Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was in full swing, comic book movies were a niche corner of Hollywood that would either star big names or virtual unknowns to embody the character. While most of these films struggled to connect with the larger audience, most of the entries did what was possible to offer a cohesive story with elements from the source to give it life. 2003’s Daredevil was one of these examples, and even though it’s since paled in comparison to the more current iteration, it has one crown that no film has taken since — Easter eggs.
Easter eggs have become mainstays in many franchise films as they could allude to the medium they exist in, past films or completely different franchises. Daredevil was one of the most unique examples of Easter eggs, as the film’s backbone was based on a celebration of the source material. In fact, audiences would be hard-pressed to find a scene or instance where there wasn’t a nod to the larger Daredevil universe.
Perhaps the largest Easter egg in the film was carried throughout the runtime, both verbally and visually. Where most Marvel films mainly focused on Stan Lee as their big cameo, Daredevil included him and the names and faces of other creators that contributed to the mythos. Both Kevin Smith and Frank Miller had brief cameos in the film alongside Lee, while other creators from Gil Kane to Bill Everett were mentioned. Rather than just having a brief focus on graffiti art to signify the appearance, these names played actual parts, from boxers to actual characters.
Another thing that kept the mythos of Daredevil alive was how it utilized the many characters in his universe, especially Matt’s love interests. One of the most defining qualities of the character was how may girlfriends he’s had. In fact, one of the film’s subplots revolved around Matt having found and lost love. The moment the movie starts, Matt is given a voicemail of one girlfriend from the comics, Heather Glenn, leaving Matt. While Karen Page didn’t play a large role, she too was shown in the film, along with Elektra, but these weren’t the only comic book references seen in the movie.
Comic imagery was abundant in the film, most of which harkened back to a few crucial moments in Daredevil’s history. The film’s start showed Daredevil hunched next to a massive crucifix, embracing it. This harkened back to one of the many covers from the comics, while the final shot of the film saw Daredevil shoot his billy club hook at the screen, calling himself a guardian devil. The shot called back to another cover by Joe Quesada, while the term guardian devil was a reference to a story of the same name.
Elektra’s death at the hands of Bullseye was also recreated shot for shot, and his battle with Daredevil in the church and the death of Karen Page was also homaged, albeit Karen’s death by billy club was used on Elektra’s father instead. Finally, Elektra’s motivations for revenge and the fight on a playground also called back to the Daredevil: Parts of A Hole story that introduced Echo, who also wanted to kill Daredevil for the framed death of her father by Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin.
While all of these instances were undoubtedly clever, the best Easter egg lies in the film’s tone. Daredevil was heavily influenced by the tone of Frank Miller’s run on the book. From the quiet introspection to the multiple moments of loss and heartache. The film wouldn’t be what it is without the tone set forth by Miller’s storylines. In the end, Daredevil has remained the king of Easter eggs for a Marvel movie for one reason: beneath the story and film elements, the foundation of the film is based on the inspirations of the past.