A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the sequel to the 2007's Ghost Rider and is based on a Marvel Comics character (albeit one who seems more on wreaking vengeance than assisting people in need). There's lots of strong, if mostly bloodless, fantasy violence; unlike the original movie, this one is in 3-D, which makes some of the action/violence even more intense. Characters burn and decay; a woman and a boy (about 13) are slapped around; there are fights, explosions, guns and shooting; and lots of stuff catches on fire. Ghost Rider's skull face is pretty creepy, too. Language is infrequent but includes one use of "f--k"; there's also some brief sexual innuendo and a quick reference to a minor character being an alcoholic (he's shown drinking but not drunk).
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What's the story?
Previously, former stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) made a deal with the devil and became Ghost Rider, a fearsome ghoul who rides a blazing motorcycle and feeds on the souls of the wicked. Now, attempting to hide from the world, he receives an offer from a priest (Idris Elba). If Johnny can help rescue a mother (Violante Placido) and her son (Fergus Riordan), he can get his humanity back. But what Johnny doesn't know is that there's something special about the boy and that the ultimate evil on earth won't rest until he's captured. Can Johnny save the world -- and also himself?
Is it any good?
There's some gleefully twisted stuff here (for those who like that kind of thing). Johnny tries to fight off the transformation to Ghost Rider, speeding down the street, screaming and cackling with the effort; he also switches from a flaming motorcycle to an enormous flaming crane in one shot (apparently it doesn't matter what vehicle he rides). For this sequel, the Ghost Rider franchise changed directors; now we get the demented team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the boys behind Crank and Crank: High Voltage. The result is a slight improvement in style, but unfortunately, the movie still lags behind in the script and character departments.
The story -- loosely borrowed from Superman II -- is sluggish and uninspired, with several bald spots of logic, and it has a distasteful penchant for violence against women and kids. The cardboard characters never inspire any connection; Cage plays his character as a touch too crazy, though Placido is genuinely appealing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance's fantasy violence. Was it gruesome or thrilling? How does the impact of this kind of mayhem compare to more realistic violence?
What kind of superhero is Ghost Rider? Is he a good guy -- a role model? How does he compare to other superheroes?
When Ghost Rider agrees to take back his powers to help others, is this an admirable act, or a selfish act? Or can it be both?
Why are so many action/superhero movies based on comic books? What's the appeal?
- In theaters: February 17, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2012
- Cast: Ciaran Hinds, Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido
- Directors: Brian Taylor, Mark Neveldine
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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