There is nothing but talk of any and hoped-for returns of Daredevil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, reflecting above all on the public’s love for Charlie Cox in the Marvel-Netflix series of the same name, but little is said about a possible and hoped for relaunch of Ghost Rider at the cinema or on TV. Something has been said over the past couple of years, especially looking at a performer of the caliber of Keanu Reeves as Ghost Rider, when Kevin Feige said “to want it at all costs in the MCU“, but after this sporadic intervention of the cinematic rebirth of the Spirit of Vengeance, nothing was known.
Some occasional rumors from time to time talk about a possible development of a film reboot or a television series for Disney +, perhaps with a backdoor entry into projects such as the Blade directed by Bassam Tariq or in the highly anticipated Moon Knight starring Oscar Isaac, yet at the time of the Fire Centaur, large side or small screen, nothing is known.
What is certain, however, is its not so brilliant past under the supervision of Avi Arad, producer of Sam Raimi’s old Spider-Man who managed to bring the character into the room exactly a year before Kevin Feige developed Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and kicked off the MCU. Undoubtedly the unhappy timing, this must be recognized, but the inefficiency of the reference production model is still true, the same that led to the choice Nicolas Cage as a questionable protagonist of the Mark Steven Johnson project, the first of a forgettable series.
Ghost Rider: the right cinecomic wrong
Initially, and to be precise in May 2000, the film on Ghost Rider was supposed to star Johnny Depp and John Voight, co-funded by Crystal Sky Entertainment and Dimension Films. At the screenplay we would find David S. Goyer and director Stephen Norrington, both fresh from the film success of Blade and considered suitable for the challenge.
Unfortunately, we will never know what the two would have given us with a title with Depp as the protagonist, at the time also on the crest of the wave and almost at the height of his interpretative talent, but we trust that they would have packaged perhaps a more interesting product of the one then released in theaters and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the person responsible (there is really no other way to say it) of the terrible adaptation of Daredevil with Ben Affleck released in 2003.
As often happened after the first Spider-Man, Hollywood’s intention was not to reflect a solid or valid comic style in the cinema but only to adapt the original material according to the genre cards – in this specific case action-horror -. The look is bleak and unsettling, but basically functional to the story of the stuntman Jonny Blaze, a character who to save the life of his father suffering from cancer makes a pact with Mephistopheles, which however deceives him and succeeds to bind his soul to that of a Spirit of Vengeance (as will be explained in the sequel) for his own interest, specifically to defeat one of his sons, Blackheart / Legion.
The fascination of seeing such a dark and intriguing character finally brought to life on the big screen collides with the unfortunate vision of Johnson, also the screenwriter of the film, who fails to synthesize the right formula as it should have, creating a mix of often dubious quality – especially in terms of direction and dialogues – which however managed to convince the audience in some way thanks to its special effects and to the interpretation of Nicolas Cage, instead sunk by critics.
If Spider-Man had been the cinecomic example to follow up to that moment, Daredevil was considered the exact opposite, the transposition to be kept at a safe distance, perhaps one of the worst ever born from Hollywood. Despite the critical response, however, the adaptation with Ben Affleck met with some success with the public, also leading to the development of a spin-off dedicated to Elektra and especially convincing the studios to to hire Johnson again to direct a cinecomic without explaining in the slightest part the gravity hidden in his artistic and stylistic vision.
Maybe that’s why in Ghost Rider he fell back into the same mistakes without trying to remedy it, while still managing to put together some moments of healthy hype and tasty entertainment.
However, the main paradox of Ghost Rider remains him, Nicolas Cage, which at the time was out of its phase of “actor among the most requested in Hollywood“to enter the all-round outsider after the flops of The Weather Man and The Chosen One, watershed titles in his career. Funny, then, that’s right a damned character is the one played by Cage in such a delicate moment of his working life, moreover interesting for his performance at times balanced but very often over the top (it is no coincidence that a meme was also created from one of the scenes). As if he no longer knew who to be, if the Cage “caged“- from the name omen – or the one freer to express one’s own expressiveness and exaggeration. It can almost be said that own Ghost Rider delivered the actor to the ranks of “damned” performers of the infernal American cinema, a reason that however makes his work on Blaze extremely interesting and the mood of the approach to the character, which he felt was his, tied to his soul by fiery invisible chains, despite appearing in the eyes of all cinephiles and fans diehard one of the miscasting more sensational than the recent history of cinema was then.