in the past when you’re trying to write something and shoot it at the same time is disastrous, and I think you’d need an adequate amount of time to put that script together in the right way. My brother [Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom)] was interested in writing it with me, so we’ll see.”
I can’t see how Carnahan thought that Fox would go for a 70s version of Daredevil, but honestly it’s such a great idea. Hell’s Kitchen of the 1970s in much grittier than it is now, a newly gentrified part of New York City. However, I think Fox could have just made Hell’s Kitchen a rough area in the movie and brought it into modern times. However, Carnahan was pushing for not just the 70s decade, but the very unique qualities of that time:
“As I’m finishing my kind of re-imagining of Death Wish, I think the 70s is figuring into my conscious and subconscious mind right now. I think it was the last time music and movies were just tremendous. We just cranked out some great stuff. I think that’s why the sizzle reel is able to be kind of abstract because people have such great fondness in their hearts for that decade, particularly the early part of that decade. I’m excited; you know the idea of having Daredevil on top of a building somewhere with the Serpico marquee in the background was enough, that image was enough, for me to want to make the movie.”
The two things that stick out for me about Carnahan’s quote is Death Wish and Serpico. Those two films give you a real insight into what he had in mind. A Serpico-esque comic book movie would be very much in line with what Christopher Nolan did in The Dark Knight; a real crime drama. So at the end of the day, Fox was not able to get all its ducks in a row and make the Daredevil reboot happen. Come October 10th Marvel Studios will once again own the movie rights. However, this makes one thing certain, we won’t be seeing Daredevil on the big screen for quite a while. With Marvel’s dance card full I’m not so sure Daredevil is a top priority for them. That being said, Daredevil is a gritty version of Spider-Man in a lot of ways, so maybe Marvel will bump him up so they can get a popular street level hero sub-universe (still apart of the regular Marvel Cinematic Universe) going. Imagine a street level hero sub-universe with Daredevil, the Punisher, Blade, and should the rights revert, Ghost Rider. The movie rights going back to Marvel might just be the start of something great. A carved out space in the MCU under the tag of Marvel Knights that is all R-rated would be a fresh take. While movies like The Avengers would be the flagship, a nice niche of violent, profane, and visceral action flicks based on anti-heroes fighting crime bosses would be sublime if done right. Bring on the Marvel Knights.
image via filmofilia.com