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The 10 coolest vehicles from comic book movies

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” roars into theaters this weekend, leaving a trail of fire and burnt rubber in its wake.

Sporting a new set of directors and a reinvented take on the motorcycle-riding anti-hero, “Spirit of Vengeance” also features a new look at the way Ghost Rider interacts with his fire-spitting ride and anything else he gets behind the wheel of. Whether it’s on two wheels or a set of treads, every vehicle becomes an instrument of fiery retribution for Johnny Blaze’s demonic alter ego.

Still, Ghost Rider isn’t the first comic book character to bring a memorable ride along when making the jump from page to screen. In no particular order, here are our 10 favorite vehicles from the modern era of comic book movies.


The Owl Ship (“Watchmen“)

No matter what you think of Zack Snyder’s live-action adaptation of Watchmen, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the film’s version of the Owlship, Nite Owl’s high-tech flying headquarters. Not only is it intimidating, but it gets bonus points for staying true to the comic and actually looking like an owl’s head. Sadly, it loses some of those bonus points for playing host to one of the worst sex scenes ever filmed, but I digress…


The Blackbird (“X-Men” 1-3, “X-Men: First Class“)

While there’s nothing too fancy about the sleek jet used by the X-Men to get around the world, there’s something to be said for the fact that almost everyone associates the silhouette of the Blackbird with Marvel’s mutants even though it was based on a real-world plane developed way back in 1964. Heck, there are more than a few people who might not believe you when you tell them the SR-71 Blackbird was a real plane — it’s become associated with the X-Men that closely.


The Batmobile (“Batman” & “Batman Returns“)

Fans of Christopher Nolan’s big-screen Bat-verse might scoff at the choice of this version of the Batmobile (from Tim Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns”) as my favorite of the bunch, but in my mind, this version of Batman’s ride offered the best balance of form and function for The Dark Knight. Designed by Anton Furst, who won an Oscar for conceiving of both the Batmobile and the noir-influenced take on Gotham City seen in the film, this Batmobile exists equidistant from Nolan’s military-style “Tumbler” and the glowing, missile-like Batmobile from Joel Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin.”


Ghost Rider’s motorcycle (“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance“)

I mentioned this one earlier, but once you see “Spirit of Vengeance” you’ll understand why it’s on the list. The bike Johnny Blaze rides is already pretty sweet in its normal form (read: not engulfed in flames), but once he becomes Ghost Rider things move to a whole new level of bad-assery. Like a good horse, Ghost Rider’s bike comes when he calls it, and always makes a great first (and second, and third) impression with flames that seem to pour from every crevice and a roar that sounds more bestial than mechanical. It’s truly a ride fit for a demon.


A Horse with Gatling Guns (“Jonah Hex“)

One of the funniest images from 2010’s live-action “Jonah Hex” movie wasn’t intended to be humorous — but it quickly became a popular symbol of everything that was wrong with the studio’s attempt to bring DC’s famous bounty hunter to the big screen. While the memorable image of Jon Hex unveiling his completely implausible combination of horse and heavy weaponry is burned into fans’ brains, it’s worth noting that the original version was even more ridiculous. According to “Jonah Hex” star Josh Brolin, an early design for the horse-mounted gun had the barrel placed underneath the horse’s belly on a rotating mount — which seems fine until you consider what would happen when the barrel swings from side and shoots off the horse’s legs. Owch.

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As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Call-In Commentary: Watch the “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” trailer with directors Neveldine & Taylor

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After years of rumors about a new “Ghost Rider” film, that day is finally upon us as “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” roars into theaters this Friday. For this outing we find Nicolas Cage shuffling off to Eastern Europe in order to stop the devil’s plans for world domination. As suspected there’s a lot of flaming whips and exploding things.

That’s partly because of the subject matter, and partly because of “Crank” directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who brought their high-octane filmmaking style to Marvel’s cursed superhero. To get the inside tract, we asked the pair to participate in our Call-In Commentary series, where directors provide commentary to their movie trailers. In the video below, hear about ruined Romanian castles, the advantage of hiring the girl from “The American,” and much, much more.

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MORE CALL-IN COMMENTARIES:

Watch the “Rampart” trailer with writer-director Oren Moverman
Watch “The Woman in Black” trailer with star Daniel Radcliffe
Watch “The Innkeepers” trailer with writer-director Ti West
Watch “The Divide” trailer with its star, cult fave Michael Biehn
Watch the “Loosies” trailer with writer/star Peter Facinelli
Watch the “Shame” trailer with writer-director Steve McQueen

View more Call-In Commentaries…

Will you be checking out “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Venegance”? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Five movies that should never be watched on a Valentine’s Day date

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If there’s anything that’s universally understood in the world of dating, it’s that Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show your date some truly disturbing movies. Oh, wait a second. It’s not? Hmm. What is true about Valentine’s Day, though, is that it is a great day to take your date out to a nice meal followed up by a fun, romantic movie. They actually do love that. Some guys, however, wouldn’t know a romantic movie if it proposed to them from the top of the Empire State Building. That’s where we come in with a little assistance. And while we’re not going to give you a list of romantic movies you should pop in the Blu-ray player on February 14th, we are going to give you a list of five movies that should never find their way into your Valentine’s Day plans. Heed our warnings, fellas.


“I Spit on Your Grave” (1978)

Don’t let the original title of Meir Zarchi’s 1978 controversial shocker fool you. “I Spit on Your Grave” may have first been released under the title “Day of the Woman,” but this is one of the last movies you’ll ever want to show your lady on any day, let alone Valentine’s Day. The exploitation flick is an unabashedly tough look at what could arguably be called the worst day a female has ever had in a film. Writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) decides to rent an isolated house by a lake, deep in the countryside but her plan of getting some work done goes awry when she crosses paths with a group of local men hell bent on doing whatever they want to the poor girl. She’s tortured and raped by the men in some of the most disturbing ways possible before escaping back to the rental to endure yet another round of torture and rape. All this before Jennifer finally gets herself together and decides to lure the men in one by one and take them out in extremely brutal and degrading ways. It’s a feel good movie, you see!

Zarchi has been defending the film for over thirty years now – he claims the film is a feminist critique of sexualized male violence – but he can talk until he’s blue in the face; it doesn’t make “I Spit on Your Grave” any easier to watch. Remade in 2010 by Steven R. Monroe the film follows nearly the same exact trajectory as the original and it’s well made but mostly forgettable aside from a standout performance by Sarah Butler in the Jennifer Hills role. Nevertheless, you’re going to want to stay as far away as humanly possible from these films if you plan on getting lucky on Valentine’s Day (or ever again).


“Irréversible” (2002)

If your idea of a good time on Valentine’s Day is actually making your date physically sick, then go ahead and pop in Gaspar Noé’s 2002 told-in-reverse French film “Irréversible.” The sadistic (and talented) directed didn’t want to just assault viewers’ eyes with the contents of the film, but he actually recorded portions of the film using extremely low-frequency sound (you know, the kind the SWAT team uses to quell riots), which causes the audience to experience disorientation and nausea. Physical symptoms aside, the film itself is enough to make many people ill. There’s a hyper-realistic scene right near the beginning that includes a fire extinguisher and a head that would send most people running from the theater. In fact, it’s the only scene in my cinema-loving life that actually gave me a panic attack while watching.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s that whole eight-minute-long subway rape sequence in which Noé decides to place the camera on the floor and just leave it there for the viewer to watch. The perspective and the fact that it takes place in one continuous shot make the scene one of the most difficult to watch in the history of film. Throw in the fact that you’ll probably have to subject your date to the film more than once if she actually wants to understand it (thanks to that pesky reverse narrative) and you’ve got quite a romantic evening planned.


“Cannibal Holocaust” (1980)

Found footage films like “The Blair Witch Project,” “Cloverfield,” and most recently “The Devil Insid”e might be the current cinematic craze, but Ruggero Deodato precedes them by over twenty years. Released in 1980, “Cannibal Holocaust” used the found footage technique to introduce the world to one of the most horrifyingly realistic, controversial, and disturbing films of all time. Filmed in the Amazon Rainforest, “Cannibal Holocaust” tells the tale of a documentary film crew who had traveled to the Amazon to film indigenous tribes and come home with some truly sensational footage. The only problem… they never came home.

So why wouldn’t you and your lady want to sit down with a roaring fire, a nice glass of wine, and “Cannibal Holocaust” in the DVD player? Well, here’s a short list of some of the degradation that takes place in the film: mutilation, rape, murder, beheading, and animal cruelty. The most disturbing thing on that list, however, might just be the animal cruelty as the filmmakers infamously killed several animals on screen including a large turtle. The film has been banned, at one time or another, in nearly every country and not only garnered Deodato death threats, but it also landed him in an Italian prison when authorities thought he’d actually murdered his cast. What better way to say, “I love you” on this special day than to show your girl a woman getting skewered on a pike.


“The Woman” (2011)

It’s frightening that Lucky McKee’s “The Woma”n is probably the least disturbing of all the films on this list. Don’t get me wrong here; the film is highly disturbing but, unlike the other films listed, it’s not an endless assault on the senses. Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Angela Bettis (a McKee favorite), and Sean Bridgers, “The Woman” tells the story of a successful lawyer living in the country who stumbles across a feral woman (McIntosh) while in the woods. He decides to capture the woman in an attempt to “civilize” her, but his actions ultimately put his clean-cut family in harm’s way. Now, that description might not sound all that disturbing to you, but once you realize just how he plans to “civilize” this woman – namely through rape, control, and degradation – you get a clearer picture of why the film has been so controversial.

Controversial, you say? Surely you’ve seen the video of guy who walked out during the film’s Sundance premiere and proceeded to go on a six-minute rant about how McKee’s film is degrading and terrible. While the guy’s reaction is clearly exaggerated and overblown (I actually think “The Woman” is not only an excellent film, but it’s also one of the best horror films of 2011), it’s a testament to just how the film raises some extremely strong emotions in viewers. And if there’s anything you want on Valentine’s Day, it’s to watch a film that can spark a nice, long fight with your date! Well, you’re in luck: The Woman is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. Happy fighting!


“The Last House on the Left” (1972)

“The Last House on the Left” is a film that may be a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s most important contribution to cinema will clearly be that it’s the film that launched the career of horror legend Wes Craven. Without Krug (played to creepy perfection by David Hess) we would probably never have had Nancy Thompson (of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” fame), and for that we forgive “The Last House on the Left” for all its inadequacies, controversy, and disturbing imagery. Not to mention, the film basically kick started a subgenre (Slasher Films) that’s still thriving over thirty years later. “The Last House on the Left” might be a truly depraved film, but it’s also an important one.

Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 Swedish film “The Virgin Spring,” the story told is a familiar one with a few clever twists: Innocent girls run across really bad guys. Really bad guys do really bad things to innocent girls. Everyone is shocked. There’s some revenge. The end. Okay, okay. The film is obviously more nuanced than that, but you get the idea. It’s all about shock value, realism, and depravity here. There’s plenty of violence, torture, and rape involved (are you seeing a pattern with this list yet?), and there’s also a good deal of gore. Craven leaves it all in front of the camera for the viewer to gawk at, which only works to make the film that much more difficult to watch. Remade fairly successfully in 2009 with Monica Potter and Sara Paxton in the role of those innocent girls, you wouldn’t really want to show either version of “The Last House on the Left” to your Valentine. Trust me on this… The last image you want her having in her head is that of the truly creepy David Hess. Yikes.


Which film do you think should never be shown on Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments below.

The “Ghost Rider” directors talk Easter Eggs, inner demons, and the superhero brawl they’d love to film

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” roars into theaters this weekend, bringing audiences a reinvention of the skull-faced, motorcycle-riding Marvel character as seen through the lens of “Crank” directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Although Nicolas Cage returns to the role of Johnny Blaze that he first played in 2007’s critically panned “Ghost Rider,” the new film has been described as anything but a straight-up sequel by the studio, and looks to offer a more kinetically-charged, darker take on the character that blends intense action and horror elements.

In the film, Johnny Blaze is tasked with rescuing a boy named Danny from the demonic forces pursuing him across Eastern Europe. Along with a host of bad guys armed to the teeth with all manner of heavy weaponry, Ghost Rider must contend with a vicious supernatural villain who can decay anything he touches and a demon who may or may not be the devil himself. This is all in addition to Johnny’s own internal struggle with the demon that lurks inside him and yearns to exact fiery punishment on the wicked.

IFC spoke to Neveldine and Taylor about the new film, and got their take on bringing Ghost Rider back to the big screen, some of the movie’s comics-friendly plot points, and the two superheroes they’d like to bring together in a perfect world.

IFC: I’ve noticed over the last few years that the filmmakers and actors who take on certain comic book movie projects tend to have a pre-existing connection to the character — whether it’s one of their favorite characters from back in the day, or just a character they discovered recently and pursued. What was your connection to Ghost Rider? Why did this particular film appeal to you?

BRIAN TAYLOR: Well, it’s kind of the same connection Nic has to the character. We all have demons, and that’s what the Ghost Rider is. Johnny Blaze has a demon — but it’s a real one. Anybody who has a dark side and struggles with it can relate to what the Ghost Rider is, so of all the heroes it seemed like the perfect one for us to take on. Also, we like to wear leather.

MARK NEVELDINE: And motorcycles… [laughs]

IFC: After the poor performance of the first film, a lot of people were surprised when Sony announced that it was making another Ghost Rider movie. When you two came on to the project, what elements did you focus on changing this time around? Were there any particular parts of the first “Ghost Rider” that you identified as problem areas?

NEVELDINE: We didn’t look at it that way, actually. I didn’t see the first movie, but it wasn’t about changing things with this one, it was about starting from scratch again with a script David Goyer wrote years before the first movie came out. So it really was its own thing. When we got on board, we said, “Hey this is what we’d like to do with it,” and Sony said they loved the aesthestics of what we wanted to do with the skull, the rider, and the motorcycle, and this dark demon that he’s battling with — like he’s battling an addiction. They dug all of that, and we just put our stamp on it and made it.

We’re super happy the first movie was made, though. I think a lot of kids loved it and it was kind of the Disney version of the Ghost Rider. I’m actually going to watch it the night before our movie opens to finally see it. I’m excited about it. [“Spirit of Vengeance”] is really a reinvention of Ghost Rider.

IFC: One of the big questions surrounding the film right now is whether the boy named Danny is actually supposed to be Danny Ketch, the character from the comics who eventually becomes Ghost Rider after Johnny Blaze. Danny’s last name is never mentioned in “Spirit of Vengeance,” so what’s the deal? Is he Danny Ketch?

TAYLOR: We threw that in there to drive people crazy talking about it. Is he Danny Ketch? We don’t even know yet. Did J.J. Abrams really know how “Lost” was going to end when they started it?

NEVELDINE: He probably did.

TAYLOR: [Laughs] Well, we don’t know the answer to that one yet.

IFC: Outside of the Danny might-be-Ketch, are there any other elements from the Ghost Rider comics that managed to fit into the film? I know the villain was based on the character Blackout, right?

TAYLOR: Yeah, we never actually call the villain Blackout, but fans of the comic will recognize him as an altered, evolved version of Blackout. For the most part, Ghost Rider is a character who’s so cool, but he’s never been done the way you really want to see him — even in the comics. The stories written by Garth Ennis were really cool, but with the exception of those, you always wanted something different from the Ghost Rider. You always wanted him to be darker, scarier, or weirder, so we really didn’t use the first movie or the comics as a jump-off point. We just tried to do the coolest version of the character that we could with what we were handed.

IFC: There were a lot of familiar horror-movie elements in the film, like the way Ghost Rider lurches around at varying speeds and just suddenly appears in front of his victims. It’s something we see a lot in modern horror films. Was there a conscious effort on your part to make this more of a horror movie than a superhero movie?

NEVELDINE: Yeah, we wanted him to be frightening. We love those horror elements, because they feel like a natural part of the character. When you think about this character, he should frighten the person he’s standing in front of.

TAYLOR: He is more of a horror character than a superhero. A lot of that stuff we came up with while talking with Nic, too. There’s a particularly inexplicable and insane moment when Ghost Rider kills all of the guys at the quarry, and when the smoke clears you find Ghost Rider levitating in the air, slowly spinning around like a clock or a compass. That was something that came out of us batting around an idea with Nic that the Ghost Rider inflicts psychological warfare on his victims as much as he does physical, and a lot of what he does is similar to the demonic presences in “Evil Dead” and “The Ring” and movies like that. They’re fucking with people’s minds and want to destroy your brain before they destroy your body. [Ghost Rider] does a lot of stuff like that because he’s a demon from another dimension, and you will never understand why he does it. Humans will never understand why he does what he does, and you’re sort of in awe and horror of it at the same time.

IFC: So, if all goes well with your reinvention of the character, would you be interested in returning to the character for a sequel? Do you feel like you have more Ghost Rider stories to tell?

TAYLOR: As always, it’s up to the fans. If people embrace this movie, I’m sure they’ll want another one. The challenge for that would be: Can we make as big of a leap from the second movie to the third as we did from the first movie to the second?

NEVELDINE: There’s a lot of territory still to cover, though.

IFC: There’s been more than a few people who have suggested that you guys should do more comic book movies. If you could have your pick of any characters in the comic book world, who would you want to make a film about?

TAYLOR: We would love to answer the age-old question of who’s stronger, Hulk or Superman.

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” hits theaters Friday, February 17. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, and Fergus Riordan.

What do you think of the “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” directors’ answers? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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