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How Marvel Can Fix Ghost Rider After “Spirit of Vengeance”

Did you see the first Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance trailer? Did you even know there’s going to be a second Ghost Rider movie? You’re excused if Nicolas Cage’s return to Marvel’s flaming undead motorcycle enthusiast slipped under your radar in a summer filled with quality comic book movies like Captain America and X-Men: First Class. While Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance won’t be out until next February, the new trailer is raising hopes that the sequel will be an improvement on the 2007 original.

Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) have clearly upped the action, delivering visceral chase sequences and some creative uses of Ghost Rider’s chain. (Ghost Rider tossing a bad guy in the air is better than anything in the first movie.) The special effects have also greatly improved.

That said, fans are divided over the campy scene where Ghost Rider literally pees fire. The overall tone of the trailer suggests that, like audiences, Neveldine and Taylor don’t take Ghost Rider very seriously. Which is a shame, because Ghost Rider is one of Marvel Knight’s (the banner that Marvel groups their edgy comics under) flagship characters. Here are some tips for how Marvel can fix Ghost Rider for the inevitable third movie, along with some new photos from Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

ghost-rider-flame-mouth-125.jpgSwap out Johnny Blaze for Danny Ketch.
Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze has returned to the comics in the past few
years, so it makes sense that he rides the flaming cycle on the big
screen. But for fans who read Ghost Rider comics during the character’s
grim and gritty ’90s incarnation, Danny Ketch is their Spirit of
Vengeance. Word is that Danny Ketch will turn up in Spirit of Vengeance
as a kid, played by Irish actor Fergus Riordan. (He’s the one in the
trailer who asks Johnny what happens if he has to pee while on
fire.) Perhaps the next film could flash forward to Ketch as a young
man. (Ghost Rider had a Peter Parker quality in the ’90s.) It’s time
to send Nicolas Cage’s Johnny Blaze to that great biker bar up in the sky.
Speaking of Cage…

cage-ghost-rider-125.jpgDitch Nicolas Cage for some new blood.
Rider isn’t just a mediocre comic book movie franchise — it’s a
mediocre Nic Cage franchise. With his many recent cinematic misfires (Season of the Witch, Drive Angry, just to name a few turkeys this year), Cage brings far too much baggage. And like the jokey tone of the Spirit of Vengeance trailer, everything he does onscreen these days is in air quotes. (Ghost Rider shouldn’t
be a “Nic Cage” movie.) Recasting the lead with a more credible actor
(sorry, Nic) would go a long way toward elevating the next Ghost Rider from the sort of special effects-heavy duds that studios dump
into theaters in the dead of winter. (Like pretty much
every recent Nic Cage movie.) My casting recommendation? Ryan Gosling.
As the trailer for the upcoming crime drama Drive shows, Gosling has the edge necessary to make Ghost Rider more than a B-movie hero.

Elba-gr-125.jpgKeep the story focused on street crime.
With car chases and shots of machine-gun-blazing thugs, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
looks to be action-packed and blissfully free of Wes Bentley’s annoying
Blackheart. Still, the rumored plot about Ghost Rider trying to stop
the Devil (Ciarán Hinds) and new villain Blackout (Johnny Whitworth)
from possessing a young boy sounds like every single supernatural
flick ever made. Much like how the Punisher movies have turned out to be generic vigilante flicks, the Ghost Rider franchise is hard to tell apart from End of Days, Legion,
and other lackluster action/horror flicks. Ghost Rider works best when
the supernatural elements are downplayed in favor of good, old-fashioned
crimefighting. Take a cue from the ’90s comics and let him use the
chain on another underworld — the mob.

whitworth-125.JPGAdapt Jason Aaron’s comics.
said, if the movies do keep pushing the supernatural element, they
might as well adapt the all-out war against Heaven from rising comic
book superstar Jason Aaron’s recent Ghost Rider run. In addition to giving the Spirit of Vengeance the same darkly satirical edge he brings to his acclaimed Punisher series, Aaron introduced
Ghost Riders from the past, teamed up Danny Ketch and Johnny Blaze, and
gave the rogue’s gallery (like new movie villain Blackout,
right) some real grit. Easily the most acclaimed Ghost Rider scribe, Aaron put a distinctive stamp on a character whose comics tend toward the generic. Thus, his work is ripe for movies.

ghostrider-head-125.jpgMake Ghost Rider scary.
literal spirit of vengeance who causes evildoers to experience the pain
of their victims via his “penance stare,” Ghost Rider is one of
Marvel’s freakiest heroes. When he rides up on his motorcycle, his
flaming chain clanking behind him, villains quake in terror. But in the
movies, Ghost Rider is just kind of silly. Now that the CGI has
improved, Ghost Rider needs to be a terrifying antihero who strikes
fear in the hearts of men. Cheap gags about expelling fire from every
orifice are a step in the wrong direction. For the next film, Marvel
should play down the jokey “man on fire” element and focus on making
Ghost Rider as creepy as he is in the comics.

punisher-war-zone-125.jpgTeam up Ghost Rider with Punisher and Daredevil.
Marvel’s urban characters are currently all at different studios, it’s
only a matter of time before they nab them back and consolidate all of
their superhero movies under the Marvel/Disney banner. When that
happens, Marvel would be wise to follow the Avengers template and
team up Ghost Rider, Punisher, and Daredevil for a “Marvel Knights”
movie. Though they tend to bash criminal heads solo, the street
vigilante corner of the Marvel Universe is no stranger to crossovers.
(Punisher, Daredevil, and Ghost Rider have teamed up and fought one another on a number of occasions.) Since Marvel has had difficulty
developing watchable movies for their street-level heroes, connecting
them as they have with the Avengers could be the key to cracking the
Marvel Knights code.

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