Film Review – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

As Johnny Blaze hides out in Eastern Europe, he is called upon to stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.

Year: 2012

Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, Nic Cage’s Crazy Eyes

Writers: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage’s Crazy Eyes, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth

How the hell did this movie get made? Did anyone involved see the first Ghost Rider?

Let me refresh your memories real quick:

Good Guy.

Bad Guy.

Uhhh… Worse… Guys… I guess. Maybe just misunderstood – they’re very Emo

Nic Cage’s Crazy Eyes

Did YOU pay for a ticket to this?

When it comes to menace, nothing could beat the image of a guy who face is a flaming skull. Unless, of course, you are Nicolas Cage. In fact, I’m puzzled as to why the filmmakers needed to use CGI for Ghost Rider at all – they should have just set Cage’s head on fire. I’m sure he’d have been up for it.

I’ve a theory about film that would be well suited to some kind of research paper or reflective essay by someone much better suited to it than I am. The simple version? Well, when movies really started becoming the go-to destination for dates, there was no such thing as video, DVD, Digital Download or any way of seeing a flick other than going to the picture house. Filmmakers needed to churn out lots of movies pretty quickly to fill the bill every weekend and keep the kids coming back. This was kind of the basis for the “monster movie” or “B movie” rise in the 50’s and 60’s. Please, stay with me, I’m almost done. So, these flicks were made for people to see once, and there was never any thought that they would see the film again. They were seen, then discarded. Then TV started showing late night screenings of these flicks, and there was a chance that they might play one of your favorites on Saturday night. Then videos came along, and there was this huge market for people wanting to have a copy of their favorite movie to watch as much as they liked. But the people making these movies had grown up watching and been trained by people who made these disposable flicks. Thusly, I don’t know that the thought of these movies being rewatched to the point of fans memorising the dialogue ever occurred to these guys.

What the hell does this have to do with anything?

GET ON WITH IT!

I remember clearly coming out of Ghost Rider in 2007 with a cheesy grin on my face saying “Hey, I kinda enjoyed that.” I remember the two friends who watched the film with me echoed that sentiment. Then we went for pizza or Subway or something and promptly forgot we’d seen it. Then the flick came out on DVD, and I rushed to the store to rent a copy… and was immediately glad that I hadn’t forked out $30 to keep it. It was odd, nothing about the movie had changed and yet…I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. Leave aside the lame acting, shockingly bad Rider effects and a story written by a fifth grader – I recognised that when I saw it the first time and it didn’t bother me.

So maybe there still exists a type of trashy movie genre – one that is good for one viewing, and then best left alone. An anomaly in today’s market of home entertainment but… there it is. Or else I’m talking out my arse.

Yeah… probably.

So, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Where does this fall in relation to its prestigious predecessor? In about the same spot. Spirit of Vengeance is a sequel – though the best kind of sequel to a crappy movie by which you don’t need to have seen the first to understand the second – continuing the story of former motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze (…really) who made a deal with the devil and ends up the host for an uncontrollably violent demon spirit known as “The Rider”. The Rider emerges when bad guys are around and punishes them. As a Christian minister myself I struggle to understand the reasons why the devil himself would commission a demon to punish the wicked…but whatever. I don’t expect filmmakers to be theology scholars.

Right?

Right?

Oh… Right.

Anyhoo, this time around The Rider is recruited by a motorbiking monk to deliver a child into the care of the church in order to spare him from becoming the new host for Satan… who for some reason has taken the name Rourke in this movie.

Now the first question really must be this: given the terrible job they did in the last movie, how does the Ghost Rider look this time around? Just to remind you, the comic which serves as the basis makes him look like this:

and the movie did this:

That’s right. Isn’t it?

Now he looks like this:

Hell. Yes.

Gone are the overdone hellish designs for everything – the look has been simplified in favor of a worn, scarred and (obviously) burnt out aesthetic. The other piece of good news (maybe… depending on your point of view) is that someone either told Nic Cage to cut loose, or else they didn’t ask him to hold back. Cage gives us his balls-out, over-the-top, high-pitched, “I’M A VAMPIIIIRE!” best. Idris Elba handles supporting duties as Moreau – the hard-drinking, rough riding, terribly accented, (supposedly) french monk. He’s alright – he always is. The only other performance worth mentioning is the underrated Johnny Whitworth as the devil’s chief henchman, Carrigan. Everyone else… doesn’t get in the way of the films visuals.

Any semblance of plot only serves to move the players from set-piece to set-piece so that they can have another cool looking moment. The dialogue is generally stilted, save for some fun moments when Blaze struggles to contain the Rider, and when he and Moreau take communion together in an attempt to lift the curse and banish the demon. Everything else is eminently forgettable. Oh, there is that moment from the trailer where Blaze and the kid talk about peeing as the Rider. That is actually in the movie.

It burns when I… oh. Should I get this looked at?

A cameo from the usually engaging Christopher Lambert is wasted, and the otherwise talented Ciarán Hinds kind of phones in his turn as Rourke/The Devil. This movie was handled by the same guys who gave the world Crank with Jason Statham. Their frenetic sensibilities are on display with some crazy camera work – unfortunately they are hampered by the fact that some of the scenes in the movie have to be a little quiet in order to dump some exposition. It’s at these times when the film seems to falter a bit – not entirely, but noticeably.

The most jarring aspect of this movie was the attempt to make the Rider into the prototypical disturbing movie monster. We are clearly supposed to fear its actions when it emerges, and it moves in The Ring style of ghost movement. There are several problems with this: firstly, the Rider is saving the life of a kid – how can we be disturbed by that? Secondly, the Rider mows through bad guys like any other superhero would – we’re not given the chance to be creeped out by his actions? Finally, and there’s really no getting around this, the whole point of seeing Ghost Rider is to see freakin’ Ghost Rider.

Are you going to have a good time watching? Probably, once. A bit. If you liked Crank, Gamer or even the first Ghost Rider, you’ll get into this. But these are disposable flicks people – does that mean we should judge them with different criteria? I don’t know. But I tell you who might: Nic Cage’s Crazy Eyes!

Now tell me this guy isn’t actually less disturbing when his skull’s on fire.

How To Enjoy It

NIC CAGE’S CRAZY EYES!!!!!!!!

Rating – 2.5 out of 5 (Below Average)

*Thought this was fitting – Al


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2 thoughts on “Film Review – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

  1. I checked out this movie yesterday. It’s like it was written for fifteen year old boys who can’t speak English. They should of taken a leaf out of The Artist’s book and turned this into a silent movie.

    How cliche’ is the plot? Please!

    I’ve seen Ciarán Hinds in Miami Vice and Munich. This guy is a very good actor. He must cringe to see the faces he pulls in this movie.

    That chanting scene is one of the most ridiculous things i’ve seen in movie history!
    The positives are some great action! The last fifteen minutes kick major a$$. To see the Ghost Rider pluming smoke, black ash and fire, weaving in and out of traffic was worth the admission price.

    Great analysis of the drive in type genre. I hope this Ghost Rider movie is showing at midnight somewhere.

    • Yeah, you’re pretty much on the money here. Although I don’t know if I can agree that the chanting was the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in movie history. I’ve seen “The Time Guardian”.

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