‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ Begs Audience to Accept Mediocrity, Stupidity

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CHICAGO – At the very least, I can take some comfort in knowing that the YouTube montage of Nicolas Cage freaking out has some new (and golden) material. As cursed as Cage’s Johnny Blaze character is by the demon inside him known as the Ghost Rider in the newest chapter, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” so is this movie cursed by unthinkable dialogue, lackluster acting, obnoxious camerawork, and confusing editing.

Cage reprises the role of Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider in a sequel being released five years since the original “Ghost Rider”. In the new film, Johnny is hanging low in Eastern Europe (natural for any guy that hulks out into a flaming-headed, motorcycle-riding demon), when he is called upon by Moreau (Idris Elba) to protect a young boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan), who the devil himself, Roarke (Ciaran Hinds), is after. Conflicted by losing himself to the demon inside and protecting the kid, Johnny is forced to dance with the devil and bust out into a flaming skeleton in leather to protect the somewhat good from the truly evil.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

Though we have no frame of reference as to who these characters really are (Johnny is the only returnee from the first film) and the story is quickly thrown at us like the afterthought of a rambling idiot on a college quad, the action of the film is somewhat entertaining, albeit nauseating. The fighting sequences are filmed at peculiar angles with quick cutting and cameras that are constantly shaking, getting me closer to jumping out of my seat to puke rather than to cheer. It’s not that the scenes aren’t action-packed, they just might give you a panic attack.

From cut-scenes where background is explained to moments of conversation, directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor find it necessary to continue the shaky cam and quick cuts between odd angles as well as add in ridiculous animation. Some moments of note: explaining the devil can take different forms with a series of photos of evil dictators and world leaders that is capped by a picture of Jerry Springer and a joke between Johnny and Danny about what Johnny does when he has to urinate while morphed as the Ghost Rider (cue unfathomable shot from behind the Ghost Rider as he sprays a flame-thrower stream from his nether regions).

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

The Johnny/Ghost Rider character is designed to be a dangerous biker who doesn’t take squat from anyone, but between the ridiculous heavy breathing and the terrible one-liners, this guy is more of a laughing stock than a badass. Seriously, why are you breathing so heavy when you are talking, Johnny? You’ve been riding in a car for at least half an hour. How could you be out of breath? And the best thing you can come up with after killing a guy by throwing him under a moving truck is the one-liner “road kill”? Even the dorky Peter Parker looks awesome compared to you.

All of this ridiculousness is topped off with editing and transitions that make you question which scenes were cut from this movie. For example, in trying to find and rescue Danny, Johnny and Danny’s mother, Nadya (Violante Placido), decide that Johnny will need to turn into the Ghost Rider. After a rather hilarious sequence where Cage screams manically at the screen as he rides his hog and starts to morph into the flaming skeleton, we cut to Nadya untying her bound son in a warehouse. Wait… how did she find him and get by the guards in the warehouse? Transitions like this are commonplace in this film, putting characters in different locations within seconds with no explanation as to how or why they got there.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

If all of this wasn’t enough, there is the brutal fact that if you have seen the trailer to this film (or look at the official still courtesy of Sony above), you have also seen the last moment of the final battle in the film. I can’t recall ever seeing one of the last and most climactic moments of a movie inside the trailer for the film, but apparently, the studio didn’t care if you had already seen it. It was just too awesome not to include in a mediocre trailer. The most frustrating thing about this is anyone who saw the trailer and was excited by this scene is equally bored by seeing it as the climactic moment in the movie. Columbia Pictures, Marvel Knights, and anyone else involved with the decision making behind this should be ashamed of themselves. In trying to up ticket sales with an action-packed trailer, they sacrificed the audience’s ability to see an exciting climactic conclusion for the first time when they paid money to see this film.

Maybe it is wrong of me to even do this and “Ghost Rider” should just be on a different rung in this category, but don’t we expect more from our comic book films nowadays? I’m not saying “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” should have been on the level of “The Dark Knight,” but Marvel has created multiple quality films between several in the “X-Men” series, the first two “Spider-Man” films, “Iron Man,” and “Captain America,” to name a few. “Ghost Rider” and “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” fall into a category of poor attempts to create a comic book fan legend that will surly have DVDs priced down to $5 in the Wal-Mart bargain bin next to “Daredevil” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” Sacrificing story and dialog for visuals and cheap laughs, “Spirit of Vengeance” is more comical than it is cool. Even with expectations lowered, the film was a disappointment in several departments and I can only hope Johnny Blaze pulls his best Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls era) impression and rides off into the sunset on his chopper, never to return again.

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” stars Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Ciaran Hinds, and Fergus Riordan. It was directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. It opens on February 17th, 2012 and is rated PG-13.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Tim Martens

Staff Writer

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