It was big news yesterday when it was all but confirmed that the film rights to Daredevil were going back to Marvel/Disney after 20th Century Fox was unable to get a movie into development in time. Now obviously, Marvel isn’t going to let such prime material stay dormant for long, and with a big, wide cinematic universe shaping up, they need someone street-level, and streetwise, to make the everyday criminals run and hide. A Man Without Fear, perhaps?
Let’s start with the obvious. Say goodbye to the 70s vibe. (See the “sizzle steak,” I mean “sizzle reel” below.) Although the flavor Joe Carnahan is offering smells very good, Marvel’s not going to set the Daredevil movie 40 years prior to where the rest of their characters are. So although it would be awesome to see Daredevil fight The Baseball Furries (or wherever that was going), I doubt that’s now going to happen. So let’s enjoy it one more time:
So it will be a modern day Daredevil. What else? Well, let’s consider Daredevil’s origins. Matt Murdock was a kid born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. He was blinded in a toxic waste spill which also heightened his senses to superhuman levels. His father Jack, a boxer, was killed by the mob for refusing to throw a fight, which prompted young Matt to dedicate his life to getting revenge on all crime, Batman-style.
Of course, in the 1960s, when Daredevil was created, Hell’s Kitchen was almost like a mini-Gotham City in the west side of New York, crime-riddled with lots of shady characters and entire streets made up of nothing but liquor stores, porn dealers, strip clubs and dive bars. The rub, as the Bard would say, is that Hell’s Kitchen isn’t all that anymore. Since the 1980s, like other formally shady areas of Manhattan, Hell’s Kitchen has been gentrified. Today, the average cost of living in the area, which is between 34th Street and 59th Street south to north and from 8th Avenue to the Hudson River east to west, is above the city average. Hardly the place that needs an avenger (pun intended).
But what is immediately to the east of Hell’s Kitchen? Midtown Manhattan. And what happened in Midtown earlier this summer (in the movies anyway)? It was ground zero for the Chitauri invasion. Stark Tower is located at 200 Park Avenue at East 45th Street, which in real life is where the Metlife Building stands, at the heart of Midtown. And although the Avengers were successful in defeating the invading aliens, as some accountants noted later, the total damage would cost about $160 billion to repair. It would be a disaster bigger than 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and it would mean a lot of displaced people. Where would they go?
And what’s interesting too is that Marvel’s already leaning in this direction. Heard of Item 47? The short film coming out the Blu-ray release of The Avengers next month. It’s about a New York couple who go all “Bonnie and Clyde” when they find an alien laser gun in the aftermath of the invasion. Now a Daredevil movie couldn’t be that overt, but in the wake of a full scale alien invasion that’s bigger than the biggest terrorist attack and natural disaster, wouldn’t there be unscrupulous characters trying to take advantage? Wouldn’t they prey on the disadvantaged while the eyes of the authorities looked elsewhere? In the chaos, could one man seize his chance to consolidate all crime under his big thumb, a “Kingpin” let’s say?
You could keep Daredevil’s origin the same, his father’s murder could be the last gasp of arching criminality in an area growing past its dark roots. But in the wake of the events of The Avengers, the rise in crime, the influx of desperate people into Hell’s Kitchen, the rampant confusion and doubt on the street after being first-hand survivors of an alien attack, could New York use a Man Without Fear? I think it could.
And interestingly, there’s already a tie-in to creating a Daredevil movie in the existing Marvel Movie Universe in a roundabout way, because one of Matt Murdock’s romantic conquests over the years has been none other than Black Widow, personified by Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. Of course, I doubt expect the studio to commit Daredevil and Black Widow to a coupling right off the bat, but who’s to say you can’t set it up for the sequel? Perhaps a certain S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is dispatched to Hell’s Kitchen to investigate rumors of a masked vigilante.
And if that works out, maybe Daredevil’s lent a hand in the future by a powerful man from Harlem. Or a wealthy New Yorker with an iron fist. With Daredevil now under Disney’s roof there’s no plenty of room for new heroes to be hired.