No offense, Ghost Rider fans, but there’s no way you’d be seeing a Rider sequel this weekend if Nicolas Cage hadn't willed the movie into existence. Crunch the numbers. The original earned $115 million in the U.S., and another $112M around the globe. Decent, but definitely not a number that commands a sequel. And that Rotten Tomatoes grade? How does 26% Fresh sound?
But Cage has more than enough clout to push a passion project or two forward, and so we’re gearing up for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, another chance to see Nicolas Cage don the big flaming skull. It should have been someone else … anyone else. In fact, we came up with six superheroes who deserved a feature-length film before we were asked to endure another Ghost Rider film. Some are mighty beings with sequels or franchise reboots in the creative pipeline. Others were mistreated in previous films, and are begging for a second chance. Would you like to see new movies with any of these characters? All of them? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below:
My first exposure to Catwoman was the incredible Michelle Pfeiffer's scintillating turn in Tim Burton's moody Batman Returns. I was a grade-schooler at the time, and was in absolute, drop-jawed awe of Pfeiffer's fearless, fierce and undeniably female feline fiend. She was lithe and little next to Michael Keaton's burly Batman, yet proved a well-matched and fearsome foe with her whip skills and nine lives. I yearned for her to resurface in future Batman movies. Yet it took 12 long years for the incomparable Catwoman to finally return to the screen, and in her own movie starring Oscar-winner Halle Berry no less! Of course this Catwoman was entirely dreadful, and we should all agree as a society to forget this abomination ever happened so that Catwoman can rise from the dead once more and get the movie she's long deserved. While we're at it, why not bring along some other Gotham gals for the ride? Just imagine what awesome action set pieces and incredible banter could be created if filmmakers centered a supervillain adventure on Catwoman and her Gotham City Sirens sisters, Poison Ivy -- another villainess burned by dumb movie adaptations -- and the wild card Harley Quinn! And with Anne Hathaway donning the ears and catsuit in this summer's Dark Knight Rises, it seems a better time than ever to give Catwoman a feature reboot/rebirth of her own.
There’s a great film buried somewhere in Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil, Hollywood’s 2003 introduction to Marvel’s Man Without Fear. In fact, the director’s cut beefs up subplots and characterizations that were anemic in the theatrical cut, and hinted at what Daredevil might have been if too many chefs didn’t stick their fingers into Hell’s Kitchen. I’m even a fan of the casting. Ben Affleck was a stoic Matt Murdock. Jennifer Garner was a feisty Elektra. And Colin Farrell was perfectly gonzo as Bullseye. But Marvel and Fox whiffed on one key decision, and they should rectify it in time for a Daredevil reboot: Hand the keys over to Kevin Smith. The comic geek made a cameo appearance as Jack Kirby in the original. He should have been directing. Smith often writes for Marvel’s Daredevil comics. He knows the vengeful hero inside and out. He understands the complexities of Murdock’s moral compass, and could even handle the brutal Karen Page storyline – a high point of Daredevil literature – with wit and sorrow. The first Daredevil wasn’t a nightmare. But task Smith with screenwriting and directing duties on a reboot, and fans will be treated to the Daredevil movie of their dreams.
Say what you will about the worst of the superhero genre – be it Spider-Man 3, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil or Elektra. They all have one key element that places them above director Mark A.Z. Dippé’s Spawn: they all have solid special effects. In addition to the fact that Spawn is terribly directed, features some pretty awful performances, and has a complete mess of a story, what really hurts the film is how terribly it has aged. Made back in 1997 with a budget of only $40 million, the effects – which may have been solid for their time -- are earth-shatteringly ugly. It’s so bad that you can practically see the pixels in the character’s famous flowing cape. But that’s all the more reason why the character is so well-suited for a reboot. Comic book movies are as popular as ever, meaning that the project could get a worthy budget. Special effects have advanced so far in recent years that Spawn’s costume and characters (like Violator, for example) can actually look photo-realistic. Also, thanks to Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, Hollywood is in love with dark, gritty characters right now. Who is darker and grittier than a mercenary who is murdered, sent to hell, and gains Hellspawn powers? No one. Bring back Spawn!
Back when Sam Raimi was still attached to direct Spider-Man 4, there was a lot of heat regarding a possible Venom spin-off. Academy Award nominee Gary Ross was even attached to direct a script written by the fantastic pair of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland), until the whole thing crumbled in unison with S-M4 and Ross moved on to Hunger Games. However, just because that version of the film wound up as collateral damage doesn’t mean the whole notion of a Venom spin-off should be thrown away. In fact, the success of Chroncicle, as well as a few phenomenal comics by Brian Azzarello (“Joker” and “Lex Luthor: Man of Steel”), shows that there’s certainly a market for the villain’s story. And in an industry so obsessed with the production of comic book movies, this would offer a welcome counter-narrative to the onslaught of heroic origins. On top of all of these reasons, Eddie Brock is a fascinating character complete with a story that perfectly parallels that of our wall crawler. With a rebooted Spider-Man headed towards theaters, the films could work in tandem and compliment each other. Now, we just need to convince David Fincher or Darren Aronofsky that this should be the dark comic book film either of them finally makes, because Venom deserves their talent.
The Fantastic Four
Tim Story’s two Fantastic Four efforts weren’t, for lack of a better word, fantastic. While Rise of the Silver Surfer was an improvement over its predecessor, both films hedged their bets by aiming for a simple, adolescent audience. Chris Evans might have been a suitable Human Torch, but we can all agree he’s much more effective as Marvel’s square-jawed patriot, Captain America. I’m still not sure how a movie that came out only four years before Avatar and a full six years after The Matrix can consider Michael Chiklis’ Thing suit an acceptable special effect. And the less we say about bland Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, aka The Invisible Woman, the better. This team deserves a fresh take, and multiple films have shown that, in the right hands, a story about super-powered family members can really soar. Brad Bird’s animated The Incredibles was a far superior Fantastic Four-inspired story. The low-budget Chronicle demonstrated how imagination and a passionate screenplay can triumph over limited funds and not-so-special effects. And Joss Whedon’s gearing up to tell the mother of all mash-up thrillers this summer with The Avengers. If he pulls it off, the next project Fox needs to focus on is a rebooted Four-- which, as it turns out, may very well be directed by Chronicle's own Josh Trank. There’s a library of brilliant stories waiting to be told with these iconic heroes at the helm. Find the right filmmaker, and give Fantastic Four a chance.
The character of Wade Wilson, or Deadpool, showed up in the Gavin Hood directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that rendition is hardly the merc with the mouth that we’ve all come to love from Rob Liefeld's comics. In fact, that incarnation of the fast-talking anti-hero was so despised by fans and non-fans alike that a whole other character name (or meme) has been created to disassociated Deadpool from the film’s version, dubbed “Barakapool.” (Mortal Kombat fans will get a chuckle out of that.) Obviously, since the comic-book character was so poorly realized in his first on-screen appearance, he certainly deserves another shot, with or without Ryan Reynolds on board to star. Listen, I’m a huge Reynolds fan, but even I think that a recast might be necessary to shake the bad taste that Wolverine left in fans’ mouths. May I suggest the gabby Adam Brody as a possible replacement? Regardless, with Reynolds or Brody on board, the script from Reese and Wernick (yep, those boys again) is apparently a work of hard-R genius and perfectly captures the violent irreverence or the self-referential character. Robert Rodriguez was also attached to the project at one point but has since surrendered directing duties to newcomer Tim Miller. Unfortunately, the longer the project rests in limbo -- and the less big names it attracts (sorry, Tim Miller) -- it’s more and more likely that Deadpool won’t be seeing the light of day anytime soon. And that’s a real shame, because of all the comic book properties out there, it definitely should. Oh, and I hate his other work, but Timur Bekmambetov would be perfect to direct (sorry, Tim Miller).