Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Daredevil Film Reboot


Fox has announced they have hired a writer to come up with a reboot for another Daredevil cinematic appearance. There is not much information at hand, yet, so let the speculation abound. What could, and should, happen?

First, to move on we need to cover old ground. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat themselves, and with Hollywood being such a remake/reboot industry you can’t help but feel like lessons get dropped like bad habits all the time.

Daredevil – The Character

Created by Stan Lee in 1964, Daredevil was really blind attorney, Matt Murdock. When saving an old man from walking in front of a truck carrying radioactive waste, Murdock was clocked between the eyes with the dangerous payload. This robbed him of his sight but gave his remaining senses heightened abilities. This new way of sensing the world could tell him what was around, could read heart beats, and detect signature smells. He used his ‘powers’ to become a vigilante to avenge the death of his father, prize fighter Battlin’ Jack Murdock, and to also rid the streets of his hometown, Hell’s Kitchen, of all undue crime.

Daredevil was billed as a bit of a poor man’s Spider-Man. He swung through the cityscape with his billy club and line and quipped his way through his first decade and a half. By the late 70’s he was only released bi-monthly and was well on his way to getting cancelled until a young buck in the Marvel stable wanted to take a shot on him. Frank Miller spent a few years crafting a Daredevil mythos that still reverberates through the current title. He introduced, or most effectively used, ninjas, the Kingpin, Bullseye, and Elektra, and established Murdock as a hero up against serious crime. The Elektra Saga, as much of it became known, is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed runs on Daredevil’s illustrious history.

Throughout the years, many creators would make Daredevil the home for personal and informed runs. Miller would come back for Born Again, Ann Nocenti would hold a long stretch that saw DD tackle many real world social ills, and with the reboot of the comic title in 1998 we have been given a blessed run on the scarlet swashbuckler with Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada, David Mack, Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Bob Gale, Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark all giving some of the best work of their comic careers, and Andy Diggle and Roberto De La Torre currently taking the character in a very intriguing direction.

Daredevil – The Movie

Back in 2003, Mark Steven Johnson made a Daredevil film. It starred Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock, Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios, Colin Farrell as Bullseye, Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk, Jon Favreau as Foggy Nelson, Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich, and even had Ellen Pompeo, of Grey’s Anatomy fame, filling backgrounds as Karen Page.

It was a decent flick. There were flaws, sure, but it was enjoyable at its core. It raked in $102 million and spawned the Elektra spin-off movie, which was a serious step down in all ways. This was the foreseeable end of the DD franchise. There didn’t seem to be much more richness to mine so he was packed away, and many seemed thankful for it.

I like the Daredevil film, I can enjoy it, but it is by no means a good film. The fight in the playground stands out as a real low with Affleck mugging away as he duels with Elektra upon their first meeting. It’s meant to be flirtatious and fun but instead it’s incredibly stupid, glib, and completely out of character as a blind attorney who is really a vigilante would never so obviously give away his abilities in front of a stack of children, and a woman he just met. I also did not appreciate the montages set to Evanescence songs.

The film cribbed most of the story from Frank Miller’s Elektra Saga, even going so far as to keep entire scenes and dialogue intact, but the sum of the parts did not make a whole. The movie felt empty, full of “oh won’t this be cool” moments that didn’t really add up to complete the experience.

The best part of the entire debacle was the documentary on the extra DVD, “The Men Without Fear”. It interviews a slew of DD creators about the character, including, Stan Lee, Gene Colan, John Romita, Miller, Smith, Quesada, Bendis, and Mack. It’s a wonderful insight and easily worth the few dollars you’d have to shell out to get the flick on eBay these days.

Daredevil – The Reboot

The main news of the Fox planned Daredevil reboot flick is that they apparently have hired a writer in David Scarpa. His only notable words previously being the relatively well reviewed Robert Redford flick, The Last Castle, and the widely panned remake, The Day The Earth Stood Still. There’s seven years between each flick and Scarpa doesn’t seem to have done anything else, nor working on anything else new.

I’ll withhold judgement on Scarpa’s addition to the project because he could surprise me. Jon Favreau wasn’t the obvious choice to direct Iron Man and yet he excelled, and Sam Raimi was a cult favourite but otherwise on the peripherals when he got Spider-Man. I won’t rage, fanboy-style, just yet. That would be a little silly.

The fact there is no other news, yet, is frustrating but it gives me the chance to set up what I would like to see in a possible Daredevil reboot. I’ve firmly believed that the character needs to be given another chance, and if done well could be an excellent flick. Here’s what I’d like to see, and remember, this is all pure speculation.

Plot Possibilities

It’s a reboot, that’s cool, but I hope they stay away from the Elektra Saga again. It’s been done, at least try something different. Batman Begins didn’t roll out the Joker again, so Daredevil 2.0 should try something different.

There are many Daredevil stories to use, but would they all translate to film? Some of the greatest stories are not cinematic, it’s a shame, but the big screen isn’t ready to deal with Days of Future Past yet, and it barely contained Watchmen. So which DD stories would work best on the silver screen?

Born Again - this story is generally considered the greatest Daredevil story, written by Frank Miller, art by David Mazzuchelli, everyone loves it. It shows a washed up Karen Page selling Daredevil’s secret, blind, identity to the Kingpin. Wilson Fisk then uses this information to crush Murdock’s life. The plan works until Murdock finds the will to fight back. It’s a good story, no doubt, but I don’t think it would work so well in a film. You need to know a lot of history to tell the tale, like Karen Page’s rise and steep descent, the rivalry between the Kingpin and Daredevil, and I really do not think that Nuke would work well at all. He always fell a little flat with me. It’s a good tale, and could be adapted, but I wouldn’t go for it.

Guardian Devil - the Kevin Smith penned run, which regards a child that is the second coming and is suddenly put into the care of Matt Murdock, is a very interesting tale. It features Karen Page and Bullseye and plenty of great moments, but with Mysterio as the main villain it probably won’t be chosen. ‘Nuff said.

Bendis Era - this is magnificent as a whole, with the press outing of Daredevil’s true identity, a few tangential arcs featuring old villains and a strange baby demon, all culminating in The Murdock Papers. This run puts Murdock through the ringer as he constantly dodges the truth of who he is, and also takes time to handle Leland Owsley, Jigsaw, ninjas, and his ex, Typhoid Mary, all while getting married to new flame, Milla Donovan. It’s grand, and we all certainly loved it, mostly, but I could not pick one aspect that should be adapted to the screen. I'd steal his overall vibe, the dialogue and the Maleev visuals, but I wouldn't just steal one of his scripts completely.

Brubaker Era - this is even more continuity heavy with Murdock in jail due to the Bendis run, upon release he jets to Europe, becomes entangled with Vanessa Fisk, is played like a fiddle by Mr Fear, and a legacy character leads Murdock back into the Hand. It’s all a bit end game to base a reboot on, though I'd take elements of the Fear storyline and seed for future use.

Going back there are other interesting stories but nothing that screams to be made directly into a film. And so I think there should be no one Daredevil story scripted, shot, and chopped. David Scarpa should look to take a quality Daredevil villain and craft a new tale with hints to the old works but ultimately it should stand alone. If he’s reading this, here’s one idea.

My Daredevil Plot

Zebediah Killgrave is a Croatian spy who, on one mission at a chemical factory owned by a shadowy and ominous figure, is doused with a chemical that alters him. Not only does it give his entire personage a purple appearance, but it gives him the ability to affect others with his pheromones. He can make people do whatever he wants, and what he wants has been shown to be some sick and twisted business. He becomes a pleasure maniac, and a sadist, and as a movie villain could be an interesting role that offers depth and villainy for the purest reason, old school pleasure.

The Purple Man should come to America to experience the greatest of all pleasures, American life. He's a known figure in the world but no one seems to know exactly how deep his evil runs. Those who ever meet him walk away not exactly sure of what happened, and they never want to talk about it, no matter what happened to them. Killgrave gains attention in NYC but not complete illegal status. Then he is tracked down by an associate from the old country, William Taurens.

Taurens was a travelling Russian peasant in a sideshow. With a strange birth defect he resembled, to a degree, a Man-Bull, and the circus slowly added to his appearance over time, nose-ring, shaggy hair, etc. At his height he believed he was really part bull and eventually killed his troop after Killgrave spent a night with them all to enjoy the delights of the acrobatic Siamese twins and such. Taurens tracks Killgrave down to America and wants his help. Taurens wants to be normal again.

Killgrave acquiesces and gets Taurens the requisite surgery to fix his appearance but he is still unhinged. In his mind he still sees a freak. He’s angry at the world and eventually murders someone. Thus, Daredevil finally has a chance to move in. From there, as they say, hilarity ensues.

On the peripherals of all this, the mysterious chemical magnate should be slowly putting pieces together on the board for a much larger plan. Something that could even pay off in a further film.

Daredevil works best as a character steeped in pulpy noir. The crime he fights should be dark, the movie itself shouldn’t aim for the little teens but rather the later ages that can appreciate a dark tale. This is how Daredevil should be approached.

Casting

David Wenham as Matt Murdock/Daredevil

The Australian actor has played ripped in 300, so he could easily cover that part, and he’s played opposite scenery chewers like Viggo Mortensen in The Lord of the Rings and Johnny Depp in Public Enemies and held his own. He’s a great actor and if anyone has checked out his Aussie roles, especially in The Proposition and his Murray Whelan flicks, Stiff and The Brush-Off, then you should know he has the chops to carry the role of Murdock very well. He looks the part and I feel would add the right age to the role, as he is meant to be a lawyer he should be older than Peter Parker. This to me seems better than throwing some Affleck-style marquee filler who isn’t really the role.

On Twitter, Andy Diggle asked his followers who they thought should fill the red horns and many seemed to think that Michael C. Hall (Dexter) would be a good choice. I’m not convinced but it would be better than worse. At least he’s a good actor. And has a good range.

Bradley Cooper as Zebediah Killgrave

The character is slowly descending into madness, absolute power has corrupted absolutely. He loves himself more than anything and he lives a high lifestyle. He’s not quite the Joker, but he isn’t quite far off either. Bradley Cooper has the ability to be a very interesting character actor, when given the chance, and from his previous credits he’s shown he doesn’t mind taking chances. He’s got the looks to make Killgrave alluring, and he’d also bring the ability to charm the audience and then turn it all upside down with one wicked act. Purple Man might be better suited to becoming a US born character, perhaps an international spy who has gone through many countries, but I’d figure out if the actor could nail the role as is first.

Josh Holloway as William Taurens

The role of Man-Bull could easily become quite tacky if not scripted really well. You want to see a paranoid and psychotic man who looks fine on the outside but still sees a disfigured monster on the inside. He can’t stand mirrors, he can’t be alone. This is a chance to update a villain and make him interesting and relevant again. Holloway is going to need to separate himself from LOST quickly, and this part could do that for him. He’s a good actor, and he can go from sweet into a frowning rage in seconds. I’d be willing to give him a go, plus his size is an added benefit as you would believe him capable of doing some damage with his bare hands.

Rachel McAdams as Karen Page

She’s the first girl you should start a Daredevil movie with. She’s the secretary, she’s blonde, she’s cute. Elizabeth Banks already sang the perfect tune for the Betty Brant character over in Spidey so Rachel McAdams would be great for this role. The girl can act and she’d be able to salt in subtle hints that Page has a different side to her, and there will be more concerned with her in the future. The only down side is she turned down the role of Pepper Potts, though I’d consider a well-written Karen Page to be much more interesting, and plot involved, than Pepper.

Jack Black as Foggy Nelson 

Foggy’s the perfect straight guy, he’s the guy who’ll work late to cover you while you go chase girls, or bust up crime rings. Paul Giamatti could have once done this greatly and Jon Favreau was actually really good and I’d hugely consider using him if at all possible, but in lieu I’d jump at Jack Black pulling duties as funny and emotional all at once. He’s proven he can act, King Kong anyone, and he’s got the look for sure. This would make my day. Foggy's a character that doesn't always do the most, but you would need to get him just right, that's for sure.

Liev Schreiber as Mr  Fear

Mr Fear should be a fearful character and, much as he was written by Brubaker, I'd play him as a man to watch at all times. He'd be sadistic, yet business-like in his cruelty. It's all a business to him. He has his goals.  Considering you're setting him as up a foil to The Man Without Fear, it's great to use him as a juxtaposition. Liev Schreiber is an amazing actor, and even made Sabretooth look good as a meaty character role, and when he needs to he can chew the scenery with just a glare. He's make Mr Fear a villain to be remembered, and remembered for all of those scary reasons that keep us up at night.

Cameos

Any good Marvel flick has some cameos so why not throw Stan Lee as a pro bono client in the offices of Nelson and Murdock? Maybe have a new intern start, a Miss Blake in a wheelchair, because Murdock doesn’t shy away from hiring those with other abilities. And at the end, have a certain character hit the target in the centre and reveal Jason Statham.

Directed by David Fincher
Because a man can dream, can’t he? Or, much like Sam Raimi, you could pluck Don Coscarelli from very well directed and inventive horror obscurity and throw a stack of cash at him. See what comes out the other side…

Conclusion

At the moment we only have a writer and some intentions for Daredevil, that’s all. Who knows what will happen from here though with an arachnid reboot, a man of iron coming soon, a first avenger heralding the way for the others, an Asgardian god, not to mention a constant want of a third cowled crusader, I’d place relatively good odds on this going ahead. Let’s just hope the odds are as positive for it actually being a decent flick as well.

What do you think? Is a reboot of Daredevil pointless? Are you excited at the news? Who would you cast in the eponymous horns?


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19 comments:

Henry said...

This is all being done just so Fox can keep the rights to the property, much like the Spidey reboot. We'll be lucky to get a faithful (or better yet, good) movie out of it, but odds are Fox will accept whatever slapped together crap a team can put together just to keep from losing the rights to the character to a rival company.

Matt Ampersand said...

Jack Black as Foggy Nelson? I'll take three tickets to see this movie, please!

Black Ice said...

Jason Statham = Bullseye

That's like the opposite of the Anti-Life Equation.

Bill said...

There was a rumor a while back when Frank Miller still had Hollywood cred that he wanted to make a Daredevil movie with the Stath as Murdock. Which, and I love Statham, would have been a disaster.

Anyway, I'll take Timothy Olyphant as Matt, Patton Oswalt as Foggy, Luis Guzman as Turk, Paul Giamatti as the Owl (if he's not prohibited from appearing by the X-Men license), and... someone as Karen Page. I have no idea who.

I'd prefer not to try Born Again. You can't have the Avengers show up at the end, and Nuke would be hard to do in the 2010s without some unintentional comedy.

If it weren't for Iron Man, I'd suggest a riff on Bendis' run, starting off with the Daily Globe outing him. But since Iron Man 2 will likely be already dealing with a public unmasking, I dunno. I might skip a lot of the well-known mythology and just do a very generic Daredevil story. A guy hires him to be his lawyer, he uses his powers to help his client, there's some swashbuckling, etc, and end it with a tease for... the Hand, the Kingpin, Born Again, or Bendis' run.

Radlum said...

Daredevil is my favorite Marvel character and I hate that he got a mediocre movie, but now that Fox is making a movie just to keep the license and get a small profit I feel even more annoyed. If you don't care about the character or the plot, then don't make a movie out of a comic book. Anyway, your casting and plot ideas were interesting, though I think maybe Man Without Fear would work better for a reboot (as Year One was sort of an inspiration for Batman Begins) and then Born Again for the sequel after the plot and characters have already been introduced.
By the way, Fincher is a great director, I would love to see him in a Daredevil movie, it's a shame that it will never happen.

btownlegend said...

Just like the ending in the Watchmen, a Born Again would be awesome with the right tweaking.

PMMJ said...

Actually, my favorite part of the 2003 movie was the final figh with the Kingpin. Because Michael Clarke Duncan was fantastic. I was also pleased with Joe Pantoliano as Urich, even if they didn't give him enough to work with.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I hold hope that just because Fox doesn't care about the character they can at least find some people who do. That seems realistic to occur, possible, if not always probable.

I'd rather not watch Murdock's entire origin again in the next flick, try to just jump in, maybe some flashbacks, but not at the start in the usual manner.

I just don't believe that most comic stories can be directly adapted to the screen, they are different mediums. I'd rather, like Batman Begins, they just take elements but craft their own beast.

Born again is a great story, but I'd save it for down the line, to be honest. If I did it at all.

@Bill - yeah it was a con and Miller had said he'd love Statham as Murdock, I agree that would be disastrous, but as our keen eyed Lester he could very well be awesome.

Anonymous said...

What a great article Ryan, It makes me so mad that they are only doing it for petty reasons, yet I hold out hope-and as long as Ben Affleck doesn't touch it (or even look at it sideways) maybe we are in with a chance!

Kirk Warren said...

I'd like to point out that while, yes, Fox is doing this to retain copyrights, it's not like any other studio makes their super hero, summer popcorn flicks without the goal of making money. Dark Knight, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc are all beign made with money in mind. Making a good story and attracting high profile actors or procuring a good script are only means towards that money. I wouldn't really hold it against Fox or state the movie will suck just because they are making it to retain rights since, well, they actually want to make money with it - just like everyone else.

As for the first movie, if you haven't, you should give the director's cut a rent. I think you'll be surprised at just how drastic a change in tone and quality it is compared to the theatrical version. It's not A-list or top of its class, but it's a significant improvement over the film most saw and dismissed.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic casting ideas!!!!!

Wenham is gold dust!!!

I'm surprised you didn't have that bird from LOST!?!?!? Evangiline Lilly?

What about Danny DeVito as Kingpin?? Really shake it up!!! Be ironic!

Anonymous said...

Liev Schreiber looks scarrily arrucate like Mr. Fear.

Gloria said...

Jack Black as Foggy Nelson is an inspired choice! Still, I think that Tyler Labine could also be a fine Foggy... And he's not yet as known as Black, which could be an advantage, character-wise.

Michael Edwards said...

I agree with the poster who gave the idea of doing what Batman Begins did. The director and writer should take inspiration from poignant DD stories, and create their own beast. Not try to translate the DD stories to screen.

Anonymous said...

If they decide to use Purple Man, they should either change his name or not make him Croatian. I'm from Croatia and, trust me, Zebadiah Killgrave is NOT a Croatian name.

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