While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a massive part of the filmmaking landscape, there was a time before serialized storytelling was the norm. Individual superhero movies were released without any connection to each other, a concept that seems almost foreign nowadays. One of those projects was 2007's Ghost Rider, starring Nicolas Cage as the title character and his alter ego Johnny Blaze. While it was eventually also given a sequel, the franchise never really took off the way that Iron Man or its peers did, and was a critical disappointment. Cage recently spoke about Ghost Rider's performance, and revealed he thinks an R-Rating would have significantly opened things up. As he tells it,
Had Ghost Rider been made in R-rated format, the way they had the guts to do with Deadpool, and they did it again today, I'm fairly certain it would be enormously successful.
The man has a point. During both Ghost Rider movies' production, the superhero genre hadn't really considered an R-rating viable. But now that Deadpool and Logan have broken new ground, the possibilities are endless.
Nicolas Cage's comments to Yahoo make a great deal of sense, given Ghost Rider's dark backstory and striking imagery. In the comics, stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze sells his soul the demon villain Mephisto in an attempt to save his father's life. The hero was bonded with hellfire, which would consume his body at night and in moments of superheroics. It's a painful and terrifying process-- one that had to be pulled back quite a bit in the Ghost Rider movies.
While 2007 was the right time for an R-rated Ghost Rider movie, it would be a different story if the project was developing now. Audiences have become very accustomed to superhero movies in general, as well as darker and grittier takes on the genre. Logan was bloody and painful, and Netflix's Marvel shows are filled violence, sex, and cursing. Ghost Rider is a character that is best when going full tilt, so having to tone things down in order to maintain at PG-13 rating likely held the movie franchise back. Another superhero disappointment for Nicolas Cage to endure after missing out on his Superman movie.
It should be interesting to see if Ghost Rider ever joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony owned the property when the two movies were released, which is why Nicolas Cage's Marvel hero never crossed paths with The Avengers. While a different version of Ghost Rider eventually made it into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., neither ever made their way to the MCU's silver screen universe.