This question has been pondering in my skull ever since we saw the trailer for the film, which can be viewed here. Now I know what you’re thinking, Marvel only gives there smaller, more unknown characters like Blade and Punisher the R-rating. They would never gamble a character like Ghost Rider on the R because you might be able to appeal to kids and get a shit ton of toys out of the deal and perhaps because the character is rendered in CGI, which isn’t cheap. But I can’t help but think that maybe they’re willing to take a chance on this one or maybe they just don’t care enough to enforce their usual PG13 rating policy for comic book movies.
The R rating and comic book movies rarely mix for success at the box office. The Blade trilogy is probably the only set of money makers I can really think of. Watchmen underperformed and both recent Punisher adaptations kind of bombed, especially the latter, but let it be noted that box office success and film quality are two different things. I actually enjoyed all of those films listed, with Blade: Trinity coming in last and I always like R rated comic book movies because they’re usually more faithful to the source material. I bet Jonah Hex wouldn’t have sucked as hard if the director stuck with Neveldine/Taylor‘s original R rated script. When your central character is all about exacting revenge on people in way of death then I think it’s kind of hard to totally cut it down to PG13.
Now I’ve never read the comics of Ghost Rider, but I’m going to assume on what I have read that the material does get dark in a few areas. I mean come on; it’s about a man with a flaming skull who fights people in demon form. I’m almost positive that there is some darker, more mature material out there.
This brings us back to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, a film that not many people wanted, including the studios. The first one did well financially, but was virtually panned by everyone. Nic Cage got a lot of backlash for being Nic Cage with a flaming head and the whole thing came off kind of silly and corny. I only saw the film once in theaters and I remember liking bits, but on the whole thinking it was just a boring waste of my time. Enter Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are two directors known for their bad ass visual style and hyperkinetic storytelling. As of now, the pair has directed three films (Crank, Crank: High Voltage and Gamer) with several writing and producer credits. Pretty much all of their work is on R rated films, or films that were written for an R but cut down to PG13 like Jonah Hex. I think it’s no surprise that Jonah Hex sticks out like a sore thumb compared to all of their other work because it was cut down to all hell and shoved through some sort of film processor that resulted in a really horrible movie, probably one of the worst films of last year. The story really made no sense, the acting was laughable and almost everyone involved didn’t seem to care. The action felt short and cheated and just the whole general outcome of the film felt like a troubled disaster. Now could an R rating have fully save that film? I think it could have helped, but it looks like there were a lot of kinks that needed sorting. I never read the script that Neveldine/Taylor wrote, but I heard it was completely insane. Actually, Josh Brolin and the director of Hex told various sites that the original script was really dumb and didn’t make sense, which sounds like an awesome piece of work from Neveldine/Taylor. Their stuff is often silly and stupid, but they make it work!
The character of Ghost Rider didn’t work well in film form with the first outing because I believe the director didn’t know how to establish a proper tone. You can’t go full on serious with Ghost Rider if you have Nic Cage driving up the side of buildings and you can’t make it completely cheesy because then you lose any sort of depth or care, but if you can find that balance of darkness while maintaining a little silliness, then I believe you truly have captured the real Ghost Rider. By hiring the crazy pairing of Neveldine/Taylor you are pretty much guaranteed all of that, plus some nutty camera shots. They always know how to keep the beat going without pause and they love shooting insane violence, so why not let them give it a go?
I think the first trailer for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance nailed everything right about Ghost Rider. It showed us a lot more dark stuff with the occasional cheese added in like him pissing fire. Plus we got a look at Neveldine/Taylor‘s camera work with a bit of nut job Nic Cage. They’ve unleashed Nic Cage in full flaming form and I can’t wait!
I haven’t read the script, but just by seeing the trailer you can tell that they want this film to be completely off the walls, which is what an R rating could do. It also carries the infamous Marvel Knights logo, which was only attached to Punisher: War Zone. Marvel Knights is a Marvel branding meant for mature audiences so I don’t see why they would bother using the tag unless they wanted to establish that this is going to be different from other Marvel affairs and from the previous Ghost Rider. You can go dark with PG13, but can you go really dark?
I think the Marvel Knights logo along with the directors of the film means we might have a decent sized chance that they are willing to gamble with Ghost Rider 2. The first one wasn’t liked and the sequels only chance of being successful is by being something different and better. If you took the gamble of hiring a pair of directors that are known for their loony style then why not fully embrace it? I’m not saying that the film has to be R rated to be good because I haven’t read the script, but I’m saying just give them the opportunity to make whatever the hell they want. Let the cards fall and go with what they present. Please don’t chop the film up and make us wait for the R rated directors cut, just let them present it all in theaters.
The footage looks like it could go either way and I honestly don’t care where it lands. I just hope that Sony continues to stay faithful to Neveldine/Taylor and the Ghost Rider vision that they are bringing to the screen. Rumor has it that the footage from Comic Con was violent and worthy of the R rating, plus the budget was lowered to an estimated $75 million, so it really all hints towards the R. The question now remains with Sony and if they’re willing to back up two out of the box and very unorthodox directors!
Enough of me and my rambling, what do you guys think about this? Do you think Sony will allow for an R rated cut of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance? Do you think that’s what Ghost Rider needs to warrant this sequel or do you not care either way?