The realm of Marvel films produced before the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a fascinating landscape filled with a mix of underappreciated gems, grand cinematic experiments from visionary directors, and, of course, a few forgettable missteps that are best left buried in the sands of time. Among these early Marvel adaptations, “Ghost Rider,” released in 2007 and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, doesn’t rank as the absolute bottom of the barrel. Instead, it occupies a middle ground, sharing company with other mediocre superhero flicks from that era, some of which have eventually garnered a cult following. If not for Nicolas Cage’s exuberantly eccentric portrayal of Johnny Blaze, the devil’s bounty hunter with a flaming skull, “Ghost Rider” might have easily blended in with Johnson’s earlier work on “Daredevil.”
The situation takes a different turn with “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” the 2012 sequel directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, known for their hyper-kinetic films like “Crank” and “Gamer.” It’s far from being a masterpiece (unless you revel in watching Idris Elba channeling Pepé Le Pew as a French alcoholic monk), but it is undeniably memorable. It assaults the senses with unbridled enthusiasm, giving off a distinct “hold my beer” energy. Remarkably, it also managed to perform decently at the box office, raking in $149 million against a relatively modest $57 million budget. During that time, Neveldine even hinted at discussions about a potential “Ghost Rider 3.” He revealed that Nicolas Cage was enthusiastic about the idea, stating, “I know Nic wants to do it, he’s very pumped about it. We’ll just [have] to see how well [this] does.”
However, over a decade has passed since those discussions, and the character of Johnny Blaze now seems to have faded into the rearview mirror for Nicolas Cage, with any hopes of “Ghost Rider 3” plummeting into the abyss like Mephistopheles himself being hurled back to hell, as depicted in “Spirit of Vengeance.” So, what led to this apparent demise of the franchise? It all comes down to the complexities of franchise rights.
The Thorny Issue of “Ghost Rider 3”
It’s not news to anyone that 2012 was a game-changing year for the superhero film genre. Fueled by the monumental success of “The Avengers,” the MCU transitioned from a promising concept to the dominant film franchise on the global stage. This unprecedented success sent shockwaves through the industry, leading Marvel Studios’ competitors, like Sony, into a frenzy of reevaluation and recalibration. Sony, for instance, had to quickly reconfigure its 2012 “Spider-Man” reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” as the foundation for a separate cinematic universe comprising spinoffs and sequels.
This shift in focus meant that franchises like “Ghost Rider,” which had previously generated moderate success for the studio, were suddenly deemed relatively insignificant. In response, Sony decided to allow the rights to revert to Marvel Studios in 2013. Marvel Studios, instead of continuing with Nicolas Cage’s Johnny Blaze or recasting the role, chose to explore a different incarnation of Ghost Rider: Robbie Reyes, who first appeared in “All-New Ghost Rider” #1 in 2014. Gabriel Luna subsequently portrayed Robbie Reyes in Marvel Television’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” during its fourth season in 2016, quickly earning a devoted fanbase and even teasing the possibility of his own spinoff series.
However, the situation changed when Marvel Television was absorbed into Marvel Studios in 2019. This merger led to the cancellation of several MCU-related projects that were in development under the TV division. Since then, there has been a conspicuous silence regarding the future of “Ghost Rider.” Marvel Studios has kept its plans, if any, tightly under wraps.
Nicolas Cage and the Fate of “Ghost Rider 3”
Recognizing that his time as Johnny Blaze was nearing its end, Nicolas Cage casually revealed that he would not be reprising the role for “Ghost Rider 3” as soon as the rights reverted to Marvel Studios. In an interview with Collider, Cage remarked that another “Ghost Rider” film was “possible, but it won’t be with me.” His decision to step away from the role marked a turning point in his career, as “Spirit of Vengeance” became the last major studio production he would undertake for the next decade. This period saw Cage primarily involved in direct-to-video projects, partly due to financial pressures brought on by his lavish lifestyle and his desire to prevent his mother from being institutionalized.
However, Cage’s career experienced a resurgence in recent years, thanks to acclaimed films like “Mandy” and “Pig.” He has since returned to major live-action studio productions, including “Renfield.” Consequently, while it may not be beyond the realm of possibility for Cage to revisit the role of Johnny Blaze, it appears that there isn’t a clamor for his return on a significant scale. Given the direction of the franchise and the evolving landscape of superhero cinema, it seems unlikely that Cage will be called upon to reprise the role of Ghost Rider, except perhaps for a humorous cameo in a project like “Deadpool 3.”
In conclusion, for all the “Ghost Rider” enthusiasts out there, the possibility of a proper third installment featuring Nicolas Cage seems remote and unlikely to materialize anytime soon.
Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle