It has been a long road for the superhero genre. The genre found blockbuster success with Superman in the 1978 and Batman in 1989, but didn't begin to get consistent mainstream attention until the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises raised the bar in the early 2000s. However, before there could be The Dark Knight trilogy or the Marvel cinematic universe, there had to be failed projects as well.
In 2003, Fox Studios was looking to build on the success of their burgeoning X-Men franchise and released Daredevil. A PG-13 adaptation of the Marvel Comics' character who is blind lawyer by day and vigilante for justice by night, it featured a cast of notable actors; including, Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, and Jon Favreau, among others. While the movie had an impressive $40 million dollar opening and went on to gross over $100 million dollars, it had a lackluster reception with both critics and fans.
At Wizard World in Pittsburgh, actors Charlie Cox and Elden Henson made an appearance to talk about their roles as Murdock and Foggy Nelson in Netflix's hit series, Marvel's Daredevil. They were asked their opinion on the 2003 film and Cox had an interesting response (per Screen Geek):
"I actually really, really liked the film and thought Ben Affleck did a really good job. I think the film is tonally a bit confused [but] I actually really enjoyed it. I think that if you make Spider-Man, and I don’t know much about the other characters to be honest, but if you make Spider-man, for example, you can make a movie for kids and adults and it can have that kind of humor because I think it’s true to the characters for the most part. Daredevil needs to be on a platform like Netflix because the source material is so dark and so complicated and so sinister at times. I think what benefited us so much was that Netflix wanted to make the show with Marvel and we were able to embrace those darker tones.”
Daredevil currently sits at 44% on Rotten Tomatoes and while it certainly isn't remembered as a classic, it doesn't dwell with Batman and Robin and Catwoman in cinematic infamy. (Although its spin-off Elektra might be a contender.) However, Cox manages to nail what is probably the film's biggest issue: tone. The movie features Murdock sleeping in a coffin-like sensory deprivation chamber, dance-fu sequences on playgrounds, and campy killer assassins, yet it never forms a cohesive and believable world. At times the movie felt like it wanted to be Spider-Man and other times it wanted to be Batman.
Cox isn't the only apologist for the original Daredevil. His on-screen sidekick, Elden Henson, also offered his thoughts:
“Just so everyone knows out there – it’s not easy to make a movie. It’s really hard. No one sets out to make a bad movie or disappoint anybody. I think they were [just] making these types of superhero things in a much different way back then.”
Daredevil is perfectly suited for long-form storytelling, which explains its success on Netflix. Murdock's day job as a lawyer fits into the popular procedural aspects of primetime TV, while the source material is extremely layered and designed for a mature audience. Being afforded 13 hours to tell Daredevil's story gives the plot lines room to breathe and a solid opportunity for the audience to become invested in the characters.
Henson's comments ring true for filmmaking in general and really gives a sense of perspective to the superhero genre as a whole. The genre has come a long ways in the past decade - and it will be interesting to see where it goes next.
Daredevil seasons 1 and 2, Jessica Jones season 1, and Luke Cage season 1 are now available on Netflix. Iron Fist will premiere on March 17, 2017. The Defenders and The Punisher will arrive in 2017. Premiere dates for the newest seasons of Jessica Jones and Daredevil have not yet been announced.
Source: Screen Geek