I saw MARVEL KNIGHT's GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE about 2 weeks prior to BNAT13WOLF and had an absolute blast with it. That, coming off of hating the first GHOST RIDER with Nick Cage. Now - you have to understand something about me, GHOST RIDER came about as I was first becoming aware of comics. At the time, EVIL KNIEVAL was all over the place and we all had toys of EVIL. At the same time there was a horror explosion occurring at Marvel, where they began developing Werewolf and Dracula characters.. but of all of those, GHOST RIDER was the visual icon... As Peter Fonda taught audiences to RACE WITH THE DEVIL and the Drive-In screens were populated with fare like THE LOSERS... I was seeing that stuff and reading GHOST RIDER.
Now that being said, I never was particularly captivated with the characters in the comic, but the imagery seared to my brain. I find the entire premise seriously ridiculous. I mean, satan makes a stuntman ride the earth eternally as the spirit of vengeance? That said, I've always believed that the right team could elevate GHOST RIDER into being Lon Chaney Jr quality tortured soul that's demonic soul would strike out and destroy those what had it coming.
This still isn't GREAT, but it is a great deal of fun. Especially when they allow Cage to dial up the insanity. At every level it is superior to the first version. The look of the GHOST RIDER is fantastic to my eyes... of love the billowing black smoke that is there in addition to the fire. I love the charred skull - and his chains and vehicles are vastly cooler here. I also prefer Ciaran Hinds's ROARKE to Peter Fonda's big baddie. Idris Elba is impossible for me not to like, his Moreau makes nearly zero sense. Never really clear about his character once in the movie, but whatever his purpose in this universe, he certainly is fun on screen. Now Violante Placido isn't going to set the world ablaze, but she doesn't douse the film with flame retardant the way Eva Mendes did in the original. The film is essentially a version of T2, and yeah it is all about the boy, but he isn't the savior of mankind, but one of the possible downfalls of humanity.
I suppose there's something Pavlovian to watching GHOST RIDER come to life onscreen with the fury and the 3D craziness that the team of Neveldine & Taylor give it. We know them from the CRANK films - and they bring some of that insanity to GHOST RIDER, but they're also asked to reign it in. An R-rated Neveldine and Taylor GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE is where the B-movie glory truly resides, but MARVEL hasn't really crossed that line yet. Well unless you count the pussy-licking awesome of BLADE 2.
GHOST RIDER in it's flame-enriched soul is an R-rated property. Much like THE PUNISHER and if we're all honest, WOLVERINE is.
That said, this flirts with R, and honestly any Blu-ray that shows how Neveldine and Taylor shot this batnuts insane flick, those special features should be R-rated and still... people will die trying to do this insanity. The free rollerskating at vehicular high speeds while shooting handheld... limited safety - pure insanity.
But when you see the images that they've captured and the attitude those images carry, I thrived on it. After the screening at BNAT - I found the audience being fairly split on the film. Most of my "Comic Book Freaky friends" - like the guys that used to work in comic shops, continue to work in comic shops or that draw comics (not for MARVEL btw) - we all dug the hell out of it.
You see, Cage's character is a slightly gelded version of his character from BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL - NEW ORLEANS....he's never as down right fucked up as that, but he flirts with the bursts of pure manic insanity... and there's a shot of him on a motorcycle popping back and forth between Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider - and it's killer.
The thing that'll drive most critics crazy - and this is being 100% honest with ya - it is the convenient logic issues. You see, they spend time on dialogue explaining to us that Johnny Blaze can't control the Rider... the Rider will torch you for Jay-Walking as well as for watching TEEN WOLF - and then you never get a pay off of the Rider wasting someone he shouldn't have - and Blaze remembering it. That's a key thing to the tortured soul - don't forget to torture him. Then there's the BLACKOUT character - whose power also seems to be incredibly arbitrary. I mean, it desicates everything, except for the major characters - for which there are zero expectations, but keeps the story moving I suppose.
Why doesn't it drive me insane?
Why does the main character become a nuclear flame skull-headed rider with no eyes - upon a vehicle with flames for tires (wonder how that works for shock absorbtion)? I know there's a curse... but look at your main character. Visually, take it apart and it doesn't make much sense. Why do his clothes return to normal? And the hair comes back to the same style. So nice.
BUT ya know - almost every problem this movie has is inherrent to the character as written and drawn in the comics. And I enjoy the hell out it. That this movie is light years better than the original was reason to celebrate to a degree. However, the way to win most over - is to go Hard R, get better writers and make the film hurt some. Here, it feels a bit Scooby Doo in places, but again - that's Marvel feeling a need to involve a kid in the center of a story that is about a man that has lost his soul and is cursed upon the Earth to reap the souls of the damned - and you never really get to see that. You never see the pure regret that drives that insanity that Cage embues the character with. But you see that Cage is playing it.
Ultimately, the film is nuts in the way I kind of wanted it to go. But do realize this isn't a film that everyone is going to agree on. At $75 million, most would expect something less rough around the edges, but Neveldine & Taylor made something that doesn't look like some cookie cutter safe flick. There's some crazy shit that goes down in this movie that I just loved - and if you're someone that doesn't think GHOST RIDER is automatically stupid... give it a shot. It is far better than the last film would lead you to believe.
Perhaps 3rd time will be the charm! Werner Herzog directs Nicolas Cage in the R-rated 150 million dollar GHOST RIDER.
Til then, this is the best GHOST RIDER we've got, but I'm definitely planning on seeing it for a third time.