On the ‘Daredevil’ Not-Quite-Reboot

Posted: March 17, 2011 in comic books, Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m not against rebooting a franchise. I’m not even above rebooting it multiple times, because it means ideally they learned something along the way. Incredible Hulk is a better movie than Hulk, and I’ll bet you Avengers will have a better handle on the character than Incredible Hulk.

And I’ll bet someone could chop up all three Punisher movies and make them into something that’s actually pretty awesome (if, y’know, the lead character’s face changing in every scene might be a little surreal).

Which is why saying the Daredevil sequel won’t be a straight reboot, but will just not so much mention the previous movie, is a little surprising, in an era when it’s easier just to start over.

I’m on record as saying that Daredevil is not…that bad. I mean, certainly it’s not good, no, I can’t make that case. When you watch a movie starring a lawyer and you can’t figure out whether he’s prosecution or defense, we can safely call this one Flawed. 

I do maintain that there simply wasn’t a single way to make the Elektra Saga without fully succumbing to the bombastic Viking opera Frank Miller was doing. Not in one movie, at least, and certainly not in one with a theatrical cut of about 95 minutes. And Miller really was doing a capital-S SAGA, an escalating story with increasingly personal stakes for the hero and a tragic finale.

Unlike, say, the Avengers Korvac Saga, which was just a bunch of unconnected stuff happening for 10 issues before the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes took a bus out to Queens to dogpile on a guy with godlike power. For instance. (If you’ve never read it…you really don’t have to.)

But overall, I think it gets more right than it gets wrong – Matt’s general mopiness (though inadvertently breaking a guy’s back and leaving him to be run over by a train was maaaybe a little too far in this direction), his relationship with Foggy, Ben Urich’s presence, and hell, the costume was at least a logical (if not aesthetically elegant) answer to the question “How do you translate a bright red unitard into a believable live-action costume for an urban vigilante?”

All this is neither here nor there, since the new kinda-sequel will apparently not ignore the first movie, but won’t follow up on it, either. That’s just fine, too – except it does put a damper on the second part of this news: reports that director David Slade’s looking to adapt (in some fashion) Miller’s Born Again story.

And for many of the same reasons the Elektra Saga didn’t work, Born Again just can’t be a movie.

The entire POINT of Born Again is the history that birthed it. It’s watching a long-standing grudge match between Daredevil and Kingpin – which has been going on for years and years – finally escalate into full-bore destruction. That Daredevil’s betrayed by his ex-girlfriend for a hit of heroin – and that Matt is able to reclaim himself by offering help, not scorn – is a major plot point that only really works because readers already knew who Karen Page was.

And then there’s the ending, which is basically the finale for the character (or at least Miller’s version). It might actually make for a decent movie ending too, except that it doesn’t LAND in the same way as watching Matt give up parts of his life he spent decades trying to make work, and realize he’s capable of happiness.

But as the franchise stands: 1) The Kingpin already knows Daredevil’s identity, but is already in jail, so the major first-act twist is lost; 2) Karen Page would have to be introduced as a new character – or via flashbacks, which…don’t, so her betrayal has zero emotional impact in a story that is 150% emotional impact; and 3) the resolution is that Matt leaves behind the old life that the audience didn’t know was so detrimental to him.

The alternative is an actual hard reboot, which means reintroducing the Kingpin, and the grudge match, and yes that might even mean bringing Bullseye and Elektra back into the fold. And unless this is a damned Lord of the Rings three-movie epic, there’s a huge risk of it being even worse than the last one.

So, while every director likes to namecheck a particular story as the basis for a script so the core audience will feel appeased, I think it’s time to knock that off and point out that grabbing what works from all eras makes a stronger movie. In other words: Batman Begins is layered and involving and (paved the way for Dark Knight) specifically because it didn’t limit itself to telling the Miller Year One story.

All that said, what should the movie be cherrypicking?

Off the top of my head…


Typhoid Mary – maybe working for The Owl, since Kingpin’s off-limits.

Matt having to defend a villain who he knows is innocent of the crime of which he’s committed, and Nina Sharpe’s slick corporate firm as a counterpoint to Matt and Foggy’s dinky little operation.

And to borrow from Bendis…well, here’s the thing. As far as cliffhangers go, there’s pretty much nothing better than Matt just flat-out beating the shit out of Kingpin, throwing his carcass into the window of a low-life bar, and ragingly declaring himself the new King of Hell’s Kitchen. A variation on that certainly would make for an interesting sequel lead-in. Just a thought.

I have no idea how any of this might fit – but god knows it’s enough for at least two movies without having to resort to a weak adaptation of one Frank Miller story (where, I might add, Matt Murdock is out of costume for the vast majority of it – though that would solve the whole costume issue).

Hmm. The costume. OK, obviously you want to get away from the biker-gear of the first one, into something you could more logically do gymnasticky stuff in. But you also have to acknowledge it has to at least pay lip service to it being protective, too.

I hate to say it, but…

There’s gotta be something in here they could use. (Oh, the 90’s. You were just too much.)

  1. braak says:

    I think the problem is actually the leather aspect of the biker gear. If it were real biker gear–like the kind of armor that you wear if you’re a BMX biker, for instance, I don’t think that would be so bad. That stuff is designed to balance protection and movement range. Unlike leather, which is also hot.

    Also, I don’t think it’s possible for Matt Murdock to ever be in a position in which he has to defend someone that he knows is guilty, since he’s not a state-appointed defense attorney. He’s a private defense attorney, which means he can turn down clients he doesn’t like.

    The only way for it to work would be if he defended a client he *didn’t* know was guilty, which is hard because who in the world can lie to Daredevil?

    Well, Typhoid Mary, I guess.

  2. braak says:

    Also, dang, can you see her nipple in that picture?

  3. braak says:

    I actually like this idea. Especially if Typhoid Mary is on her “killing men who are abusive” kick. Because then she’s doing basically the same thing that Daredevil is, right? If he has to defend her for basically just being a more hardcore vigilante than he is? Hmmm.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    The idea behind the defense thing was in Karl Kesel’s run, where Mr. Hyde was arrested for killing a little girl, and requested Matt as an attorney for…some reason (maybe they were working for Nina Sharpe at the time? I don’t remember).

    Anyway, Matt’s all, “Go screw,” but then listens to Hyde’s pulse and realizes as scummy as the guy is, he still deserves a legitimate defense, and signs on.

    And yes, upon closer examination, that is a bit of a nipple. Classy, Alex Maleev.

  5. braak says:

    Honestly, that doesn’t make any god-damn sense. If you believe in the legitimacy of the legal system no matter what, then you don’t also dress up like a demon and go out at night to kick the shit out of muggers.

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    Well, like so many things in this life, I would advise you to take that up with Mr. Stan Lee.

  7. Tony Hagopian says:

    Where does this say it will be a sequel and not a reboot? The Elektra movie itself isn’t even in continuity with the Affleck movie either. The new DD movie will be a reboot.

    The Twilight director is a horrible choice to make this and I have a feeling they will try to cater to the same group of horny female groupies that have a thing for young tween male vampires. Have you ever read Ultimate Daredevil/Elektra comic? The movie could more or less be loosely based on the comic for these modern moviegoing crowds.

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