Wednesday, August 14, 2013

MIA in the MCU Part 3: The Marvel Knights

The MCU will continue to expand upon its roster of characters with every movie Marvel Studios produces.  With the core group of the Avengers established, Marvel has begun to show a willingness to involve new heroes in their movies by adding Falcon to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and even going Cosmic with Guardians of the Galaxy.  Mutant twins Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch will join the crow in Avengers: Age of Ultron. We also know that Ant-Man will kick off their Phase 3 plans and it is all but assured that Doctor Strange will follow shortly thereafter.  Despite the film rights to several of their big name heroes (Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer to name too many) at other studios, Marvel still has the ability to add some depth and flair to an already dynamic roster of big screen superheroes and many of the ones I will feature have had large roles in some of Marvel's legendary comic book arcs. Which ones do I think might deserve some love? Last up:

Marvel Knights: Daredevil, The Punisher, Luke Cage, Iron Fist

The corners of the MCU we've explored so far, while full of action and fighting, have been very tame and aimed towards attracting a wide-ranging audience which includes young children.  There are, however, plenty of guys in my demographic that would flock to the theaters for a little bit of R-rated violence done right OR that would tune in religiously to AMC/FOX/HBO etc. to see a series.  The Marvel Knights concept is made for this kind of demographic.

Marvel Knights is a great concept because the series explore all corners of the Marvel universe, typically in a limited series, a little differently than what we see in the mainstream comics.  The characters I listed above are by no means the only characters that fall under the umbrella of Marvel Knights, simply the ones that have compelling stories that would also fit into the rest of the MCU.  In almost all of these cases, Marvel could do some serious work, much how they are going to do with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and strategically place these characters either in their own TV series, in combo series, or sprinkled in the background of other movies before giving them their own solo flicks that might be a two and a half hour wrap-up of two or three seasons worth of exposition and rising action. Think X-Files or 24 films.  Readers...it can be done and Marvel is the place that can do it.

The rights to Daredevil were recently returned to Marvel Studios much to the delight of many fanboys who know that there are several great Hornhead stories that would make a great transition to the screen and the current Marvel Now series by Mark Waid (Daredevil by Mark Waid, Vol. 1) is one of the best books available...PERIOD.  The question, in my mind, is are those stories best done as a movie or in a series.  The fact that Matt Murdock is a lawyer by day/butt-kicker by night played well enough in the Ben Affleck Daredevil, before this Golden Age of CBMs, but would a Dexter-esque series play even better to audiences?

A Daredevil series gives time to characterize Murdock and build a world around him without having to to throw the Kingpin out there in 2-hours.  Maybe it works better in serial form to build up, to see the Kingpin is there, to watch Matt Murdock go after him AND to see Daredevil go after him but to also see some court room drama, which TV audiences love, and some R-rated violence, which TV audiences love that don't have to do with the Kingpin.  Time will tell but you know that Daredevil, one of Marvel's oldest and still most popular comic characters, will be added to the MCU eventually.

One cannot exactly say that Frank Castle hasn't had a chance to succeed on film and many would argue that he hasn't exactly failed either.  Personally, the Thomas Jane Punisher ($4.99 for the Extended Cut on Amazon, really? The Punisher (Extended Cut) ) film got me through a lot of angry nights and I love the film, not as a cinematic masterpiece, but just for what it is.  The Dolph version was entirely lost on me and the latest attempt, Punisher: War Zone, seemed to be on the right track but was eventually derailed by poor story telling and a relatively lame villain, though I was ok with Ray Stevenson's turn as Castle.

The Punisher, as a character, cannot be done justice in a one off and will always struggle to get a film series because the first films are not going to draw well.  You can't do a PG-13 Frank Castle if you're still going to call him Frank Castle and you can't make enough money on an R-rated Frank Castle to get him more than one film in a series.  The Punisher, however, can work extremely well in serial format and could easily contain parallel stories through flashbacks in the model of Lost or Arrow.  No, Frank didn't get stuck on an island, but he lives on one now and he wants to.  I could run countless scenarios through my mind of the opening 5-10 minutes of a Punisher series showing Castle properly destroying some poor punk who had it coming.  Make Frank an antihero, establish the Punisher, then deal with flashbacks to the war, to his family, to the executions...that makes a nice little show.

Luke Cage and Iron Fist belong in the MCU.  Cage is about to be pushed back into the public eye with Marvel Now's Mighty Avengers and is one of Marvel's underappreciated characters...he is also Dwayne Johnson's ticket into the MCU and Dwayne Johnson not only puts boots to asses but he puts asses in seats and that's something that not even Marvel can ignore.  Flat out I am a huge fan of Cage but I don't see him carrying a solo film right away.  The Alias, AKA Jessica Jones show that was in the works sounded like a great way to introduce Cage and I wouldn't be stunned to see elements of that show in S.H.I.E.L.D or see the idea for the show resurrected if the Coulson-based show works the way Marvel wants it to.  The Jessica Jones show would be a great way of introducing Cage and some of his running mates into MCU canon.

Cage's most frequent and coolest running mate: Danny Rand, Iron Fist.  Ironically, Rand could slip into the current MCU a little easier than Cage, though not running solo as Iron Fist.  It's easy to see Rand in business with Tony Stark and having that part of his character built into the MCU.  It's a little harder, however, to imagine Marvel adding a kung-fu flick into the mix no matter how badly they want to push the boundaries of adding genres to CBMs.  That brings us back to the small screen and I think there's a formula for success for Heroes for Hire: The A-Team.  A weekly series with a diverse group of heroes taking on assignments for people in need of help...works great!  Obviously the Heroes for Hire group has had a bunch of heroes rotate through and any could cameo on the show at anytime.

The above is about as far down the road of fan fiction as I dare go, but it is the kind of creative thinking that Marvel has shown in the past and in the present.  Not all their great characters are going to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars because they don't have a built in audience or the types of stories that work in a 2 hour movie.  Some of them actually deserve the slow build of a weekly series before getting a big-screen treatment.  Marvel has so many rich characters and more than one way to put them out there.

Thanks for reading this 3 parter...add some comments and tell me what you think.  Who's your Daredevil?  Your Castle?