The sole Daredevil movie to date, the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck, has been rightly or wrongly maligned by most comic-book fans and even many film fans.
But that film’s flaws, rather than being a reason not to make any more DD big-screen adaptations, is actually exactly the reason WHY another Daredevil movie would be a worthwhile project.
Until recently I would’ve thought this a somewhat unlikely prospect; however following the current Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D series, Netflix and Marvel have joined forces to bring more Marvel superheroes to the “small screen”. This includes a Daredevil series some time in 2015, with new shows based on Luke Cage and Iron Fist following some time after. The web subscription service has committed to producing a minimum of 13 episodes for each series created.
Drew Goddard, who wrote on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is being linked to the Daredevil series on various websites.
I have no opinion on that enterprise at this stage, but the Netflix initiative aside, I think another standalone Daredevil movie is warranted, irrespective of whatever the Netflix show is going to be doing.
In general I’m sceptical about movie reboots, particularly when they come around far too soon after their predecessors, such as in the case of the current Spiderman movies, following so soon after the previous Spiderman set of films (which weren’t themselves exactly unsuccessful or unpopular). I’m not advocating Phantom Menace-length intervals, but I mean at least give things some time to age, some time to stand alone. But in this day and age the studios, especially when it comes to successful comic-book franchises, just want to milk that insane cash-cow as much and as quickly as they can, probably out of fear that the momentum will run out.
However, as far as reboots go, Daredevil is an exception in my opinion; the misfire of the 2003 Daredevil movie justifies another attempt, both to do justice to the Daredevil mythology and to make sure the 2003 film doesn’t stand as the only big-screen legacy for the character.
Over his four decades of publication, Matt Murdoch has been the subject of a panoply of classic stories courtesy of Gene Colan, Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Kevin Smith, even Stan Lee in the early days, and has been one of Marvel’s most consistently interesting and textured characters, his various runs being virtually a showcase for quality writing and memorable art.
It is difficult to believe that the 2003 movie is the best that we could have of DD on the big screen.
According to many, the director’s cut of the film now available makes for a much better experience than the cinematic release. There was clearly some sort of tug-of-war going in the creative process of that movie, with conflicting interests on what sort of film it was supposed to be.
For example, when the look and feel of the film was being worked out, Mark Steven Johnson claims to have used direct reference from the Daredevil comics. Some of Joe Quesada’s work in Daredevil vol.2 #1-8 specifically influenced the look of parts of the film. This is an indication of a certain degree of artistic thought and genuine comic-source homage that was going into that movie, even if the overall end product didn’t live up to it.
If that same approach had been taken with the entire project, we may have witnessed something a lot better.
While the film has been slaughtered by numerous commentators as a total flop, I found it tolerable in parts and could at least see where the potential was for it to have been better. There were specific failings in casting; Jennifer Garner as Elektra never worked for me and one of the biggest problems was Colin Farrell as Bullseye. But I still think Ben Affleck made a decent Matt Murdoch: he just needed a better script.
Other criticisms rightly levelled at the film are that it was “too fluffy”, had a terrible soundtrack, and that the romance element specifically was handled piss-poorly.
All probably true; there are some unwatchably bad scenes in that film. But also some good ones.
The “too fluffy” elements definitely were a problem, particularly because Daredevil comics are specifically renowned for their moodiness, for their essentially noire tone, the character from Frank Miller’s writing onwards having been something of an anti-hero who is the subject of one horrendous affliction after another; the thankless hero who gains nothing for his sufferings, the grim victim of some cruel ineffable karma who simply cannot catch a break.
That’s the Daredevil that comic-book loyalists love; and that’s the Daredevil that was missing in the 2003 film, though he was glimpsed in parts – just enough to see that there is potential there for a much better movie. With better casting and ideally some creative guidance from people associated with the Daredevil mythology in print, something a lot better could be attempted this time.
The parts of the 2003 movie that did work better were specifically the parts that tried to evoke iconic imagery or moments from the comic-book source material.
Something much more in a film-noire style; or failing that, then something more in-line with what Christopher Nolan did with the Batman movies.
What’s pointless is trying to make a DD movie that’s exactly the same in tone and style as the other superhero film franchises, as that doesn’t play to Daredevil’s strengths as a character; rather, the ideal approach would be to attempt something very divorced from what’s going on in other franchises, something unique, and actually something not designed cynically for sequels, but made as a standalone film with its own integrity.
There are plenty of existing storylines in the comic-book canon that could make the basis of such a movie.
Some of the work of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson in print basically read more like a movie than a comic-book anyway and would be an obvious inspiration-point for future screenwriters for a prospective Daredevil reboot.
Miller’s iconic ‘Born Again’ storyline, which may have been an inspiration for aspects of the 2003 film, would be an obvious starting-point for a much better approach this time.
Brian Michael Bendis’s and Alex Maleev’s work on the comics likewise would be an obvious point of reference for story ideas. Daredevil (Vol.2) #1-8 and the ‘Guardian Devil’ storyline by Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, would present yet another viable, rich option for a screenplay adaptation.
There’s plenty there even beyond those – a buffet table of existing stories and characterization to mine for quality film fodder; but only if placed in the right hands. I also don’t see why one of the historic Daredevil comic-book writers can’t be employed to directly write a screenplay or at least a treatment.
In fact The Man Without Fear #1-5 origin series by Frank Miller with artwork by John Romita Jr and the late Al Williamson is said to have originated as a screenplay for a potential Daredevil film in the first place.
Where a Daredevil movie would fit in with the Marvel Studios’ now-prolific big-screen output scheduled for the next several years, I don’t know; but I suggest it’s a project worth serious thought.
Let’s not let the 2003 movie stand as the only or the definitive big-screen adaptation of so iconic a comic-book brand.