NOTE: An earlier version this piece assumed that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was shot in 3D, when in fact, it was post-converted. The article has been edited in several places to reflect that fact, but the overall 3D score remains the same. We sincerely apologize for the mistake.
On paper, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance sounds like exactly the kind of 3D movie you want to see. Shot by the Crank masterminds Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, and featuring Nicolas Cage as a man whose head is a giant flaming skull, Spirit of Vengeance ought to be the kind of big, brash action movie that can only get more over-the-top and fun with the addition of 3D. Then again, Neveldine and Taylor are used not just to shooting with regular 2D cameras, but with the kind of cameras they can strap to their rollerblades and sling around willy-nilly-- can that really work with the addition of a third dimension in post-conversion?
Well, we saw the movie so you don't have to find out for yourself, and with this latest installment of our To 3D or not to 3D series, we'll let you know if Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is worth that extra ticket price. We're not judging the quality of the movie itself-- though if you want to do that, you can read our review here. Read below to find out if the shot-in-3D Spirit of Vengeance can actually stand up to the test.
Does It Fit?
In theory, the Ghost Rider is ripe for 3D opportunities, from the big flaming skull to the chain he uses to defeat his enemies to the simple sight of a motorcycle flying out into space. Directors Neveldine and Taylor know this well, and set up plenty of opportunities for Ghost Rider to fling things right at your face. You have to knock off a point for this being a live-action, kinetic film that is ripe for opportunities to make the audience sick, but for the most part all the pieces are in place to make this work-- in theory.
Fit Score: 4/5
Planning & Effort
Painstakingly post-converted in 3D Ghost Rider allowed the directors to use their usual techniques of strapping cameras to motorcycles and rollerblades, but the post-conversion was planned from the beginning. And yet, the biggest problem with the 3D in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is that Neveldine and Taylor did exactly what they would normally do with a regular camera-- not compensating at all for how 3D makes it harder for you to see fast action. They put the effort into getting the 3D set up, but never bothered to execute it in a way any different from a regular 2D film.
P&E Score: 2/5
Before the Window
As mentioned above, there are plenty of opportunities for things to fly out of the screen at you in Ghost Rider 2, and Neveldine and Taylor throw in many, especially in the opening action sequence. But as the film goes on those moments are fewer and further between, meaning after a while, the gimmick wears away. That might be a good thing in a more serious film, but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance never takes itself all that seriously, and it would have been a perfect opportunity for some real over-the-top, popping-out-of-the-screen moments. Unfortunately most everything here stays inside the "window" of the screen-- they tried, but not hard enough.
Before the Window Score: 3/5
Beyond the Window
The films that score best in this category are the ones with sweeping vistas, a lot of scenery, or a ton of extras wandering in the background to lend a sense of depth to what's happening. In Spirit of Vengeance the camera is always either moving incredibly fast or locked up in a single space, providing really, really limited opportunities to dazzle the audience with depth. It works in some moments when the camera sits still long enough--the shot of Idris Elba's character flying off into space is especially good-- but Neveldine & Taylor seem to largely ignore all the potential they had here.
Beyond the Window Score: 2/5
Sometimes when you're seeing a 3D movie, especially a live-action one with a lot of action sequences set at night, the 3D glasses themselves can make the screen so dim you can't see what's happening at all. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has a serious advantage in that its main characters is a big, flaming ball of light, but overall it doesn't really have any problems in the brightness department. The colors don't exactly pop-- a lot of the film takes place in grim outdoor settings or at night-- but the action itself is pretty clear. You need that brightness too, since usually the camera is moving so fast you can barely grasp what's happening before moving on to another shot.
Brightness Score: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test
You will probably need to remove your glasses a few times in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, since the camera moves so fast in 3D that it might turn your stomach (see below for more on that). When you take them off, you might be amazed at how little you lose in the film--there's very little of the blur that indicates there's some real depth in the 3D frame. Maybe they tried to tone it down so the action could move faster, or maybe they just didn't want the 3D to be that hardcore. Either way, the glasses-off test is the definitive proof you need that the 3D is not doing its job in this movie.
Glasses Off Test: 1/5
I have never, ever been the kind of person who gets ill in a 3D movie, with the big exception of Clash of the Titans, which was post-converted into 3D so poorly its a miracle it didn't kill us all. The post-conversion in Spirit of Vengeance isn't nearly so big of a problem, but it started to go wrong back on the set, with the cameras whipping around and shaking in the classic Neveldine & Taylor style, in a way that's completely, totally impossible to deal with when you're wearing 3D glasses. It does get a little bit better after the first big kinetic action scene-- and once you adjust to it you might not be actively reaching for the vomit bag-- but the first 5 minutes of this movie was one of the roughest times I've had in a 3D film. If you have a history of getting sick in 3D movies, you might want to consider staying away from this one entirely.
Health Score: 1/5
Final Verdict: Even giving Spirit of Vengeance credit for the few things it gets right, that's still a pretty dismal score. I'm not entirely sure what went wrong with the filming of this thing, but the result is as messy as the movie itself, and far from an accomplishment for the 3D format, which needs all the help it can get. I wouldn't recommend seeing Spirit of Vengeance under any circumstances, really, but if you must go, hunt down the 2D ticket and save yourself both some cash and a stomachache.
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.