IMPORTANT NOTICE: At The end of this review there is special information concerning real-world events surrounding the character Ghost Rider.
Some films you walk out of the theater saying "that film totally deserved a sequel." The original Ghost Rider (2007) was not one of them. To be fair, it wasn't because it was a bad film, it just wasn't a great one. It was, well, just okay. Certainly that story was faithful to the Marvel character's comic book origins, and we are enough of a Nic Cage fan to have appreciated his work in the role of Johnny Blaze. Still, the CGI effects left us nonplused, and while we did enjoy that outing, it never occurred to us that it would get a sequel - imagine our surprise.
Well, between then and now, the film must have generated enough revenue ($115,802,596 since it's opening in 2007, according to Box Office Mojo). So a-sequeling we will go. Further, not only do we get to see Johnny Blaze in all his fiery glory torching bad guys, but this time around we get to see it in glorious 3D.
So, as it turns out, Johnny (Cage) is apparently still struggling with his eternal curse as the devil's soul collector and is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe. It is there that he is discovered by an alcoholic French monk named Moreau (Elba) who wants to recruit Blaze to protect a young boy from the devil. As can be expected, Blaze is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but he is soon convinced that it is really the only way to protect the boy and - quite possibly - free himself of the curse of the rider forever.
Tapping again into its comicbook origins, the film brings in Danny Ketch (The Ghost Rider of the ‘90s) as the son of the devil. Danny (Riordan) and his mom, Nadya (Placido) are on the run from Roarke - the devil (Hinds), who has sent his minion Ray Carrigan/Blackout (Johnny Whitworth) to fetch Nadya and Danny. Also involved in this mix is the always appreciated Christopher Lambert who plays a high priest, also in the service of Roarke.
We have to say that this time out the CGI (especially the 3D) was far better than in the original film, giving not only Ghost Rider, but the entire film a darker, grittier, more supernatural look than the first film (While GR is technically considered a "superhero" he is more of a horror/supernatural character who is more at home in the world of vampires, werewolves, and demons then in one filled with heroic men in colorful spandex), so this incarnation totally works for us (much more so than the original). On the negative side, we not only preferred Peter Fonda's take on the devil incarnate, but we totally missed the presence of Sam Elliott as the original Ghost Rider in this film. Still, those are minor fanboy issues, and shouldn't detract from what is otherwise a fine film.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: We couldn't in good conscious review this film without commenting on the legal issues currently surrounding the character of Ghost Rider. Gary Friedrich - the original writer of the Marvel Comics series - sued, and was countered-sued by Marvel/Disney over ownership of the character. Friedrich not only lost his suit but was hit with a $17,000 bill from Marvel/Disney. Details of those suits can be found here. Friedrich, who is 68, unemployed, and broke, intends to appeal the decision against him. In the meantime comicbook writer Steve Niles has set up a fund to contribute to help Gary pay this bill. Some comicbook creators are calling for a boycott of not only this film, but all Marvel films. While we aren't going quite so far, we are strongly urging fans of the original comicbook series to send some money Gary's way, because if you can spend $10+ to see the film (and more on popcorn and a drink), you can surly find it in your hearts to send a few bucks Gary's way as well.