Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance will be the second attempt at bringing Marvel's renegade antihero to the big screen following a critically disappointing debut back in 2007. In an industry that's currently woefully enamored with the term 'reboot', Spirit of Vengeance takes a somewhat unique approach by acknowledging its predecessor while simultaneously disassociating from it.
The modestly budgeted follow-up has a rather arduous uphill battle ahead of it, considering the first Ghost Rider's reputation - as well as star Nicolas Cage's recent string of flops. Recognizing that the material needed to be approached in a different way was certainly a good place to start, but many fans are still waiting apprehensively to see if this entry will turn out to be a more accurate representation of the character.
Thanks to a collection of set photos and assertions from Cage that Spirit of Vengeance will be "a whole new experience", we know that directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are crafting a film with a vastly different tone than the original. It's also been made clear that while it's still loosely connected to the first movie, the sequel will be making changes to certain aspects of the character's mythology - including a revamped origin.
However, rather than adhering to the source material, it sounds like Neveldine & Taylor ultimately decided to deviate from it even further. In a recent interview with Movieline, Taylor reveals why it was important for them to develop a different back-story for Johnny Blaze/ Ghost Rider:
"We basically completely re-envisioned the whole start of the character, and actually had to re-engineer the origin of the Ghost Rider. The whole mythology behind the Ghost Rider that existed in the comic books never really made sense to me, so we sort of had to re-engineer the entire back-story of the Ghost Rider into something new."
There are few things that instigate fanboy rage faster than a filmmaker denouncing the very comic book he's adapting - but Taylor insists that the first Ghost Rider movie provided them with ample room to reinterpret concepts that were previously glossed over:
"We’re just looking at it as an evolution. The movie takes place years later. We’re not disowning the first movie but this Ghost Rider is an evolved form of the previous Ghost Rider. And the mythology that went behind it is stuff that never got delved into in the first movie, anyway. Like, they don’t talk about who the demon is from when Johnny Blaze becomes the Ghost Rider. We get into that and really get into who that guy is, what his story is, and what makes GR the way that he is."
He also expresses his admiration for Cage and suggests that Spirit of Vengeance will allow the notoriously unhinged actor several opportunities to really chew on the scenery:
I know many of you are probably still fixated on that first comment about the mythology not making sense to Taylor - and I agree that it's somewhat discouraging. I'm also not going to pretend that I've really enjoyed any of the films this duo has had a hand in, or that I wasn't already apprehensive about the decision to bring them on board in the first place.
However, I will say that when it comes to creating a successful comic book adaptation, I don't think translating every last detail is as important as the broad strokes. As long as the filmmakers don't deviate too far from the core concept of the property, there's often plenty of room for them to put their own stamp on the mythology.
The Dark Knight and Iron Man are two recent examples of successful comic book films that made numerous changes to certain characters, back stories, and motivations - but by retaining the spirit of the comics, most of these alterations were still accepted as being appropriate and true to the mythology.
So while fans will always urge Hollywood to just stick with what's on the page, I think the real key is finding a writer and director who understand why a particular property has endured as long as it has and then set out to build their film on that foundation. The question is - are Neveldine & Taylor the right match for this character?
We'll find out when Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance opens on February 17, 2012.