Well, the holidays are right around the corner and studios are releasing all types of gift sets in an effort to get their products into as many households as possible. This year, Sony is trying to entice comic book fans with giving Ghost Rider: Extended Cut another shot by releasing the Ghost Rider Gift Set, a nice looking gift set that should actually please the comic fan, especially fans of the cult classic Marvel hero. Inside a nice big Ghost Rider-themed box, we get both the movie and a sweet-looking statue to add to your collection. It’s definitely a great way to repackage a title just in time for the holidays, especially a title which saw its original DVD release about six months ago. A smart way to drum up new interest in a previous DVD release. But, let’s take a closer look at this title, shall we?
From Marvel Comics, creators of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men, comes a new hero… Ghost Rider. Long ago, superstar motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze made a deal with the devil to protect the ones he loved most: his father and his childhood sweetheart, Roxanne (Eva Mendes). Now, the devil has come for his due. By day, Johnny is a die-hard stunt rider… but at night, in the presence of evil, he becomes the Ghost Rider, a bounty hunter of rogue demons. Forced to do the devil’s bidding, Johnny is determined to confront his fate and use his curse and powers to defend the innocent.
I have to admit I was skeptical when Ghost Rider was announced. The interesting casting, both in-front and behind the camera, and a peculiar script, had me worried. Most of my worries were justified upon seeing it, but I still found it to be an enjoyable movie on its own rights. Despite being shorter than it should’ve been and not as developed as it could’ve been, the movie brought in major box office dollars. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, this movie now sees release in both its theatrical cut and an extended edition. But does the extended version of the movie truly help fix the flaws?
I was a fan of Johnson’s Daredevil when that movie hit back in February of 2003. Sure, the movie wasn’t a piece of cinema art, but it was fun in a pop-y sort of way. When the movie was re-released in a longer director’s cut, I found it to be even better. That alone is why I was glad to hear there see the extended cut of Ghost Rider re-released in this gift set collection. Having seen both versions, both in theaters and DVD, it goes without saying that the extended cut is better than the theatrical, though it doesn’t add to the movie much like Johnson’s Director’s Cut of Daredevil. And why? Well, I think the extended edition just threw in a bunch more scenes instead of actually composing a new movie like the Daredevil: Director’s Cut did.
Much like this year’s Spider-Man 2.1 and Fantastic Four: Extended Edition releases (see a pattern?), not much of a difference is made, but the new scenes do help the movie flow better. The new scenes add more to Johnny Blaze’s travail’s, but don’t make any real difference in the movie whatsoever. However, director Johnson points out in the commentary that the movie was test screened multiple times (I can only imagine Sony was worried about the movie’s rising budget and C-list main character), robbing the movie of any real complexity and complication that may have benefited the movie.
Johnson tries so hard to give the movie the feel of an old spaghetti western and, for some scenes, is successful. When we see the Ghost Rider charging down an empty highway or alongside another Spirit of Vengeance (which is an impressive scene featured in just about every other TV spot and trailer). Those scenes captured the essence of the character perfectly, the one I remember reading so many years ago as a young comic book reader.
But the movie does slip in other aspects. I found the romantic interest to be a bit flat (well, in terms of her acting abilities, at least) and the villain to be sort of ho-hum. It seemed that none of them could really live up to the bizarre and odd behavior that Nicolas Cage unleashed for this role. It’s not his best role or his best performance, but he makes every script quirk his own, matching it with his own ticks. That alone sold the character for me. He made the character absolutely believable in every respect, which made the rest of the cast pale in comparison.
The love interest is played by Eva Mendes, providing a stiff and somewhat bored take on an underwritten character. She shows scenes of potential, but those are quickly dashed when she either pouts and stomps off-screen or just stands there emotionless. Wes Bentley, who at one point had a promising career, is the baddie Blackheart, who comes off more like a spoiled Goth kid than a real threat. His performance seems to range from self-mocking to hammy, resulting in a disappointing showdown with the Ghost Rider. Sam Elliot does a serviceable job, adding some grit to the flick, but no real impact (he literally vanishes off screen in one scene). Peter Fonda seems to be having a lot of fun in the role of Mephisto, but isn’t given much to do besides acting slimy. It’s a shame. He’s having a lot of fun in the role, which is easy to tell, but he has nothing to do, ultimately robbing his performance of any spice. Still, they do what the script tells them to do, moving the movie along nicely, I suppose.
It’s a fun movie. One that you can switch off your brain and watch the special effects explode onscreen and, boy, there are some great special effects. Ghost Rider looks absolutely spectacular in this movie. Not every single effect is a home run, but for the most part, they did an excellent job getting that Flaming Skull onto the big screen. The CGI may not be perfect, but it looks top notch and crystal clear on DVD. It’s a fun ride, one of those critic-proof movies where the movie-going audience will want to go see it anyways, and they should. It can be a bit goofy at times and should be a bit darker, but there are some genuinely amazing scenes. The obviously enthusiastic director did a fine job in his Daredevil follow-up. There are flaws to be sure, and ridiculously predictable, but it’s still an enjoyable ride when either Nic Cage or the Ghost Rider itself are blazing across the screen.
Any yes, the gift set release is pretty excellent two. Before I go further, I want to stress that the DVD included here is the exact same version of the Ghost Rider: Extended Cut released earlier this year. And how is the release? Well, not the best two-disc set I’ve seen, but one worth checking out. Before we get to the actual “gift set” portion of this DVD, let’s take a quick gander at the DVD itself. The DVD, which is placed in a plastic holding tray in the top inside of the gift set box, is packaged in a simple Amaray case, and contains no inserts. The two-disc set includes one commentary by writer/director Mark Steven Johnson and visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, and another by Gary Foster. The second disc special features include the “Spirit of Vengeance: The Making of Ghost Rider” documentary, featurettes about the comic book origins of the character, and animatics.
And no, before I go any further, the Ghost Rider trailer and TV spots are not included. Sony, please, stop this and put the trailers back in. As a movie fan, I like having the movie’s marketing included.
Okay, now the extras which were included? Pretty good! The “Spirit of Vengeance: Making of Ghost Rider” is a nice look at the creation of the movie. While it could be a bit more organized (perhaps having a sub-menu to jump to a specific part of the production), it’s a very in-depth look at the movie’s origins. We get to see some great on-set footage of Nicolas Cage preparing for his role, showing just how bizarre and quirky he was willing to take this character. He’s clearly having a ball here and it shows. The documentary pretty much touches on every aspect on the film’s creation and does a good job at relaying the information to the viewer.
After that is a series a featurettes focusing on the character’s comic book origins divided up by decades. Whether it’s the characters 1970’s conception or present day adventures, it touches upon the comic book origins in nice detail. It does a great job on bringing those familiar with only the big-screen conception of the character up to date. It’s a nice handy history lesson, though not as in-depth as some of the comic book documentaries that have crept their way onto DVD. Also included on the disc are a series of animatics for key scenes from the movie. It’s a nice package of extras!
The extras are nice, but what about the rest? For this Ghost Rider Gift Set release, the DVD described above, is placed in a larger cardboard box. The cardboard box has a plastic window in front, and cover art for the previous regular and two-disc Ghost Rider on each side (with the words “Extended Cut” added). The back of the box, of course, contains specs on the DVD and the content to be found within. The top and bottom contains a smattering of fire and chains. And what’s inside this box? Well, a statue. That’s right – a Ghost Rider statue. The statue, which is roughly six to eight inches in height, is cast in heavyweight polystone with movie-accurate costuming and great detail in his signature chains. The picture included in this review does not do the statue justice. The statue looks stunning, but you’ll have to determine for yourself if it is worth the $60 SRP. But, you know, that Ghost Rider statue does look very cool on a bookshelf.
Overall, the Ghost Rider Gift Set would make for a great gift for the comic book enthusiast in your family. The movie is definitely fun and the added statue would be a worthy addition to anyone’s collection. Based on the movie itself, which is flawed but still fun, and the additional content in both the DVD extras and the statue, I’d have to say this release comes Recommended. It’s not a great movie by any means, but the stellar special effects and quirky performance by Nicolas Cage are worth checking out. On top of that, the extras are pretty informative and the statue looks awesome. If you have a comic book nut in your family, Ghost Rider Gift Set would definitely make for a fine gift this holiday season.
The Ghost Rider: Limited Edition Gift Set is now available to own.