Directed By: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Written By: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba
Personally I felt the original Ghost Rider film was one of the worst comic book films made in the last decade. Besides the obvious issues with it I felt it took what is a pretty dark and original character and made it rather lame. I was surprised as anyone that a sequel was going to be made. Not too surprised however since this was mainly made so movie rights did not revert back to Marvel. So at the start it has a lot going against it. One bright spot was the fact that the directors of the Crank franchise were taking over. While I’m not a huge fan of the Crank films I felt their sense of style and willingness to go all out would fit the character of Ghost Rider perfectly. This caused my initial distain to turn into a small glimmer of hope. However while I was ready for the outrageous what I got felt rather bland.
Though this is a sequel it feels more like a standalone film. Nicholas Cage playing Johnny Blaze is the only element tying the two together. Blaze’s origin is touched on, but with different characters. This time around Ciaran Hinds plays Roarke, the devil Blaze made the deal with that turned him into the ‘Rider’. Blaze has retreated into Europe to try to keep his curse from coming out. It has been working until a French monk by the name of Moreau comes looking for him. Moreau is played by Idris Elba who you may know from The Wire, The Office, as well as last summer’s Thor. I am a big fan of Elba but felt his performance fell flat here. Actually the only performance that was at all enjoyable was Nicholas Cage. I know he’s become somewhat of a joke lately, but I found him a site to see in this. It is completely ridiculous and that totally works here. He shows he completely understands the type of movie he is in. At times though it did feel like he was ‘in on the joke’, and attempting to add segments to his already famous YouTube clips. His character is given the task of trying to save a child that Roarke is after. It’s unclear what Roarke wants, but it will certainly mean the end of the world. At first Blaze refuses the task until Moreau promises him a deal he can’t say no to. That is the ability to get rid of his curse. Blaze reluctantly accepts the offer and unleashes his demon to ride once more.
The issues begins right there with the plot of the film. I understand that the character of Ghost Rider is a hard one to latch onto. For one he’s a demon with a limited vocab. Not someone you would invite over for Sunday brunch. Unless, for example your daughter had an undesirable boyfriend that needed getting rid of. However, giving him a child to bond with felt like a very forced way to get you to care. They attempted to create a relationship between him and Blaze but it never really worked. Honestly it was quite laughable at times as they tried to bond through the power of the motorcycle. That however is only a minor issue when looking at the entire film. The real problem is how restraint the film became. It felt like that standup comic that doesn’t really have any jokes or much of an act. So to make up for this they just say some random outlandish things that make you laugh based on shock value, but when you put them all together it’s rather incoherent. That’s not to say I disliked everything. There were a number of ridiculous elements I found enjoyable. The fact Ghost Rider wasn’t holding back on his enemies was a site to see. Exploding bodies, fiery bullets, and Ghost Rider turning a gigantic earth mover into a hellstorm vehicle were all sites to see. Overall the look of Ghost Rider was completely overhauled for the better. Some touches while small were very effective. Having the skull slightly burnt and the jacket bubbling like volcanic tar added realistic texture to the overall character of Ghost Rider.
Those positive elements all felt like bits of seasoning on an already burnt to a crisp steak. Sure they made it a little easier to get through, but at the end you don’t feel good about yourself at all. The action in general felt disjointed and uneven and lacked any type of structure. It wasn’t just that the majority of action sequences happened at random it was also that the participants in the action sequences seemed uninterested and unclear on what was happening. There was no flow to the battles as they would tend to end abruptly without coming to a clear conclusion. Overall ‘Spirit of Vengeance’ commits one of the biggest movie sins, and that is in the end not much happens. While I appreciated a lot of the style and over the top moments they were mostly used for filler. On the positive side it is a vast improvement over the first Ghost Rider film, but it still suffers from a lot of the same issues. The plot was simple and nonexistent. Not once did I ever feel any sense of tension, instead as the story was coming to its climax I felt bored and ready for it to end. After two failed films I wonder if it is possible to make a quality Ghost Rider movie. While I am a fan of the Ghost Rider comics he doesn’t feel like a character that is suitable for live action. Though I hope one day I’m proven wrong.