Coming off of the one-two 2014 hits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios is poised for even bigger things in 2015. Next year will see the return of Earth's Mightiest Heroes with The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the potential launch of a whole new franchise with Ant-Man. On the television side, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns this Tuesday, Agent Carter premieres early in the year and a different "street-level" side of the MCU will be explored on Netflix, starting with Daredevil.
Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos has clued us in to the "gritty crime stories" the series will focus on, distancing Daredevil from the fantastical space adventures of Guardians and the more Earth-bound exploits of The Avengers and Captain America 2, and has explained how much darker the show will be than the 2003 film.
In order to drive that point home, Marvel's Head of Television Jeph Loeb recently spoke to Jonah Weiland of Comic Book Resources on KFI AM 640 out of Los Angeles and offered some insights about how Daredevil and the other Netflix shows will differ from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For instance, here's what Loeb had to say about Joss Whedon's 2012 The Avengers team-up:
"When I watched 'The Avengers,' which is really one of my favorite movies, during the scene when the sky opens up, the Chitauri are coming and there's a giant battle over by Grand Central Station, even in the theater I was thinking, 'In the true Marvel Universe if you go about ten blocks over and an avenue down, there's a place called Hell's Kitchen and in that world are characters like Daredevil and Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, and those characters are not going to be involved in an inter-warfare-universe-colliding incident.'"
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. initially seemed committed to exploring some of these corners of Marvel's universe, but the globe-trotting nature of the superhero-spy show - and its late-season shift in focus to the HYDRA takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. - means that series' priorities will remain locked on more big-picture events.
The same goes for Earth's Mightiest. Loeb went on to define the differences between Daredevil and the Avengers, saying:
"That's what the Avengers do and they do it really, really well and those movies are incredible. We wanted to have an opportunity to be able to tell stories about our street-level heroes and how that they could possibly interact in the world of Marvel without it feeling like it's completely detached and by the same token feeling like it's part of that world. And it's very much how it is in the comics, which is that Daredevil - yes, one could argue that at some point he's been an Avenger but hey, you know, the reality is that so has everybody else [laughs]. The idea is that this is the world of people who are there to protect the neighborhood and if you believe in the neighborhood the way you believe in the planet then the emotional context is just strong."
With the stakes of superhero movies becoming literally galactic in scale, narrowing the focus to more human stories will undoubtedly inject a whole new dimension into the genre in a way that mixing in different genres doesn't quite cover.
As for that eleven-year-old elephant in the room - the 2003 Daredevil film starring our new Batman Ben Affleck in the title role - Jeph Loeb was very direct on how this new take on the Man Without Fear will differ from writer-director Mark Steven Johnson's initial attempt:
"When we started talking to our actors and to our directors, this is with all due respect to the film, if you want to know what we're not doing, go watch the movie. If you want to know what we're doing, it's very much steeped in the world of the comics, but it also has a life of its own and that's really what television and our films really do is that we take the best....We hope and we're very confident that this is the beginning of something that's very exciting on Netflix."
You won't find someone like Christopher Nolan saying such things about, say, Tim Burton's original Batman movie, and as so many Daredevil fans will attest, there's a good reason for it. Hitting theaters between Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, that first go at Daredevil seemed to be trying for something gritty and grounded but came off as awkward and disjointed.
With the entire first season debuting all at once in May of 2015, to be followed by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist and their eventual team-up as the Defenders, Marvel indeed may have something very special in store. If Daredevil lives up to its promise, 2015 may see Marvel dominate television, film and the world of streaming content in a way no other studio can quite match. We'll find out for certain soon enough.
Daredevil premieres on Netflix in May 2015.