The flaming skeleton super hero, Ghost Rider has returned to the big screen in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.” The Directors of “Crank,” Mark Neveldine and Seth Hoffman, were brought on to the project to not only create a sequel to better the original “Ghost Rider,” but to try and reboot the series. They were entirely unsuccessful, but Neveldine and Hoffman are not the only ones to blame. The poor writing gave for a weak story, which was a surprise because even though two of the screen writers have only done television shows, the third writer of the movie, David Goyer, worked on the story for “The Dark Knight” with Christopher Nolan. The acting did not fare any better as well, especially with the Ghost Rider himself, Nicolas Cage.
For this time around, Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage, “Drive Angry”) is hiding in Eastern Europe, still trying to escape his demons of transforming into the soul stealing Ghost Rider. Blaze is called upon by Moreau, (Idris Elba, “Thor”) a secret sect of the church, to save the life of Danny, (Fergus Riordan, “I Want to Be a Soldier”) a boy who Roarke “The Devil” (Ciaran Hinds, “The Woman in Black”) is after. Moreau makes a deal with Blaze; if he saves the boy, then he will lift the Ghost Rider curse. After trying to keep the Rider away, Blaze agrees and begins to try and use his power for good. Along the way, Blaze discovers that Danny’s mother, Nadya, (Violante Placido, “The American”) while on her deathbed, also made a deal with the devil to have his child in exchange for her life. He must take on the devil’s lackeys as well as the devil himself before Danny is fully transformed into the Anti-Christ.
The directors wanted to take “Spirit of Vengeance” in more of a horror direction from the original, but like most horrors, the film turned into more of a joke. There were a lot of puns that went flat and having Cage play both Blaze and the Ghost Rider this time showed to be the wrong decision. He acted more like a guy that belonged in a mental institution than someone who was cursed by the devil. In classic Nicolas Cage fashion, there was a lot of odd facial expressions followed by awkward movement. Every time Blaze would start to make the transformation to the Ghost Rider, Cage would start laughing uncontrollably like a mad man, which turned a serious and exciting moment into the most awkward scenes in the movie.
Cage, a big Ghost Rider fan himself, put a lot of effort into trying to playing the Ghost Rider, who was played by a stunt man in the first movie. The effort did show with the movements the Rider made, whether it was the disturbing way he would tilt his head when he would look at you, or his general movement. There were still times when the Rider would do his death stare and all he would do is just stare at the person for 30 seconds before anything happened. Then there were a couple times where the Rider was held in mid air during a battle sequence, either not moving or spinning and never made any sense.
The rest of the movie was filled with many more scenes that either were something that was supposed to have been taken serious, but turned into a joke or served no purpose to the movie. There is one scene when the devil is performing a ceremony with Danny and they are both on their knees awkwardly swaying around as people in front of them chanted a ritual. Then, to add insult to injury, there is another scene that originally appeared to be a gag for the trailer, but actually ended up in the movie where Danny asks Blaze what it would be like if he had to pee while he was on fire, and it cuts to the Ghost Rider with his back turned to the audience as he sprays a stream of fire back and forth.
Two things Neveldine and Hoffman did do right were the camera angles and special effects. The shots were perfect with the kinds of angles they were getting and how they were getting them. They literally put their lives on the line to get those shots and it turned out to be one of the few good parts about the movie. If the character got thrown off a cliff then they were getting thrown off the cliff in real life as well. When either Blaze or the Rider were on their motorcycles, either Neveldine or Hoffman would be holding on to that motorcycle or another while on roller blades to get the perfect shot. The special effects were vastly improved from the first movie.
The Ghost Rider got a much-needed makeover, with a more realistic look of both the skeleton and fire he is engulfed in. The same goes for his new motorcycle and every time he burns someone to ashes with his chain. Even though Cage ruins the transformation process with his crazy laughter, the effects of when he half transforms have a very realistic look to them. His face will partly start to turn into the skull with his eyes all black and his face taking more of a skull-like form.
There were high hopes that Marvel’s most bad-ass super hero would actually come back with “vengeance” but there was nothing in this movie that did it any justice. Usually when someone goes up against the Devil or any antagonist in any film you would expect a great battle or struggle and they fully missed it this time by giving the Ghost Rider too big of an advantage. Many super heroes have successfully made the transition from the comics to movies, but for “Ghost Rider” it seems that it is going to have to go to the back burner for a while until a proper group, which hopefully does not include Cage, can come along and give the Ghost Rider the proper movie it deserves.
-Published in The Oswegonian