Ghost Rider: A Rambling Open Letter to Marvel Studios and Nicolas Cage

     So as a long, long, LONG time fan of Ghost Rider, and after watching Netflix's Daredevil Season 2, then seeing Hellfire appear on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and today's Norman Reedus news clinched it- I decided I needed to dig out this old draft from 2012 and touch it up with some new information, thoughts, and sources.

The single best shot in both Ghost Rider films.

     Today Norman Reedus, of The Walking Dead and Boondock Saints fame, has expressed interest in playing the Ghost Rider, in either film or tv (ie Netflix).  Though, I have seen plenty of people pulling for Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam as well, which would be equally awesome.

     To start with a point of reason, the way Marvel has handled their portrayal of Frank "The Punisher" Castle in the Daredevil series is a brilliant way to begin.  I've complained time and time again about this flubbed ways the films had been handled in the past and they finally are getting things right now that Marvel has the film rights back.  Although Marvel (via Disney's Chairman Bob Iger) has already stated they will not be making R rated movies, that doesn't mean other avenues are off limits.  Which would rule out the Scorsese quality Punisher film I've dreamed of for years, BUT- the Daredevil series is pushing those limits so the possibility of something close is still a potential especially since they announced he's getting his own series now.  His prortrayal is pretty damn close to what I've been wanting so far.  It's brutal, it's violent, and it's extremely well depicted in the show.  Though I must note that I definitely do not believe that every Marvel property deserves the mature R rating or treatment.  Far from it, an R rated Avengers would be absurd while the grittier titles could benefit from it.

     Since re-obtaining the cinematic rights to Daredevil, Punisher, Blade, and Ghost Rider Marvel has set a good tone with the first two properties.  I'd really like to see what can be done about the second two.  I've written a small bit about Blade, and the never-aging Wesley Snipes has said he's been in discussions about the future of the character, but the Ghost Rider is the one I am truly hoping to see again.  In addition, they're opening the doorway to the other realms with Doctor Strange this fall- a wonderful opportunity for our favorite Spirit of Vengeance to hit the streets again.  I mean "there's been talk of Ghost Rider being added to Netflix."  That is a good start seeing how they've been handling Hell's Kitchen so well, and opening the doorway to the astral planes will presumably happen with Doctor Strange hitting theaters this fall.


     If Ghost Rider is to appear on tv or screen again, he would unquestionably need to be handled more seriously than his past movies.  What I mean by that is that they need to ditch the comic book idiocy of the Nicholas Cage films.  Both films had a couple scenes that were handled well, but they quickly devolved into campy garbage.  Some people blame Cage, but in reality, he's a tremendous actor in films like Adaptation, Leaving Las Vegas, and Joe.  What he needs is a good director and a much better writer.  I'll discuss Cage a bit more below this section.

     To me directors like Bill Paxton (with Frailty) or Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist) could do some damn amazing work and I'd cite films like John Carpenter's The Thing, the Alfredson directed Let the Right One In, Ridley Scott's first Alien, and The Exorsist as references for well handled horror material that should serve as inspiration.  

     What I personally believe is that he needs to be handled in the same vein as traditional monster movies combined with a psychological horror movie's depth.  The Rider shouldn't even be shown for the first 70% of the role.  There should only be hints of him and the aftermath of his presence.  He'd leave a gruesome wake in his path- he's someone that'd make the Punisher tremble in fear.  
     In the early parts of the story, there'd be things like dead bodies, maybe some mystical iconagraphy, and the like.  Slowly building to larger things like human sacrifices and alters to the devil, but not from the Rider, but by those he's slain.  
     Tons of imagery pointing to something more than human killing off tough as nails villainous people.  Things like bootprints burnt into the floor, trails of fire and ash, chain links embedded in the walls, scorch marks from the chains, bodies and parts strewn about, and a few petrified bodies of those especially vile and guilty criminals.  He's a force of supernatural destruction that cannot be stopped and should be treated as such.  Think of it using the Jaws effect- simply avoiding showing the full beast until later in the story, and rely on inducing dread through glimpses and hints at the real nature that continually evades our sight.  
     Ghost Rider should be a slow and plodding individual.  Never in a hurry, like the unstoppable killers of old movies- creating the imposing threat that no matter how fast or how far you go- he will find you.

Nicolas Cage

     Back to the Nic Cage casting.  He's been in plenty of films that are good and plenty that are terrible.  I mean he was even great in the absolutely preposterous Drive Angry, which is somehow a much better Ghost Rider film than the actual Ghost Rider films he was in. 
     Regardless, Cage said in an interview with Collider that there could be a third installment (before the rights reverted to Marvel), "It’s possible, but it won’t be with me."  But then went on to say, "I don’t want to say never…anything’s possible.  But I doubt, highly, that I would be in a third installment of that."  So I would actually be curious to see if his interest in the role would be renewed now that Marvel holds the reigns.  When I say renewed, I don't necessarily mean as Johnny Blaze either.  While it would be cool, he could always be the new Blaze's father as a cameo or some such thing.  If, on some off chance he did reprise the role, he could be a small part with the major Rider being Daniel Ketch for a change of pace.
     But, Marvel will probably go with someone completely different and Reedus has a decent chance here, following in fellow Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal's footsteps as he went on to play a damn amazing Punisher.

     I guess we'll all have to wait and see.  And we'll all be hoping that we won't have any more abominable versions of the Ghost Rider, on screen or in comics as the more recent Robbie Reyes series was quite disappointing.  I can only assume that with the way Marvel's been using the Netflix characters, adding Ghost Rider as a character or series would be a tremendous addition in creating a new type of anti-hero show, creating another whole level of meaning with dark and gritty.

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