The journey of Marvel’s Daredevil to Netflix was not exactly a straightforward route. Initially, 20th Century Fox attempted a last-ditch effort to retain the rights to the Marvel Comics character by enlisting Joe Carnahan to write and direct a feature film adaptation. Carnahan’s take was a 70s-set, Serpico-style retro spin on the superhero genre, but ultimately the time crunch proved impossible and the rights reverted back to Marvel. Much speculation arose at the time regarding just how Marvel might be using the character—would he join The Avengers? Who would direct the movie?—but ultimately, Marvel opted to use Daredevil as a way to jump start a series of interconnected superhero stories on Netflix, giving the Man Without Fear the longform storytelling treatment.
As you may or may not know, The Cabin in the Woods helmer and The Martian screenwriter Drew Goddard was involved with Marvel’s Daredevil from the beginning, creating the series and scripting the first two episodes before leaving to direct Sony’s now-defunct Sinister Six movie. However, in a recent interview with IGN, Goddard reveals that Marvel wasn’t always intending to resurrect Daredevil on the small screen:
“I went into Marvel and talked to them about making [Daredevil] as a movie a couple of years ago, long after the Affleck movie. But what we all sort of realised is that, this movie doesn’t want to cost $200 million. The thing about Matt Murdock is, he’s not saving the world. He’s just keeping his corner clean. So it would feel wrong to have spaceships crashing in the middle of the city. But because of that, Marvel on the movie side is not in the business of making $25 million movies. They’re going big, as they should.”
So the fix was to give Daredevil the Netflix treatment, and it turns out it was actually a really swell fit—the show is currently in production on its second season, which is bringing The Punisher into the fold. Goddard says the appeal wasn’t only in telling smaller-scale stories, but also ones that were a bit grittier than what Marvel is tackling on the big screen:
“It felt that we’d have more freedom to make it on the small screen and make it more adult. Look, if we took the Netflix [show] and put it in theatres, it’s rated R. And they’re not doing R-rated movies. And we also got to really explore the character. I feel like Netflix was the best possible home for that, otherwise you’d end up with a watered down version.”
Now I’m not entirely sure I’d qualify the Daredevil series as R-rated material—as we know, the MPAA is totally cool with gratuitous violence as long as no one’s talking about sex—but Goddard is right in asserting that this particular tone is not something that Marvel would’ve been eager to tackle on the big screen. That’s what makes Marvel Studios such a formidable force. They’re able to tell a wide range of stories across multiple mediums while still maintaining a semblance of cohesiveness within the Marvel Universe. You know, like a comic book.