Just over an hour ago, it was reported that Marvel is in negotiations with Fox to allow Fox an extension on the Daredevil film rights in exchange for the return of some lesser-known characters' rights (Galactus and Silver Surfter are the ones being named). Reports are that the swap was Marvel's idea, after Fox came to them about extending the Daredevil rights which are set to expire in October. It's being reported that the ball is in Fox's court at this point, with Marvel already having made its proposal and the negotiations ongoing, but why would Marvel want to do this to begin with? Why not just take their chances on Fox's Daredevil not being able to get into production fast enough?
While the deal may seem a little puzzling at first glance, we thought about it for a minute and came up with a handful of reasons why this might be an appealing deal, from Marvel's point-of-view.
Daredevil is not an Avenger
Yes, in the context of the comic books, Daredevil may have been an Avenger a few times--but that's not what we're talking about. The last Avengers movie was crowded, and the non-powered characters weren't exactly setting the world on fire. The sexy, acrobatic Scarlett Johansson made it work for her, and her introductory sequence--a girl in skintight clothing beating up a handful of muscular men without breaking a sweat--was enough to "justify" her presence in the film, but Hawkeye seemed lost, his "mind control" subplot an awkward addition to an already-complicated story that didn't seem to do anything they couldn't have done better in another way.
Daredevil would be more of the same--a guy with no real powers to speak of, save "peak human" strength and skills. It would be pretty difficult to cram him in and give him something interesting to do, particularly when you consider that the studio is already looking to add Black Panther--another similar character--sooner than later.
Ultimately, one of the things you'll find that works better in comics than it does in the movies is the addition of these non-powered superheroes to "team" franchises. It can be made to work in the comics, especially in this day and age of "decompressed" storytelling when a writer can spend up to a year on a big story if that's what he wants or needs. In a movie, you're pretty severely limited as to how much time you can give a character in a team film just to build that one guy up, especially if he hasn't already got his own popular headlining franchise. And there's no way a Marvel-owned Daredevil would be made before Avengers 2.
Galactus is a great "next" villain
Maybe they don't use him in the next movie, but with the Marvel Universe moving in a more cosmic direction, with Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy in the spotlight, Galactus is a great "next" villain for one or both of those franchises to build toward in the aftermath of the big throwdown with the Mad Titan. A universal threat with one-world implications, he could bring the characters--all of them--back down to Earth and still be a credible threat, assuming that much or most of Avengers 2 takes place in outer space.
And, frankly, taking control of Galactus might be Marvel's best way to get the sour taste of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer out of fans' mouths and re-establish the character as an intellectual property of value. And since he's a villain, there's no need to introduce him in his own film first.
Silver Surfer makes Infinity Gauntlet way easier
Ever since we first saw Thanos appear at the end of the credits for The Avengers, fans have pretty much assumed that some variation on the classic Jim Starlin/George Perez/Ron Lim Infinity Gauntlet story would be the basic plot for Avengers 2. This requires either major rewrites to the source material, or the introduction of three big characters who haven't yet appeared on film: Dr. Strange, who Marvel have consistently expressed interest in using; Adam Warlock, who has direct ties to Guardians of the Galaxy and Thanos; and Silver Surfer, who is not currently owned by Marvel. Adding the character to their stable would, quite simply, make the writing of Avengers 2 an easier task.
And, like Doom, bringing him into this movie might help to ease the sting of his last big-screen outing. He's not a headline character, and doesn't need a solo film, first--especially if Galactus were introduced; all you have to do is trot out the idea that he's got a herald.
While Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a bad Fantastic Four movie (and the second one in a row, at that), Daredevil had his OWN failure. The character will need some rehab and the specter of that first failure will haunt the next film, something Marvel may not want to worry about combating right away.
They might look at Dredd and see that it can be done, but by the time anyone's sure that Dredd is a success or failure, it'll be the last week of September or the first week in October, and likely too late to broker a deal this big. The safe path at this point might be to allow Fox to rehab the franchise themselves, and try to retake it at some point in the future when it's not such damaged goods.
And if Fox were to fail? Well, then there's little doubt they'd let the rights lapse before trying again. See also: Sony's Ghost Rider films.
Fox's pitch has promise
Tying into that last idea is the fact that Joe Carnahan is a strong choice to direct a new Daredevil film and the elevator pitch that's going around in terms of how Fox wants to handle the franchise has promise. As pointed out in early reports, it's not the way Disney would want to do it, but Marvel Studios is smart enough to know that their way is not the only way to be successful. A big part of the idea of putting expiration dates on these rights transfers (aside from the very basic concept of returning it eventually to the original rights-holder) is to be sure that the person holding onto your property doesn't damage it beyond recognition and repair by the time you get it back. If Marvel were to allow Fox to make a good movie, it would be redeeming the damaged property with little or no effort on Marvel's part, and no out-of-pocket investment.
That just seems like smart business to us.