Sony’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has been earning some decent buzz of late, thanks to a fairly well-received official teaser trailer, a good showing at the 2011 New York Comic-Con, and a circulating collection of unofficial one-sheets that stylishly recreate some of the more memorable imagery on display in the film’s initial theatrical promo (ex. Johnny Blaze spewing a flaming wave of bullets).

Today, we have a new official poster for the Ghost Rider sequel, along with some reactions from those who got an early look at the flick recently – while attending Harry Knowles’ annual “Butt-Numb-A-Thon” screening event.

Here is an official synopsis for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance:

Johnny (Nicolas Cage) – still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter – is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciarán Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy – and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.

Spirit of Vengeance was scripted by Scott M. Gimple (FlashForward, The Walking Dead) and Seth Hoffman (Prison Break), based on a story by David S. Goyer (the Blade franchise, Batman Begins). That trio have reportedly designed the Ghost Rider followup as more of a genuine mythological horror-action romp that is significantly darker and grittier than its predecessor – a quality reflected in the film’s visual design, as is nicely illustrated by the official poster below:

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Here’s the real million dollar question: has Spirit of Vengeance directing duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank, Gamer) managed to deliver a final product that works as an entertaining revamping of the Ghost Rider movie franchise?

Read some of the early Twitter responses from those who’ve seen the film and see what you think:

  • Devin Faraci (Badass Digest): GHOST RIDER 2 manages to make me look fondly back on GHOST RIDER. Unbearable.
  • Peter Sciretta (/Film): Ghost Rider 2 improves over the first film, but script [was] boring, post converted 3d is not great.
  • George Hickman (Scene-Stealers): Ghost Rider 2: better, but not badass enough. Holds back too much and story’s weak. But its target audience of teenage boys should love it. And is it a rule that all superhero sequels need to have plots involving them giving up, losing, or walking away from their powers?
  • Jonathan Chang (No One Man): GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE is next year’s PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. I’ll let you decide if that’s good or bad. [The] 3D sucked.
  • Scott Weinberg (Rotten Tomatoes): GHOST RIDER 2 played. I have nothing else to add.

Overall, it sounds like the early consensus is mixed to negative on the Ghost Rider sequel so far, as far as its thematic quality does. It’s also pretty disappointing to hear that the film’s 3D effects aren’t up to scratch either, given the crazy guerilla filmmaking tactics that Neveldine and Taylor employed in order to create what (in early footage) look like some ingeniously-realized shots and bits of cinematography during the film’s action sequences. Still, best to wait and hear more from the movie blogger and professional film critic community as a whole, before jumping on the hate train just yet…

You can draw your own conclusions about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance by catching the film when it hits U.S. theaters on February 17th, 2012.

Source: Sony/Columbia Pictures, CBM