I’m one of the few people who openly admits to liking the first Ghost Rider movie. When I first watched it, I had little to no familiarity with the character aside from his appearance on an episode of The Incredible Hulk animated series. After becoming more familiar with the character, I began to see why die-hard fans of the comics would dislike it.
Marvel thinks the franchise still has a chance as this film is released under the Marvel Knights imprint, a subsidiary branch of Marvel Studios. This is the second film under this brand, the first being Punisher: War Zone.
Spirit of Vengeance takes place 8 years after the previous film but many details of the first movie are retroactively altered or omitted entirely. Johnny Blaze, played by Nicholas Cage, is hiding out in Europe when the gun-totting monk, Moreau, played by Idris Elba, calls upon him to thwart a plot to transfer the powers and mind of The Devil, played by Ciarán Hinds, into the body of a boy named Danny, played by Fergus Riordan.
The story in this film is starkly different from the first film in both style and content, coming across as an attempt to be more faithful to the comics. There’s more angst from Johnny Blaze than we got from the first film.
The film feels more like a reboot a la X-Men: First Class than it does a sequel; it can technically fit within continuity but at the same time attempt to start over from scratch if the film does well.
This film takes on a darker gothic look, with moments of Taratino-esque dark humor. It also splices in oil paint style animation for certain parts in addition to scenes that mimic the kind of imagery one would see in a comic.
The acting in this film is decent, but the biggest drawback comes from Nicholas Cage’s performance. He doesn’t come across as the tortured soul the movie tries to show. When he’s going nuts while holding back the Rider, he does a good job, but I feel that they really should have gotten someone with a wider range to play Johnny Blaze.
If you’re a fan of the Ghost Rider comics, then you’ll probably enjoy this film a lot more that the first film. It has a darker story with fairly engaging characters, Cage’s performance notwithstanding. The effects are greatly improved, although there are some bits that don’t exactly blend that well. This is film isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely a step up from the first. On my personal scale, I give Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance a 3/5.