The Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown through its wide array of films and TV shows that it can cover almost any genre imaginable. Where Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political thriller, The ant Man was a heist movie. However, one particular genre he hasn’t dabbled in yet is the western. Westerns were the superhero movies of their time and dominated the box office for decades. But where the MCU has yet to tread, two Marvel movies have already shown it can be done in style – The Punisher and ghost rider.
Both films were not westerns in the traditional sense. But what they lacked in gun-toting lawmen or high-speed train robberies, these films gained in their execution of tropes or the setting in which the films established themselves. They basically kept the spirit of the genre alive with a few on-the-nose references, as well as even more exciting moments that would remind viewers of what cinema used to be.
Ghost Rider captured Western legends and settings
2007 ghost rider was a film that focused on the curse of Johnny Blaze and how he had to navigate life as a pawn for Mephisto, who wanted to be his own man. But the foundations of the story were told through the veil of old Western legends and classic settings. The beginning of the film featured a flashback of a man who made a deal with Mephisto in the 1800s before becoming a Ghost Rider and walking away from the demon. However, the story told through the iconic voice of Sam Elliot gave the film a more Western feel by embracing an aspect of his character.
The San Venganza area was meant to resemble a ghost town and served as the arena for Ghost Rider and Blackheart for their final battle. The place was supposed to be cursed by spirits, but with its trumpet and guitar score, it’s hard not to think of ’70s spaghetti westerns and how they embraced the gruff setting of the Wild West. ghost rider maybe not a traditional western at all, but it felt like a modern look at how the genre could become something more supernatural.
The Punisher brought Western tropes back to the modern day
2004 The Punisher was a far more genre-focused film than its future iterations. While the story of Frank Castle losing his family remained intact, the story took on a more personal tone and his revenge was much more systematic. That said, it felt like a modern retelling of a classic western revenge story thanks to the tropes that permeated the entire film. Perhaps the most interesting aspect was how the film focused on a hero with nothing to lose, similar to movies like Shane or its modern counterpart, Logan. But it also gave the hero obstacles to face, like colorful enemies like The Russian or Harry Heck. But the definitive addition to the film that solidified its place as a Western was the stalemate at the end.
After decimating his entire operation, Frank Castle finally faced Howard Saint away from his club, ready to deliver the punishment he deserved. But rather than shoot him without remorse, he gave him a chance to retaliate in a classic stalemate. But Frank was much faster on the draw, confirming Saint’s fate. It was a brief moment, but one that let the audience know the type of film The Punisher has been. Compared to ghost rider, it showed that cowboys and criminals weren’t all it took to keep the spirit of westerns alive. All it took was a little wit and a willingness to honor the stories that helped bring these modern tales to life.