Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Ghost Rider:  Spirit of VengeanceStarring Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert, Idris Elba

Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Show of hands, right now, who hated the first Ghost Rider? Not merely disliked. Hated.

Yep, me too. That atrocity followed the somehow-worse Wicker Man remake as the second volley in a series of “Nic Cage don’t care ‘bout his career no more” flicks that hurtled the respected thesp and part-time action hero down a path to ruin. He eventually bounced back with a handful of decent performances, and some genuinely fun genre flicks (including Drive Angry and Season of the Witch). For the record, this reviewer likes Cage quite a bit, even if I find some of his choices mind-boggling.

But oooh, was Ghost Rider a bad film. Cage wasn’t entirely at fault for its shortcomings, not at all. Equal blame should be shared by his fellow actors and the director/screenwriter for crafting such a joyless, empty experience. But…it did make money. Lots of it. So, it was inevitable that we would eventually get a follow-up.

And you know what? The damned thing is actually a lot of fun. Sony and Marvel wisely replaced the previous helmer with Neveldine/Taylor, the crazy bastards behind the Crank films, and worked from an initial script by David Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins). As a result, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a far better (and far more enjoyable) romp that more closely captures the edgy comic book that serves as its inspiration. It’s very well shot, the action is insane, the story zips along, the cast is quite good, and even Cage seems to be having fun here.
Acting as more of a reboo…uh, a re-buuhuhh…ahem. Excuse me. I hate the damned word and how casually it’s tossed about these days, so much that I can rarely bring myself to speak or write it. Alright, here goes: reboot. There we are, then. Reboot.

Oddly enough, the r-word actually is somewhat fitting for this film. Spirit of Vengeance opens with a brand new origin for our lead character, Johnny Blaze (Cage), which explains his backstory and current predicament (neither of which quite gels with the previous film). There is no Eva Mendes, Peter Fonda, or jelly beans in sight with this movie, and I’m okay with at least two of those deletions.

Our flamin’ hero is soon enlisted by an alcoholic, pistol-packing French monk named Moreau (Idris Elba, awesome as always) to save the life of a young boy set to act as a human vessel for the soul of Satan. Blaze flames up, bad guys die, fun times are had by most.

I hesitate to say any more, as there is very little plot to spoil in the first place. What there is acts as essentially a clothesline on which directors Neveldine and Taylor hang a series of impressively-executed setpieces. Along the way, Cage chews the scenery with glee while the rest of the cast does an admirable job of keeping themselves reigned in. Of special note are Ciarán Hinds (always wonderful) and Violante Placido, who does wonders with her thinly-written character. And, of course, there is the aforementioned Elba, who needs his own movie franchise now, dammit! Seriously, Marvel, give the man Blade, or Black Panther, or something! An actor this good shouldn’t be relegated to second fiddle for much longer.

Sony has given this film a damned decent showing on Blu-ray, with a ridiculously-sharp image and thunderous sound design that’ll have your home entertainment system hopping during the frequent action sequences. The bonus features are quite decent, as well. We get a selection of deleted scenes, most of which are fairly forgettable (except, maybe, the one featuring Noel Clarke – Mickey Smith from Doctor Who. TARDIS fans represent!). There is also a nifty picture-in-picture video commentary featuring Neveldine and Taylor. This is a hoot, as the directors keep the talk not only informative, but fun as hell. Rounding out the package is The Path to Vengeance, a six-part, feature-length making-of doc that covers every aspect of the production in an amusing, energetic way. I don’t know if Spirit of Vengeance needed a 90-minute documentary, but it’s a surprisingly decent behind-the-curtains look at this enjoyable flick.

Lookit, if you’re not a fan of Cage’s special brand of madness (“ScrAAApin’ at the doooOOOR!”), go ahead and give this flick a pass. However, if you’re a fan of comic-booky horror flicks with loads of inventive action, do yourself a favor: forget that wretched initial installment and give this one a shot.

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Directors’ Expanded Video Commentary
  • The Path to Vengeance: Making Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Six-Part Documentary, Including:
    o Blazing a New Path, a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made;
    o Patience Is Not a Virtue: Pre-Production, an in-depth look at the challenges the production crew had during pre-productions;
    o We Will Burn This City To Bitter Ashes, allowing for the discovery of the shooting locations in Romania and Eastern Europe;
    o To Hell and Back: Production, a look at the shooting style that directors brought to the film and some of the key stunt sequences;
    o Walking in Both Worlds: Moving into Post-Production, exploring the challenges of completing a film; and
    o The Fires of Hell Will Purify You: Release.

  • 3D Featurette: Riding Into Another Dimension (Blu-ray exclusive)


    3 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

    Discuss Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in the comments section below.

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    • Jinx

      WiB – thanks for having my back. This could be love.

      Foywonder – laugh away, sir! I’ll understand. I really did dig Cage here. That kind of loony would be out of place in some films (hell, most films), but I thought it perfectly complemented Neveldine/Taylor’s approach.

      Vanvance – to be clear, while I enjoyed the film it is most certainly NOT the Ghost Rider film I really want. That would be, like, a 70s film directed by Monte Hellman, starring Peter Fonda as Johnny Blaze.

      Also, my review seems to have inspired a tweet. Neat.

      • Masked Slasher

        Nah. You review inspired me to be really curious about what others thought of the flick as well. So I went a readin’ and found a few decent reviews.

        Needless to say I was surprised.

        But what do I know, I got crucified for giving 3 1/2 knives to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

        • Uncle Creepy

          I’m still on the proverbial cross for The Devil Inside. It’s the 3 or 3 1/2 rated reviews that are always the most controversial.

        • Jinx

          Actually, I have a bit of a soft spot for Halloween 6. It was the first Myers flick I caught in a theatre. In fact, I actually dig H5 too, likely because it was the first Halloween movie I ever saw, period.

          Just don’t tell anyone,kay?

      • MonsterMash

        This is what I’m talking about! Thats all I would want myself! Did you like Drive Angry? Thats the closest you’ll get to those Fonda biker flicks for a long time. And it doesn’t even have a motorcycle in it as far as I remember. How depressing.

        • Jinx

          Loved Drive Angry. Fichtner was amazing in that. And yeah, some shitty CG aside, it felt like watching a great 70s exploitation flick.

          • Terminal

            Drive Angry was rancid. Nic Cage is putrid.

            • Vanvance1

              Seconded. Drive Angry tried too damn hard but forgot to bring the fun. Hobo with a Shotgun is 10X the exploitation flick.

            • Terminal

              Hear hear, my good man!

            • Jinx

              There was about 10x the exploitation in Hobo, I’ll grant you that. Rutger Hauer was great, and the garish photography was pretty stunning.

              Aside from that, I’ll stick with Drive Angry.

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    • Vanvance1

      I grew up reading the Ghost Rider comics (the originals).

      I liked all of Neveldine and Taylor’s previous films (even Gamer).

      This is not a complete and total trainwreck, it’s mildly entertaining. Alas, it’s still not a proper Ghost Rider film and it does suck in many ways.

      Cage is done, toss him in a meat blender with Johnny Depp and press ‘generic abitrary quirks’. His performance here is mostly just annoying.

      I wanted to like this flick a lot more than I did. 2.5 knives (being generous).

    • Jinx

      Anyone out there like this film?

      …anyone at all?

      Right, then. Bit lonely out here.

      • Foywonder

        Seems to be pretty much just you and Nomad and Harry Knowles.

        I also have to laugh whenever anyone praises Cage’s “madness” in this movie. This is the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter version of Cage’s shtick. Totally forced. Totally phony. Not the real thing.

      • The Woman In Black

        Well, I didn’t LOVE it, but I did have a fun time and liked it well enough. So I’ll keep you company. 🙂

      • Uncle Creepy

        While I’m no lover of either this or the original film, it was at least a step in the right direction and I managed to garner a bit of fun out of the flick. The Rider himself looked amazing with the boiling leather and all, and I really dug the different kind of vehicles thing.

        That being said, the main problem here is Cage. Loony or not, forced or not, he’s just too old to play Johnny Blaze. Coupled with the fact that he’s now in on the “Cage is an overacting nut joke” brings this one down.

    • Masked Slasher

      Worst movie of 2012 so far. No question.

    • Terminal

      I’ve yet to see this but I did see a clip of Nic Cage turning in to the Ghost Rider during the film. If that clip represents the entire film, then I’d say this movie has way too many knives on this review.

    • Foywonder

      No. Just no.