Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance

I am convinced that there could eventually be a great movie made out of the Ghost Rider character. I’d settle for even a good one. But for that to happen Nicolas Cage will have to let the project fall through his hammy hands.

I’ve had a while to think this this film, more than it really deserves, and I have decided that the film is better than the first film. But that isn’t much of a complement, because I could make a better Ghost Rider film than the first one using action figures and empty cereal boxes. But this new film isn’t any good.

And, yes, I said this new film and not this sequel, because this a soft reboot of the franchise. This film makes it clear that Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage)willingly signed the contract with the Devil (now named Roarke and played by Ciarán Hinds instead of being tricked into signing by Peter Fonda’s Mephistopheles) and Blaze wants the curse removed, a change from the last film’s ending, where Blaze rejected Mephistopheles’ offer of removing the curse in order to use the power for good.

The story, in a nutshell, is that the devil is after a young boy by the name of Danny in order to put his essence into. No, not in that way you pervs. Danny is his son. Satan/Roarke is going to leave his old, beat up body and possess his son’s youthful one, therefore combining the two main versions of how the Antichrist will be created. Johnny Blaze is offered a deal. If he tracks down the kid, keeps him safe and stops the Satanic takeover from happening, then the Ghost Rider curse will be removed.

The plot, well, the plot exists to serve the plot’s purpose. What do I mean? Okay, early in the film, Ghost Rider interrupts Roarke’s mercenaries just as they were about to kidnap Danny. Ghost Rider is taken out of commission by two shotgun blasts and a grenade explosions. Later, when Ghost Rider tracks the mercenaries down a quarry to get the kid back, he shrugs off two direct hits from missiles that the bad guys describe as “bunker busters.”  In other words, weapons that are about 500 times as powerful as a shotgun blast or a grenade. No explanation given why Ghost Rider got so resilient all of a sudden. Other than at that point of the film, Ghost Rider needed to free the kid from his captors.

There are tons of this kind of stuff in the film. The plot also introduces elements that work for the narrative but make little sense when you think of them. This wouldn’t be a problem if the film moved fast enough so you didn’t have time to think about these plot points. But the film drags at points.  I mean, let’s start with the main plot point. It is stressed in the film numerous times about how Ghost Rider is a “spirit of vengeance” and cannot be controlled. He’s a weapon against sin and if you have done anything at all you need to repent for (the film offers illegal downloads as a low-end sin option), then Ghost Rider will attack you. Is this the ideal being you want to send to protect the son of Satan and his mother, a woman who made the beast with two backs with the Great Beast? The movie should have been over as soon as Ghost Rider found them. Two repentance stares and he’d be on his merry way.

The film doesn’t really build its characters or the relations between them either. We get shortcuts instead of character building scenes. “Here, here are two characters with daddy issues, you provide the rest.” “Here’s a scene with a child in danger while his mother watches, you fill in the blanks.” That might have worked if you even remotely cared for the characters or knew anything about them. This film doesn’t give you that much to work with.

And, not to belabor the script problems, but there is serious issues with tone. Most of the film is dead serious, end-of-the-world stuff, but every so often, a scene of out and out camp pops up and smacks you in the face.  There is room for humor in the concept, but not in the way presented here.

Worst of all, the story is credited to David S. Goyer and he is one of three men who wrote the screenplay. Yes, this was done by the one of the people responsible for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and the Blade franchise. What happened?

The direction by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor shows signs of inspiration. There are a couple of nice touches provided by the directors but often it is overshadowed by their Matrix-lite visual style.

But their approach to directing their actors was probably spraying condiments all over each of their sets and telling their cast to have at it. Because the entire cast in the business of chewing scenery, and cousin, business is boomin’.

Over-the-top acting is the rule of the day. Some of the cast do well hamming it up. Hinds adds a kind of Shakespearean pompousness to his role as Roarke. And Idris Elba (apparently in a race with Chris Evans and Ryan Reynolds for the most comic book films on his resume) seems like he is having fun chewing scenery as the drunken, French, machine gun-wielding priest Moreau. But then you get actors like Johnny Whitaker, who plays the head mercenary Carrigan. Whitaker has an uncanny resemblance to a young Kurt Russell, and his performance here calls to mind Russell’s performance in Overboard, only without Russell’s subtlety and tact. He’s aiming to be the wise-ass, quotable bad guy. He only comes off as smarmy and over-baked.

As I was watching these actors overact, I thought that this was deliberate. I thought this was designed to make Nicolas Cage, never the most restrained of actors, seem normal. That was until I saw the scene where Cage as Johnny Blaze goes to interrogate that gangster to find out Carrigan’s location. I think we can now take down that bee scene from The Wicker Man off of You Tube, because we have a new example of the worst acting Nic Cage has ever done. Cage is so over the top in the scene that it defies belief. It is truly horrible acting. It makes his awful performance in the rest of film seem Oscar worthy. And his performance throughout the rest of the film is completely rotten.  

I can go on and on telling you how bad this film is. But I’m not going to. It is a boring, poorly acted, poorly written piece of tripe. This is not a film for seeing. It is a film for laying down and avoiding.

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About William Gatevackes 1933 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.

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