Mania Grade: D-
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- Rated: PG-13
- Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba
- Writer: David S. Goyer, Scott Gimple
- Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
- Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment
- Original Year of Release: 2012
- Extras: See Below
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Blu-ray review
A flaming disaster
By Tim Janson
June 24, 2012
I’ve got a couple of theories as to why there have been two Ghost Rider films, especially a second film after the first was almost universally panned…First off, the film rights to Marvel’s characters are spread out over numerous studios…Sony/Columbia has rights to Ghost Rider and Spider-Man with Fox having rights to the X-Men and all related characters as well as the Fantastic Four, while Paramount and Disney have a joint operating agreement on the Avengers and related characters films. Disney distributes, Paramount gets royalties, etc…So basically with the Avengers coming out Sony likely figured all things Marvel would be hot and decided to try and take advantage of that fact. Secondly, and more to the point…Ghost Rider is a guy with a flaming skull who rides a motorcycle. Never mind that he’s never been more than a second tier character, flaming skulls are cool. Well, not so much.
Look I love Ghost Rider. I love the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider and I love the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider, but the Producers of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance need to be hit with the penance stare. This film is to the Ghost Rider franchise what Punisher: War Zone was to the Punisher franchise, a low-budget, corner-cutting, abysmal mess. Low budget is relative. $57 million isn’t exactly paltry but it’s exactly half the budget of the original film and it shows. The opening credits and prologue use an animated, comic book style look which screams cheesy, to retell Ghost Rider’s origin.
When my fellow Mania Reviewer Rob Vaux reviewed the theatrical version a few months back he noted that “You can spot the central problem with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance with that little "PG-13" rating in the corner. Let me tell you another way you can spot a central problem…it’s with the meager 95-minute runtime of which the opening and end credits take up at least 10 minutes of the time. So what we end up with is this abridged clutter of chases and fights and zero character development.
A French priest named Moreau (Elba) tracks down Johnny Blaze in Europe to help him rescue a boy named Danny from a gang of thugs who plan to turn him over to Roarke, aka, The Devil (Hinds). In return, Moreau says he can remove the Ghost Rider curse from Blaze. That truly is all that there is of the film’s plot which makes most comic books look like the works of Hemingway. Danny is apparently the offspring of the Devil and his mother, after she made a deal to save her life.
In the first Ghost Rider film the character at least looked good…Here he looks like he and his motorcycle have been dipped in hot tar. Both are covered in a grimy, ashy soot for some reason. Oh yeah right, it was probably a lot cheaper. Ghost Rider moves like a spirit from a J-horror film, all jerky and stunted like he’s learning to walk for the first time. And when did Blaze start having a more traumatic transformation than Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk? Blaze spasms and flops about like a live fish on a hot griddle. If that were not bad enough, Cage ups the ante with perhaps the most bizarre performance of his career (and THAT is an achievement) playing Blaze like a meth addict going through withdrawals.
The film can’t even hang its hat on solid action sequences. In one scene, Ghost Rider is taken down by a hit from a grenade launcher, putting Blaze into the hospital. Yet later he shrugs off multiple hits from a shoulder mounted missile launcher. And excuse me if I have a hard time believing that Ghost Rider can have his deal with the Devil nullified by essentially saying a few Hail Marys.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is proof positive that not every Marvel character can turn to gold. When the film came out, there was a huge outcry in the comic community over the fact that co-creator Gary Friedrich was not given any credit or royalties from the film. After seeing this film Friedrich probably would have paid them NOT to use his name.
Audio/Video Commentary – Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor provide commentary with picture-in-a-picture featurettes and interviews during the feature film. The thing that came through to me while watching a bit of this was that these two guys come across at a couple of major fanboys.
Deleted Scenes (11:20) – Several cut or expanded scenes are included such as Blaze going into a church and fighting off his transformation, and Roark renting a car.
Path to Vengeance: the Making of Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (1:29:00) – Talk about audacious…You’ve got to have some serious stones to add a documentary that is as long as the feature film when the feature is THIS bad. It does have one very important aspect however. Neveldine and Taylor discuss the original David S. Goyer stripped that was reportedly much more violent and would have had an “R” rating. The reason the script wasn’t used? Because they said it could not make money. One of the pair even mentioned that the “R” rated film “The Hangover” didn’t make money? Huh? What? Hey guys…the Hangover made close to half a billion dollars…or in terms maybe you can understand, nearly FOUR TIMES what Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance made. So much for that theory.