Ghost Rider’s Qualified Success and What it Means for DC

Ghost RiderWith the estimates for its third weekend in ($11.5m towards $94m to-date, domestic) it’s safe to consider Ghost Rider a qualified success as it’s quite likely that it will surpass director Mark Steven Johnson’s previous effort, Daredevil — which topped out at $102m after 22 weeks in release — by the end of next weekend, despite receiving even worse reviews; and its final domestic take should, at least, cover its pricey $120m production budget. In doing so, it will also likely match, or beat, the combined box office of Daredevil and its ill-conceived spinoff, Elektra, which bombed two years ago with a mere $24m domestic take.

Did anyone other than Avi Arad, Johnson and Nicolas Cage (for whom Ghost Rider represents his widest initial release and best opening weekend box office ever) really see this coming? Suddenly, the decision to postpone its release from August 2006 and invest in some top-notch special effects seems to have paid off immensely as it’s hard to believe it would have found this level of success in last summer’s crowded schedule, lost in the shadow of the likes of Pirates of the Carribean, X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns.

In light of the perception that Superman Returns was a relative disappointment last summer, and the creative turmoil surrounding the Wonder Woman and Flash movies, combined with the imminent release of the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four sequels, it would appear that Marvel is poised to project its dominance of the Distinguished Competition in print onto the silver screen. Marvel’s patented formula of relatable, human characters struggling to come to terms with newfound powers seems to translate even better to Hollywood than it does in comic book form, which probably explains why Batman is arguably DC’s most bankable character and Smallville has been such an unexpectedly long-legged success.

Perhaps it’s time for Warner Brothers to look beyond their sorely dated, ill-conceived Trinity and tap into their deep roster of second and third-tier characters, a la Blade and Ghost Rider, many of whom have more crossover potential and appeal to a non-comics reading audience? They have a much stronger Sci-Fi-based pool to pull from than Marvel does, with Green Lantern Corps, Adam Strange and even the new Blue Beetle being prime candidates for adaptation; Jonah Hex would be perfect for the big or small screen (cable only, please), especially with the recent introduction of Tallulah Black; and Gotham Central would be a no-brainer for the Fall 2008 TV season, which will likely be Smallville’s last.

With their only surefire hit not hitting screens until the summer of 2008 — the upcoming Batman Begins sequel, Dark Knight — they’ll have plenty of time to study Marvel’s hits and misses and figure out how to develop a successful slate of films from their rich character pool, but much like it is on the comics side of things, if they’re depending on the high-risk gambles of Wonder Woman and Flash to lead the charge, they’re in for an even bigger disappointment than One Year Later turned out to be.

7 thoughts on “Ghost Rider’s Qualified Success and What it Means for DC

  1. Yow, that was quite a read! Some interesting points and overlap, some things I don’t agree with at all, but I’m going to have to set aside some time for a more thorough rereading before I can properly comment on it.

    One other thing to point out, though, is how the structures of the two companies differ. Marvel is a singular entity, largely dependent on its own devices, and now that it has invested heavily to bring movie production in-house, their future is going to rest on being able to develop a steady stream of successful movies that doesn’t feature Spider-Man or the X-Men.

    DC, on the other hand, as a division of Warner Brothers Studios, is in the interesting position of being their overt publishing arm and a covert R&D operation, suggesting that their wider range of offerings is surely intended to ultimately bear more silver screen fruit beyond the spandex set. With Harry Potter having three (?) more movies in the pipeline and a revitalized Batman franchise (I’d argue that the jury is still out on Superman), the WB still needs an occasional V for Vendetta while it develops another tentpole franchise or three. Whether that comes from their stable of B-list superheroes; non-spandex titles like The Losers and DMZ; or adaptations from their new Minx imprint — DC definitely has the potential to easily outdo Marvel at the box office.

    Potential, of course, doesn’t mean much if it’s never realized.

  2. Where do you get off saying that D.C. will out do Marvel in the Box office? Marvel has quite a good record of already outdoing D.C. in the media content it has already put forward! DO you go to the movies, or did Sgt Spicer not let you? He probably didnt gove you a pass did he?
    Haa guess who!
    Someone from your past!

  3. i know you are not a gaiman fan but Stardust is sure being treated like a top film and is probably the testing ground for a Sandman movie (which would require a high FX budget).

    also, brian michael bendis has started on a Y: The Last Man script.

    any thoughts on how this could help/hurt DC’s desire to get more spandez on the movie screens?

  4. Anon: Identify yourself, soldier! Or is that, Sir? I heard a couple of you have moved up in the ranks!

    Oscar: Stardust won’t do much for DC or Warner Brothers since it’s being distributed by Paramount and I believe Gaiman owns the rights for the book, which is better known as a novel than its original comics form these days. That said, if it does well, a Sandman movie could follow, which as I mentioned in the comment above, would be the kind of “V for Vendetta” output the WB would like to see between doses of Harry Potter and Batman.

    Same for Y (Vaughan, not Bendis, BTW) and the upcoming Preacher TV show, though none of these will do as much for the DC brand as it will for their respective creators. It’s a Catch-22 that, in the end, may find DC getting less credit than it possibly deserves for developing and/or nurturing successful properties.

  5. I’ve always felt that Jonah Hex (maybe with “Lost’s” Josh Holloway as Hex) would make either a natural movie or even a weekly series (though the chance of getting a western on TV would be a crapshoot, maybe on HBO….)

  6. Anybody else remember Grant Morrison predicting that DC’s day-glo multifareity would leave Marvel in the dust, in the coming years?

    Guy (and Greg), thanks for the mention and the kind words — you know there were some things I wrote in there that I’m not sure I don’t disagree with, too!

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