If ever a visual metaphor was apt for Marvel at the moment, it would be of a bird-keeper welcoming his pigeons back to the coop after a long winter during which they all flew south. The rights to properties such as Daredevil, The Punisher and Blade - given away to other studios many years ago, before Thor and Iron Man and The Avengers came along and the Marvel-Disney coalition became responsible for some of the highest-grossing films of recent years - are now returning to the home nest, for better or for worse.
It's been quite a while since Screen Rant last rounded up which movie rights were with which company, and at the time some of the major Marvel properties were scattershot amongst a number of different studios. The situation is currently a little less dissipated, now that the characters mentioned above have spent some time away from the big screen and subsequently lapsed back to the their former owners, and now one of the arguably more mishandled Marvel prodigals has returned to home base.
Ghost Rider, formerly one of the two Marvel properties owned by Sony and Columbia, is the latest to have his rights revert back to Marvel Studios. The last time we reported on such an occurrence, the character in question was Daredevil, and the return followed many years of Twentieth Century Fox attempting to get a reboot off the ground and eventually missing their deadline for a production start. For Ghost Rider, though, it was quite a different matter.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige listed Ghost Rider as one of the properties that is now once again owned by his company, and explained why, as well as what he intends to do with Johnny Blaze:
"Whenever a character comes back to us, it's usually because the other studios don't want to make the movies anymore - and that usually means the [previous] movies may not have been particularly well received. They all have potential, but we're not going to say, 'We got it back - make it!'"
Sorry to quell the excitement of Ghost Rider fans so quickly, but of the many Marvel superheroes and antiheroes currently available for adaptation, Blaze is at the bottom of the list; the article later explains that Phase Three of Feige's planned cinematic universe will chiefly consist of heroes who haven't yet been given the stand-alone treatment.
More to the point, a large part of the reason that Sony-Columbia will have given up on the character is due to the tepid response to both Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Neither film was a total flop at the box office - both more or less managed to break even on their production budget domestically and even make a little profit thanks to the worldwide market. Nonetheless, both the first and second film were almost universally panned by critics, and even with their combined box office grosses, neither of them came anywhere close to the success of Sony-Columbia's reboot of another Marvel property, The Amazing Spider-Man.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that Ghost Rider is just on vacation rather than headed into retirement as far as the big screen goes. After all, he's a biker skeleton whose head is on fire. Material like that doesn't come along everyday. Unless you're Marvel Studios, in which case it sometimes just comes home.