There has been a bunch of debate regarding the aesthetic similarities of comic book movies occurring online lately. Just the other day, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a rather lengthy piece dissecting his problems with superhero films, decrying their lack of individuality while highlighting how most feel simply like marketing for the next movie in the franchise instead of self-contained, meaningful narratives (for the best example of the latter, see The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Even I spilled a ton of words dissecting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, coming to the conclusion that the assembly-line production model and lack of auteurist mindset prevent even the best movies in the sub-genre from establishing unique identities.
Unfortunately, one of the auteurs who was left behind by a studio after proposing a bold vision be applied to an established property was Joe Carnahan (The Grey), whose Death Wish-style take on the Daredevil series sounded truly magnificent. And his most recent comments regarding his scrapped proposal for the character are enough to make any true cinephile cry, as it sounds like one of the coolest comic book trilogies ever envisioned.
For those with short memories — after refusing to trade Fantastic Four characters Silver Surfer and Galactus to Marvel, Twentieth Century Fox had to let the rights to Daredevil revert back in 2012 (thus resulting in the upcoming Drew Godard-helmed Netflix series). But just before the studio turned the franchise over, Carnahan was attached to direct a reboot, and had even put together a rather stunning sizzle reel, highlighting the tone he was going for with the picture (while also featuring footage and dialogue from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Walter Hill’s The Warriors and Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables). Speaking with MoviePilot, the notoriously frank director had this to say about his proposed “trilogy” for the Man Without Fear:
“What people don’t realize about the DD project is that the producers of the film got to me very late. They had a script that I read and I thought that, while the action was wonderful, the story didn’t really have any additional bite. There was nothing I suggested a trilogy as follows. ‘Daredevil ‘73’ ‘Daredevil ‘79’ and ‘Daredevil ‘85’ where I was going to do a kind of ‘cultural libretto’ and make the music of those eras a kind of thematic arc . So the first one would be Classic Rock, the second one would be Punk Rock and the third film would be ‘New Wave.’ The problem was, the option was almost set to lapse so we made an eleventh hour bid to Marvel to retain the rights for a bit longer so I could rework the script. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. Marvel wanted the rights back. I don’t blame them.”
Holy shit. That sounds positively amazing. Though it’s also easy to see why a studio would balk at such an idea. Rooting the Daredevil series in antiquated cinematic aesthetics would’ve been a huge gamble, but could’ve also paid off big time (“New Hollywood Daredevil” is just burning my brain down right now). Plus — can you imagine how kick-ass those soundtracks would’ve been?
Carnahan went on to give something of a pseudo-update on Nemesis, but wasn’t exactly clear as to whether or not we’ll see the ultraviolent Mark Millar/Steve McNiven comic be brought to the big screen anytime soon:
“I think the biggest challenge with Nemesis is that it’s just a motherfucker of screenplay in that it pushes a lot of buttons and does things that both expand and violate the traditional mores of the ‘comic book adaptation’ and that’s a scary conceit when The Dark Knight is considered the socio-political lynchpin of that particular universe. I think Nemesis fucks with the genre in such a thumb-in-the-eye fashion that it might simply be something for another time and place. It’s incredibly topical and remains infuriatingly so. I chalk it up to another really wonderful script that my brother and I wrote that simply may be too smart-assed for its own good. My brother and I took our real inspiration from Nemesis in the fact that only one character, the bad guy, wore a costume. From their it deviates from the source material in a number of ways but what remains alive and well is Millar’s simmering disdain for the status quo and the relentless violence that characterizes the graphic novel.”
So while it sounds like the screenplay is finished, it seems as if there’s no chance of actually getting to see Carnahan’s superhero vision in the near future, which is a shame, as he could probably help lift the sub-genre out of its stale, plastic funk and provide movie-goers with some out-and-out cinema to enjoy.