Marvel has put itself in an interesting position when it comes to its recent success on Netflix. With the decision to create original series online, the company essentially planted the seeds for a second cinematic empire separate from the Marvel Studios films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, it’s also been made very clear in both the “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones” series that these shows are actually meant to take place within that universe, but more or less on a different plane. While the Avengers are battling forces that threaten Earth and doing so in the spotlight, the “Defenders” (a group to be made up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) fight crime in the streets. It’s a strange but effective dynamic.
The Defenders (who will have their own show soon) aren’t completely assembled just yet. We were introduced to Luke Cage in “Jessica Jones” season one, but his solo show is yet to launch, as is Iron Fist’s. But the gradual rollout is well underway, and in “Daredevil” in particular Marvel has made a real impact on streaming television. This is a beloved character (many thanks to the superb performance of Charlie Cox), and now Marvel has to make a tricky decision: should Daredevil appear at one point or another in the MCU films?
The biggest hurdle the studio would have to overcome may actually already have been cleared. This was that fans’ associations with Daredevil and cinema still call the 2003 Ben Affleck film to mind, and the reviews for that project were about as bad as it gets for superhero cinema. Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus settled on the description “a dull, brooding origin story that fails to bring anything new to the genre,” and that about says it all. Rebooting a project that got that kind of a reception wouldn’t seem like a good idea to any studio, but in crafting the “Daredevil” show first, Marvel changed the game. Consider also that we’re probably talking about an appearance in a larger film rather than a full new “Daredevil” feature, and the shadow of 2003 might not be a problem after all.
Another issue that may seem trivial but could be considerable is that there’s no one for Daredevil or the other Defenders to fight with in the greater MCU. Their brand of superpowers is decidedly weaker than the Avengers’ (everyone basically has a few physical enhancements), and as such they’re no match for most Avengers adversaries. This problem can be solved, but it would likely have to be done through the introduction of some kind of nemesis in the Netflix programs, who could then also be moved into a film role.
The leading candidate in this regard is Bullseye, a common adversary for Daredevil. He was played by Colin Farrell as one of the few bright spots in the 2003 film, and has lingered as a strong part of a game commemorating that film at Gala Casino’s jackpots page. There are a number of Marvel projects and other films and fictions used for casino games there and it’s a wonder that “Daredevil” is included at all. That being said, the Bullseye mini-game speaks to this villain’s popularity with fans. It almost certainly wouldn’t be Farrell, but bringing Bullseye back would be an interesting way to reach out to Daredevil comics fans. The main alternative is to keep Vincent D’Onofrio’s season one “Daredevil” villain (Kingpin) alive in the MCU, but this feels a little played out already.
Marvel will also have to make the decision of whether or not to include all of the Defenders, or just the most popular one. It would be easiest to inject Cox in a future MCU film and see how it goes, and we’ve actually gotten a light indication that there won’t be a Defenders/Avengers crossover. Despite word getting out that the coming “Infinity War” films will have absolute droves of characters, some coverage by Slash Film quoted the writers as suggesting that it was unlikely the Defenders would be included. Their belief was that “The Defenders” on Netflix might already be wrapped up before they even start filming, which would make it difficult to blend the stories effectively.
Right now, however, we still don’t have concrete answers about these characters—and specifically Daredevil—connecting with the MCU. There are a few issues to overcome, and it seems unlikely. But Marvel has shown the capacity to surprise many times before, and if Cox and “Daredevil” continue to delight fans, an MCU crossover would seemingly become more likely.