At the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere red carpet, Daredevil showrunner Steven S. DeKnight dropped some hints for what we could expect of Netflix’s upcoming Marvel series. Though he couldn’t talk specifics, he and the other producers do have a clear idea of what the tone of the series will be.
We’re going for a kind of very gritty, 1970s New York feel for the show. We love the idea of beauty in the decay of the city and Hell’s Kitchen being a place that is both horrible and beautiful at the same time. That’s why Matt Murdock loves it and wants to protect it.
Our first thought is: Could Daredevil be a period show, actually set in the ’70s? The Grey writer-director Joe Carnahan actually pitched just that to Fox years ago, though it never took off. Not to mention that Netflix’s two other Marvel series Luke Cage and Iron Fist both feature characters who debuted in the ’70s—and that all three of those along with Jessica Jones will eventually lead into the crossover miniseries The Defenders.
(Interestingly enough, FOX’s Gotham is also playing around in 1970s New York—“a time,” executive producer Bruno Heller said, “when that city was falling apart with decadence and decay.” Although Gotham is more likely to actually take place in the ’70s.)
The official synopsis for Daredevil grounds the series in “modern-day Hell’s Kitchen,” but modern day Hell’s Kitchen is a place full of Javitz Centers, High Line Parks, chain stores, an enormous new block of commercial skyscrapers, studios for The Daily Show, and cocktail bars. Hell, even the subway goes there now. (Well, soon.) What “grit” is left is mostly confined to those panhandling jerks at the Port Authority who insist on helping you “find your bus.”
So, does that mean that the producers are simply trying to evoke the “bad old days” of New York City in the ’70s and ’80s in present day? The tone certainly makes sense for Daredevil’s story, which thrives in a seedier city undergoing economic woes, organized crime, and AIDS and crack epidemics—and seeing sweet Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock against that backdrop would surely make for more compelling TV than seeing him protest paying $16 for a pitcher at Frames.
But will that clash with the New York City we’ve glimpsed through the first Avengers film, which has been echoed in Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, and which will ostensibly be front-and-center in Avengers: Age of Ultron? There’s a big disparity between Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown, where Stark Tower is located. But even the grittiest parts of modern New York are cleaner, more sanitized, and more gentrified than they were forty years ago.
It’s difficult to imagine these two universes co-existing, and it leaves us wondering whether Daredevil and the other Netflix series intend to do serious legwork in merging the two different aesthetics of New York City. What would it look like to see the “bad old days” in 21st century NYC? Is this the world that Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil will be bringing us? This could get very interesting indeed.