Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Devil, You Say

Looks like those of you who'd been keeping the candle lit for a Daredevil sequel for lo these many years are about to get your wish.

This news is somewhat timely for me, as I just re-watched the original 2003 flick two days ago on blu-ray. Having the opportunity to re-assess it after an interregnum of several years, and especially in context with the post-Iron Man age of Marvel movie epics we're currently in, that first Daredevil seems like even more of an oddity to me. While the director's cut (the only version currently available on BD) is substantially improved from its bowdlerized theatrical sibling, the movie still can't help but feel both too big for its ambitions and too small for its potential.

Although a big chunk of the blame for this can be claimed by director/writer Mark Steven Johnson's relative inexperience (which he also brought to Ghost Rider a few years later), I'd say the larger share can be apportioned to the notoriously heavy-handed management at Fox, whose desperate bid to reshape a traditionally lower-key, street-level character into a crowd-pleaser a la Spider-Man backfired rather spectacularly, with all talk of a franchise seemingly flaming out along with spin-off Elektra in 2005.

So why the sudden interest in a Daredevil revival (note: this is a sequel, not a reboot, though I'm not sure how that even matters after all this time), when the original barely squeezed by $100 mil domestically? Why else: it's a rights issue. The contract that Marvel signed with Twentieth Century Fox stipulates that the studio will retain their rights to the characters as long as they continue to have projects in production (which, when you think about, is a staggeringly boneheaded deal for the geniuses at Marvel to have entered into).

At this stage, Fox is less interested in producing some great work of art than they are in not losing Daredevil, Elektra, et al, to Marvel, whose new owners at Disney would be more than happy to do something with the characters. This is the same reason, FYI, that Fox is falling all over itself to get new X-Men and Fantastic Four product into theaters, why Sony put a Ghost Rider sequel into production when precisely no one was demanding it, and also why they didn't miss a beat in announcing a Spider-Man reboot when the Raimi-Maguire series collapsed.

So what do we know about Daredevil II thus far? Not much beyond the signing of David Slade to direct. Slade, who was one of the finalists for the Wolverine gig that eventually went to Darren Aronofsky, previously entered the comic book genre with 30 Days of Night, and also helmed one of the Twilight flicks. While it sure looks like he has more stylistic chops than Johnson, I have no idea what specifically he'd bring to the table to differentiate this from the first go-round. I think we can safely assume that other than the character and situation being the same, pretty much everything else will be switched out.

I can't imagine Ben Affleck, who took a fair amount of grief for his turn in skintight red leather, will suit up again (especially now that he's entered the "respected filmmaker" phase of his career), nor do I see Michael Clarke Duncan or Colin Farrell showing up again to reprise the villainous Kingpin and Bullseye, respectively, and Jon Favreau, who played sidekick Foggy Nelson, has long since moved on to greener pastures. What all that means for the revived big screen Daredevil is anyone's guess, but the character has long provided Marvel with some of its strongest, most character-driven stories, and I'm hoping that Fox will see that potential rather than view this as another quick cash-out.


Omar A. said...

As someone who enjoyed the 2003 film (albeit I haven't seen it since you and I watched it on the plane back from Spokane in '04), I welcome this news.

Zaki said...

I remember that! While the DC stands far above tge theatrical cut, it's still limited by the same flaws -- namely Johnson's lackluster direction and unoriginal script. Looking forward to seeing what someone else can do with it.