Matt Murdock (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

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Matt Murdock
Marvel Cinematic Universe character
Charlie Cox Daredevil.jpg
Matt Murdock / Daredevil, as portrayed by Charlie Cox in The Defenders (2017)
First appearance
Based on
Adapted byDrew Goddard
Portrayed by
In-universe information
Full nameMatthew Michael Murdock
AliasDaredevil
Occupation
  • Lawyer
  • Vigilante
Affiliation
Family
Significant otherElektra Natchios
ReligionCatholic
HomeHell's Kitchen, New York, United States
NationalityAmerican

Matt Murdock is a fictional character portrayed by Charlie Cox in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) media franchise, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name—commonly known by his alias, Daredevil. In the MCU, Murdock is a lawyer by day who specializes in legal defense alongside his colleagues Franklin "Foggy" Nelson and Karen Page, while also aiding other superpowered individuals within New York City. He further pursues a personal crusade to inflict his own brand of justice at night, masquerading as a masked vigilante hoping to remove the corruption facing Hell's Kitchen following the Battle of New York. Murdock is blind, which, with training, has enabled him to develop his other senses to superhuman levels. His activities would eventually bring him into conflict with enemies such as businessman Wilson Fisk, anti-hero Frank Castle and the Hand organization in the process, the latter of which he combatted alongside an assemblage of New York's local protectors when they successfully resurrected and weaponized a former ally and lover from his past, Elektra Natchios.

Likewise, he would also come to the defense and befriend other heroes within the city, namely Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Claire Temple, and Peter Parker, among other acquaintances. As of 2022, the character has appeared in two Marvel Television series: Daredevil (2015–2018) and The Defenders (2017) and one Marvel Studios film: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). Cox's portrayal of the character received significant praise from fans, and the "#SaveDaredevil" campaign was launched for his return after Daredevil's cancellation in 2018.[2][3] Cox eventually returned to the role for an extended cameo appearance in No Way Home.[4][5]

Concept and creation

There was this issue of Daredevil, near the end of [writer-artist] Frank Miller's run, our hero is fighting with a professional assassin named Bullseye, on a wire. The bad guy starts to fall; Daredevil catches him. He has him by the hand, high above the city....and then he decides to let him go. Daredevil drops him to his death—or what he thinks is his death—because he doesn't ever want this guy to kill again. I remember reading that when I was a kid and thinking, Oh my god. When we started working on our show, that scene from the comics kept coming up. We all thought, this is a hero who is one bad day away from permanently crossing a line.

Steven S. DeKnight on the version of Daredevil that he wanted to create.[6]

The character Daredevil made his first appearance in his own self-titled issue, Daredevil #1 (April 1964), written by Stan Lee and art by Bill Everett, with unspecified input provided by Jack Kirby, who devised Daredevil's billy club.[7][8][9]

In 2013, Marvel and Disney announced that they would provide Netflix with television series centered around Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, leading to the Defenders crossover miniseries.[10] In May 2014, Charlie Cox was announced to portray Murdock,[11] with Steven DeKnight being brought in to be the showrunner of the first season.[12]

Casting

Charlie Cox speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California.

The idea of casting Cox as Daredevil came from Marvel's chief creative officer Joe Quesada in 2012, before Marvel Studios gained the rights to the character from 20th Century Fox.[13] Cox wanted to be involved with the series after reading the first two scripts for the series, telling his agent "These are two of the best TV scripts I've read".[14]

Cox later explained that, unlike the Marvel comic book character, his version of Daredevil would not be a "man without fear", saying "Someone who does not have fear – literally does not experience fear – is not that interesting. The way I like to think about it is that he is a man with fear, but he on a daily basis decides to confront that fear and to overcome it. So the title of 'the man without fear' is almost a title that the public in his world gives him just because of what he does. But inside himself, he's very afraid at times. And he finds a way to confront those fears and punch through it."[15] Cox "had to do a lot of gym work" to change his physique to equal that of the more muscular character as drawn in the comics.[14]

Characterization

DeKnight has explained that Murdock is "not super strong. He's not invulnerable... he just has senses that are better than a normal human's". On the character's "grey" morals, he noted, "He's a lawyer by day, and he's taken this oath. But every night he breaks that oath, and goes out and does very violent things".[16] The character's Catholicism plays a large role in the series, with DeKnight calling him "one of the most, if not the most, religious characters in the Marvel Universe".[17] Cox, who was raised Catholic, found that helpful, saying, "You grow up steeped in that. If you're in church, standing in front of the altar, you sort of automatically know how to respond. It all kicks in – you genuflect, you sit in the pew. I didn't have to pretend any of that".[18] On how the name Daredevil is revealed in the series, DeKnight explained that "We talked about, do we do one of the versions in the comics where when he was a kid people used to taunt him with the name Daredevil, but that didn't quite feel like our world. At one point we were going to have Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) give him the name, but the timing wasn't right from where he's in his black outfit and then gets his suit, which is after Ben's untimely demise. The solution was to play that off-screen and then hit it in the paper that he's been given this name Daredevil".[19]

On portraying the character, Cox said, "There are so many aspects. There's the blindness and physicality. Making a show is about human emotion, conflict and turmoil. When meeting a man who's a lawyer by day and believes in law and justice and then a man by night is someone who takes the law into his own hands. He deals with battles dealing with that concept".[20] Elaborating on the difficulties of playing the character, Cox said, "I put on a shirt but I can't look where the buttons are, because Daredevil wouldn't know where the buttons are, but I also can't fumble".[21]

Cox worked with blind consultant Joe Strechay,[22] and was conscious of what his eyes were doing at all times, to ensure they would not look at or react to something unlike a blind person.[14] For The Defenders, Cox felt the second season in which Murdock fought alongside Elektra Natchios and the Punisher, prepared the character to accept help in the series,[23] and that moving into the miniseries the death of Natchios would be weighing heavily on Murdock.[24] Ramirez likened Murdock and Natchios' relationship to a more overtly sexual version of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt's characters in Fight Club (1999), with Natchios being Murdock's "burden to deal with" after she is resurrected.[25]

The ending of The Defenders implied elements of the third season would be inspired by the "Born Again" story arc,[26][27] with Cox being excited to adapt "Born Again", calling it an "amazing story" and that the implications of the story on the season would be "very exciting".[28] Season three showrunner Erik Oleson drew inspiration from both "Born Again" and "Guardian Devil" for the tone of the season,[29] structurally building the season if any viewer was a "devout Catholic... you could read into the events of the early episodes as a message from God to Matt"[30] and noting that Murdock would "broken physically, broken emotionally, and broken spiritually" with his heightened senses failing him, adding that Murdock is "angry at God, angry at the fact he had risked his life to do God's work, and he's questioning whether or not he was a fool".[31] This results in Murdock donning the original black suit from season one, since he goes to "pretty much the darkest place you can" and is at a point where he's "incapable of being Daredevil, [and] he would rather just end it than go forward in his life without abilities".

Series cancellation and return to the MCU

In November 2018, Netflix cancelled the series after three seasons.[32] Though the seasons would remain to stream on the service, the character would "live on in future projects for Marvel". Cox was saddened by the cancellation, since it "felt like we had a lot of stories to tell", especially since he had been excited by what had been discussed for a potential fourth season, adding that he was hopeful for an opportunity to portray the character again.[33] Following the series' cancellation, fans launched a petition to revive the series with the "SaveDaredevil" hashtag. The petition amassed over 300,000 signatures.[34]

In December 2021, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed that Cox would reprise the role in future projects produced by Marvel Studios, starting with Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).[4] Jessica Henwick, who co-stars with Cox as Colleen Wing in The Defenders, indicated that Cox had known about the opportunity to reprise the role in Marvel Studios productions years prior.[35]

Design

Matt Murdock disguised himself at night. One might say he also disguised himself during the day. Dark glasses or a mask always cover his eyes. The two looks have nothing in common on the face of it. However, consider that both are "uniforms" – practical, functional, and protective. Matt maintains a professional distance dressed as attorney. His vigilante uniform does much the same, although in disguise. He does his best not to get involved with the people he helps or who help him, with limited degrees of success.

— Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky on the ideas behind Murdock's lawyer and vigilante costumes.[36]

Murdock's suits are differentiated more by texture than color, with a limited palette, "Because, obviously, he can't see his colors, but he has to know anything he chooses is going to coordinate with one another". Cox's size changed throughout the series as he continued to work out.[37] Murdock begins the first season wearing a black costume (called the "vigilante outfit" by production), inspired by the one worn by the character in Frank Miller's The Man Without Fear, rather than the more traditional red, horned suit. This was done to highlight the formation of Matt Murdock as Daredevil, with the costume evolving over time as the character develops.[17] Quesada conceptualized the look based on DeKnight's specifications.[36]

Maslansky noted that they wanted the outfit to "look like something that Matt Murdock could put together himself, that he could either order off the Internet or shop around town. ... I went to army/navy stores. I went online. I looked at athletic clothing, compression clothing, military stuff and construction stuff....we wound up with pretty practical choices for him. His shirts are compression shirts and his pants wound up being from an army/navy store". Concerning the black mask, Maslansky noted that a balance between aesthetic and safety was required, and that "It's made out of a cotton mesh. Layers and layers of it. It has to really conform to his head, but at the same time, he had to be able to see through it."[37]

On the red suit that Murdock gets at the end of the first season, Maslansky said, "We wanted something that looked militaristic and functional, but also dramatic and sexy" adding that it was "tricky" making it practical.[38] To begin the process of creating the suit, Quesada contacted Ryan Meinerding and the costume artists and design team at Marvel Studios, who all contributed design ideas, with one of Meinerding's ultimately being picked. Quesada, who previously worked as an artist on Daredevil comics, gave several suggestions, including the use of rivets and "architectural" shapes as a reference to the creation of New York City. The suit is intended to look like a Kevlar vest, and the black sections are an homage to comic panels where the artists highlighted certain areas with red, with "deeper portions" in shadow. On the mask, Meinerding noted the difficulty in designing the entire top half of a face that is intended to match the bottom half of an actor's face, "because half of his face has to be covered and has its own expression and the actor's face is going to be doing something else".[39]

Evolution into Daredevil

Talking about why the traditional 'DD' doesn't appear on Murdock's red suit, and other difficulties with adapting the suit to live action, DeKnight explained that "he got the suit before he got the name. We talked a lot about DD on the suit, which is one of the more problematic emblems in superhero-dom. It's a little wonky. His suit in the comics is very difficult to translate to screen, especially in this world that is grounded and gritty. There are some practical difficulties. The Daredevil outfit in the comics, his mask only covers half his nose. It doesn't come all the way down to the tip. We discovered when we were trying to design it that if you didn't bring it all the way down, you could clearly tell it was Charlie. Not only did we have the suspension of belief that nobody would know "hey, that's Matt Murdock" we also had the practical problem of it becoming almost impossible when it came to switching in and out our stunt double. So we had to make that adjustment".[19]

Fictional character biography

Early life

Matt Murdock was born to boxer Jack Murdock and nun Maggie Grace. As a child, Murdock was blinded in a car accident, heightening his other senses, training to "see" using his senses by an elderly and blind ninja, Stick. Murdock eventually attends the Columbia School of Law, meeting and befriending Foggy Nelson while subsequently dating Elektra Natchios before breaking up.

By 2015,[40] Murdock and Nelson decide to open up their own law firm, Nelson and Murdock.

Becoming a vigilante

In early 2015, shortly after opening the firm, Murdock and Nelson are appointed with Union Allied employee Karen Page being framed for murder. After clearing Page, Murdock begins fighting crime to protect Hell's Kitchen from corruption facing it following the incident, donning a costume consisting of a black mask and black suit. His vigilantism brings him face-to-face with crime lord Wilson Fisk, a businessman attempting to gain control of crime in Hell's Kitchen as the city's Kingpin.

Page and New York Bulletin reporter Ben Urich work to expose Fisk, while Murdock takes down Fisk. During their final confrontation, Murdock wears a red suit and fights Fisk, defeating him and sending him to prison. Following Fisk's arrest, news media begins naming the vigilante Daredevil, which Murdock later adopts.

Meeting the Punisher

About six months later,[41] Murdock, as Daredevil, investigates the gang Cartels, learning that all their high-power weapons have been stolen by one man. Daredevil confronts the man in a rooftop but is shot in the head, though he survives due to his body armor, Nelson insisting he rests and recover. The man is nicknamed "the Punisher" by the DA's office, who is a deadly vigilante who lost his family. Murdock, as a lawyer, helps Frank Castle during the People vs. Frank Castle trial, but his old girlfriend, Elektra Natchios, returns.

Natchios had become involved with the supervillain organization The Hand, fighting alongside her and Murdock's old mentor, Stick. Castle is sent to Ryker's Island while Natchios and Murdock work together to defeat the Hand, but Natchios dies in the process. On Christmas, Murdock reveals his identity to Page, and unbeknownst to him, Natchios had been resurrected.

Forming the Defenders

Months later in 2016,[24] Murdock practices law alone out of his apartment. He is dispatched, implied at Jeri Hogarth's behest, to represent Jessica Jones after a man kills himself in her office. Jones continues her investigation into Midland Circle against Murdock's recommendation, and both end up reinforcing an escape attempt by Luke Cage and Danny Rand from the Hand. During the melee, Murdock fights a powerful foe that he eventually recognizes as a returned Natchios.

Taking shelter at a restaurant, the four are joined by Murdock's mentor Stick, who explains the Hand's conflict with the Chaste and K'un L'un, and in repelling the next attack Cage also captures Hand leader Sowande, who reveals the other part of their plan; use Rand's Iron Fist to access the dragon bones at the bottom of Midland Circle. Natchios finds their hideout, kills Stick and captures Rand, setting up their final conflict at Midland Circle, where the Defenders choose to demolish the building on top of the Hand. Murdock stays behind in an attempt to reconnect with Natchios, but his wounded body is delivered to his childhood orphanage, presumed dead by most others.

Kingpin's return

Murdock survives the explosion, and washes into the New York sewer system, being found by a taxi driver and being delivered to Father Paul Lantom, who entrusts Murdock with the care of Grace. As he slowly recovers, Murdock has a crisis of faith and decides to continue as Daredevil. In 2017, after Fisk manipulates the FBI to release him from prison, Murdock investigates Fisk's hotel, but begins to hallucinate him as a "devil on his shoulder". Murdock interrogates Fisk's lawyer Benjamin Donovan and learns of the situation with Vanessa Marianna. However, Fisk has already deduced that Murdock is Daredevil and sets an ambush at the jail Murdock visits for information, setting the FBI on his civilian identity, and using an unhinged Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter as a fake Daredevil to discredit his vigilante identity.

Murdock resolves to kill Fisk to relieve New York and the FBI from his grasp, but hearing that Page is to be assassinated diverts him to save her, with Father Lantom dying in the crossfire. His last-ditch legal effort with lead Agent Ray Nadeem testifying fails when the jury is found compromised and Nadeem is executed by Poindexter. With few leads remaining, he discovers Fisk's fixer Felix Manning, who gives him enough information to turn Poindexter against Fisk and implicate Mariana's involvement in Nadeem's death. Murdock sets a rabid Poindexter to crash Fisk's wedding with Fisk paralyzing Poindexter and Murdock nearly killing him. Fisk agrees to return to prison and leave Page and Nelson alone if Murdock does not expose Marianna. With Fisk arrested using Nadeem's dying declaration, Murdock begins redeveloping his relationship with Nelson and Page, and begin a new law firm together.

Helping Peter Parker

In 2024, after Quentin Beck framed Peter Parker of murder and revealed his secret identity as Spider-Man to the world, Murdock gets all charges against Parker dropped, but warns him that it would not cause a shift in public opinion on Spider-Man. He also advises Parker's associate Happy Hogan to secure legal protection due to an ongoing federal investigation into the Stark Industries technology involved during the battle in London.

Reception

Critical response

Brian Lowry of Variety praised Cox's portrayal of the character,[42] while Mike Hale, writing for The New York Times, called Cox's performance as "divided", praising him as Murdock but criticizing him as Daredevil.[43] IndieWire's Liz Shannon Miller, reviewing season one, praised the performances of the cast, especially Vincent D'Onofrio, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Cox.[44]

Accolades

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2015 Helen Keller Achievement Award Honoree Charlie Cox Won [45]
2016 Saturn Awards Best TV Actor Charlie Cox Nominated [46]
2017 Saturn Awards Best Actor on a Television Series Charlie Cox Nominated [47]
2019 Saturn Awards Best Actor in Streaming Presentation Charlie Cox Nominated [48]

See also

References

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External links