If at first you don’t succeed try again, right? Wait a minute, the first Ghost Rider film grossed almost 230 million dollars worldwide, what do you mean try again? It was a box-office success even though it was garbage. Well, there are forces out there that deemed there be a sequel to the film, or in this case, a re-boot, so there you go. Honestly, I didn’t even know this film was a re-boot, because if you watch it all the way through it plays fine as a sequel. Anyways, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance are directing duo madmen Neveldine/Taylor’s (Crank, Crank 2, Gamer) latest project and first foray into directing-for-hire features. How has the demon biker with flame, skull, and a motorcycle on fire fare this time out? Will it ride off into the darkness as it should or will its flame be extinguished early on?
Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is back on the bike and ready to take out the trash on the devil’s behalf in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. This is the second film and part of the Marvel Knights banner, which means that it’s harder edge superhero stuff that includes: The Punisher and Blade. It’s not your typical kiddie superhero flick. In this second film Blaze is recruited by a secret organization to seek out an protect a young boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan), before Roarke, The Devil (Ciaran Hinds) gets his hands on him. Danny’s mom, Nadya (Violante Placido), is also by his side and will try to keep him safe from evil. Moreau (Idris Elba) is Johnny’s only friend and partner and he’ll try to do everything he can to try and get Blaze to embrace his curse and use it against Roarke. Ray aka Blackout (Johnny Whitworth) is on their tail, as he leads a small army across Eastern Europe to try and find the boy.
Was a sequel really needed to further continue the adventures of Ghost Rider? I think so. Ghost Rider is such a badass character that I welcomed the notion of a sequel. My prayers were answered when the hyper-kinetic directing team of Neveldine/Taylor were brought on board to direct. Being a huge fan of the Crank and Gamer films, I thought they’d make a perfect fit for the material. Then again, this is a Marvel property, so the boys were put on a leash of sorts. I remember at Comic-Con they said that the film would be rated R, with them making the sly comment of “fucking your shit up for Valentine’s Day.” What more could the fans want? Well, the film ended up being PG-13, so there went that.
I kept the faith and decided to check out in the theater and thought it was entertaining enough. This caused a bit of a backlash, because some people would tell me that the the first one was better, etc. I disagree wholeheartedly. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is basic in its story concept. It’s a chase film for the most part in which The Devil needs something from someone and Johnny Blaze has to stop them before the end of world happens, which will take all those involved all over Eastern Europe. Why Eastern Europe? It’s cheaper to shoot there than Canada. I thought this incarnation of Ghost Rider was much scarier and creepier than the first one. Cage is actually playing him as opposed to a digital stuntman or double like the first film.
The CGI effects also looked better in this version than the first film. From the crumbling ashes flaking off of Ghost Rider’s jacket to the smoke and fire elements of the skull – it’s top notch. The action scenes and camerawork are also up there in terms of quality. Neveldine/Taylor have always been known for their off the wall action compositions and Spirit of Vengeance continues the trend. Hell, we get to see Ghost Rider in the day time, too!
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance features a couple of cameos. Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV Series) and the Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert. Violante Placido as Nadya is smoking hot, and Whitworth as Blackout is downright slimy. Nicolas Cage brings the bat-shit-insane to the table in small doses throughout and Idris Elba brings a drunk French accent to the mix. Ciaran Hinds brings a dignified presence to the role of The Devil
The question remains: Do you need to see the first film in order to get the second film? That’s a personal choice, but no you don’t. Spirit of Vengeance contains enough back story to fill in the gaps. The marketing materials may tell you otherwise, though.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is presented in 1080p, 2.40:1. Shot in digital, looks above average. Flesh tones look natural and don’t flush, colors are bold and vibrant and never band. Depending the scene, there are instances of softness and contras boosting throughout, but it was all part of the aesthetic. Edge enhancement was also absent. I did not detect instances of intrusive DNR or crush. The night time sequences looked terrific. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is on fire.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Here’s a peculiar track that is front driven, for the most part. Dialogue is fully centered and clear. What I noticed was that during certain scenes of peril, the surround channels were quite. Granted, when Ghost Rider comes riding in, rear channels come alive. I guess what I’m trying to say is that non-action scenes have almost ano ambient qualities, but when the action picks up, then shit gets real in the back. It’s still a great mix, but it’s not on the level of Gamer. Gamer had a reference track, but I digress.
Yes, it’s about time! It’s about time that Blu-ray supplement worthy of note made their appearances on a disc for a change. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance contains and AMAZING expanded video commentary by Neveldine/Taylor in which they spill the beans on the making of the film. What’s even cooler is that they don’t even try to defend the film as higher art. They tell you to strap in and have fun while they talk shit throughout the film. They’re hilarious in there sometimes deadpan sarcastic ways of telling you what’s happening onscreen. I thought I was watching Mystery Science Theater 3000! The feature runs about 10-minutes longer than the actual film due to them freeze framing and interacting with what’s going on. Little making-of boxes pop up during certain segments, as well. This expanded commentary is one of the best ever. In addition to the expanded video commentary we get some deleted scenes and how cool is it to see Nicolas Cage with Voodoo skull paint and an LCD helmet wrapped around his head during green screen tests? It’s awesome! This all gets wrapped up in an exhaustive, but entertaining 90-minute documentary covering every single aspect of filming from pre-production to test screenings. Neveldine/Taylor are funny guys.
- Director’s Expanded Video Commentary
- The Path to Vengeance - Six-Part Documentary
- Deleted Scenes
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is an exciting thrill ride that puts all three Transformers movies to shame. Yeah, I said it. I do wish it would have been rated R, but oh well. I found it fun and that’s all that matters. The Blu-ray has above average tech-specs, with awesome extras worth the price of purchase alone. If you loved Spirit of Vengeance then you will most likely hate the first film and vice-versa.
Order Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance on Blu-ray!