Up until last year, 20th Century Fox had been for the better part of the past decade at the receiving end of an unstoppable volley of vitriol over the increasingly shoddy cinematic treatment the studio gave to their three vaunted Marvel Comics properties: Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and Daredevil. Then last summer they released the Matthew Vaughn-directed X-Men: First Class, which earned critical praise and a worldwide gross of more than $350 million – not a bad total considering the movie’s lack of bankable names (unless you count Kevin Bacon) and a coherent marketing strategy. First Class clearly proved that the studio was prepared to follow the example of Marvel Studios in how they develop and execute their superhero blockbusters, attaching talented writers and directors to make the features and making casting decisions not based primarily on demographic appeal.
In addition to the now in-production The Wolverine, Fox has a First Class sequel going before the cameras next year for a summer 2014 release that will be based on the popular and influential Days of Future Past from the original Uncanny X-Men comic series, as well as a reboot of The Fantastic Four happening with Josh Trank, who made his directing debut with this year’s wonderful found-footage superhero movie Chronicle, calling the shots behind the camera. The studio has been attempting to get a new Daredevil movie off the ground for a while now, but long-attached director David Slade (30 Days of Night) departed the project last month. This does not bode well for Fox as their option on the Daredevil character expires on October 10 of this year unless cameras are rolling on the new movie by then.
The latest director to enter talks for the Daredevil reboot is Joe Carnahan, the fearless filmmaker who specializes in intense action dramas like Narc and most recently The Grey. He also directed the 2010 feature film version of the beloved 1980’s action series The A-Team for Fox and despite that flick’s failure to rake in the bucks and launch a new franchise, Carnahan has maintained a good relationship with the studio. Sources at Fox confirm that he is now their number one choice to take on the dark superhero film which Carnahan pitched to the executives as a “Frank Miller-esque, hardcore 70s thriller,” something that sounds right up the prolific filmmaker’s alley if you’ve ever seen his past directorial output.
For the moment all that we know is that Carnahan is in talks to direct. Fox wants to do right by the character of Daredevil, sensing major potential in the property that the 2003 film based on the comics failed to capitalize on, but their rights will revert back to Marvel if a new movie isn’t in production by October 10. Thus the studio has entered talks with Marvel hoping to renegotiate the terms of their Daredevil rights agreement, and in order to secure more time to make the reboot they desire, 20th Century Fox is prepared to hand over to the comics and film giant the characters of Galactus and the Silver Surfer – two key characters from the Fantastic Four universe that the studio has owned ever since they bought the movie rights to Marvel’s First Family in the early 1990’s – so that Marvel can employ them in their own future movie endeavors. Galactus, a planet-devouring cosmic villain who is one of the most iconic baddies in the Marvel Universe, and his star-spanning herald the Silver Surfer both appeared in the poorly-received 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Most of the harshest criticisms about the movie were aimed squarely at the filmmakers’ depiction of Galactus – long portrayed in the comics as a gigantic humanoid being with a pronged helmet – as a faceless cloud.
If Marvel takes the bait, both sides win in a sense: Marvel Films gets to feature Galactus and the Surfer in one of their forthcoming cosmic event epics and Fox gets to keep the rights to Daredevil a little longer. The only question remains is how this will bode for Josh Trank’s own Fantastic Four reboot. There are plenty of worthy adversaries for Reed Richards and company to square off with on the big screen. The shape-shifting alien race the Skrulls are one of the potential candidates. Plus it wouldn’t hurt to see their main nemesis Doctor Doom finally realized in the manner the character deserves, because in the two movies directed by Tim Story in 2005 and 2007 respectively the villain was such an ineffectual and whiny putz the real Doom could crush like a bug.
But should Marvel not jump at the opportunity to retake possession of Galactus and the Silver Surfer, perhaps to make their own Surfer movie down the time, there is always the potential for the two studios to share in the wealth via a co-financing deal on the Daredevil reboot. Talks are expected to resume later this week.