As many of you may already know, it’s been announced that veteran film maker David Cronenberg is slated to direct the next Ghost Rider movie. Nick Cage will be returning and they’re supposedly using the unused script David Goyer wrote for the first movie. Obviously, they can’t do worse than Mark Steven Johnson‘s offering, but I have to wonder if Cronenberg is castrating himself by signing on.
Ever since Ang Lee‘s Hulk it’s always bothered me that people criticized that film so heavily. Of course I agree it wasn’t a perfect movie (I don’t think there are many who could support the mutant poodles!), but so much of the movie was so psychologically and visually stimulating and original. This was a movie made by a real film maker who was taking the material seriously. So panned was this movie, that it’s sequel was toted as a remake. Neither embracing the first nor having temerity to fully restart the franchise, Norton’s Hulk movie was everything the critics were asking for; a stupider movie. They wanted “Hulk smash”, and they got it. Of course it didn’t make a better movie, but like Transformers 2; audiences can’t complain when they’re getting more of what they asked for. Cronenberg, much like Lee is more likely to challenge his audience than say a Sam Raimi film, not counting Spiderman 3 which was evidently too difficult for most viewers.
Comic book movies have so much potential and are now being embraced by the public as a vehicle for new special effects, but there are few out there that have really reached their full potential. How hard would it be take a dark movie about a guy who mercilessly murders criminals as retribution for the murder of his own family, when you have the interests of the studios’ merchandising to worry about? And just how can you make a worthy movie of the Punisher that will also appeal to little kids, so that you can sell the toys while still respecting the source material? The first Ghostrider was certainly an attempt at a luke warm commercial franchise, but Cronenberg’s tastes will likely chaffee against those ideals. Will the Dark Knight inspire Marvel to dig deeper than they’ve ever dared to go? The problem here is again, expectations of what the final product should be.
Studios have financial interests that need to be realized and returned. They of course want a product that will appeal to a broad audience and that usually ends up being kids and toys. Fans of the comic will nit pick to nth degree about detailed minutiae that vary from reasonable wishes of good storytelling to demands to see arbitrary characters like Gambit whether or not they’ll be a good fit on screen. In the final analysis, the only people who matter are ticket buyers found in any theatre across the country. They need to know what they’re watching
The Watchmen faced an easily recognizable threat to it’s success by it’s very concept. All that needed to be sold to the world was the idea that this is a movie based on the greatest superhero comic in history! Everybody is on board… that is until they walk out of the theatre and wonder what their superpowers were. Some people think it was boring, well I bet those people had no idea about the movie they were going to see and I bet they thought they knew better. The reason the book was the greatest was that it was exceptionally smart and broke ground on how people thought of comic books. Maybe the audience of a big budget Hollywood movie has too narrow a vision to accept that same idea in movies. Hell, even V for Vendetta resorted to some Matrix slow-mo to enhance it’s visuals and mass appeal.
Everybody buys into the “superhero” movie and what it means but that concept is nothing more than a noose around the neck of genre. Everyone wants the special effects and the action, the CG and the impossibly dynamic stunt sequences that we’ve never seen before, but why must that come at the expense of the story or a film maker’s vision? Dark Knight is one of the few artistic and commercial successes that brings everything to the table.
With his head on what may be a chopping block, veteran film maker David Cronenberg has announced that he will be behind the camera for the next Ghostrider movie. Will the masses support an unconventional superhero movie? Will the fans nitpick at every detail or complain that it doesn’t follow all of the lore set out in a comic series originating in the seventies? There’s a line that must be found for all of us. It straddles the boundaries between quality, integrity and commercial viability, fan demands and the public’s desire to be left unchallenged. How can we foster more novel concepts while still making financially successful films? Better yet, what is Cronenberg’s plan?