Release Date:February 17, 2012
Writer: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, David Goyer
Cast: Nicolas Cage Ciaran Hinds Violante Placido Idris Elba Johnny Whitworth
Direction: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Duration: 1 hour 35 minutes
Boy oh boy! The Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze/Nicolas Cage) is back…
Five years ago the first Ghost Rider (2007) had Nicolas Cage zooming enjoyably about played the fairground stunt biker Johnny Blaze,the Marvel Comics superhero who made a pact with the devil (Peter Fonda) in the American west to save his dad’s life and took on the alter ego of Ghost Rider, a flaming demon on his mighty motorbike, collecting damned souls for Satan – his side of a bargain he once sealed with the Evil One who undertook to cure his dad’s cancer.I thought it rather good (admittedly a minority view). In this inferior sequel, shot on arid locations in Romania and the awesomely beautiful Göreme region of Turkey (where Pasolini made his Medea), Johnny is pressed by a biker monk (Idris Elba) to save a boy of holy lineage from Old Nick with the possibility of regaining his soul.
Well, as a film, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance is definitely a grander adventure than the one depicted in the first film. The “rock n roll” cycle vibe that made the first film kind of fun to watch is replaced by a somewhat more somber tone. Being the Ghost Rider is no longer a cool super power but rather a terrible burden that Johnny wants expunged from his being. The recurring moral of “you wield satanic powers but that doesn’t make you evil” is the fuel that powers the film and garners some genuine sympathy for Johnny, Danny and even Danny’s mother, Nadya (Violante Placido). Despite the attempt to make a more serious Ghost Rider flick there are still hints of the off beat comedy that was more prevalent in the first outing such as an amusing discussion about what it must be like to “take a leak” while in Ghost Rider form.
Now Blaze is back for more throbbing daemonic adventures in 3D; There’s more action, more speed runs, more bombing, more hi-tech equipment (sulphur guns and bombs), more biking craze, more screaming, more pacts with the devil, more good versus evil wars, more special effects 3D style…
He briefly reminds us of the fact that he did all this for his ailing father, but just as before, his dad’s subsequent existence is of absolutely zero interest. There’s less engine power in this sequel, and the original’s healthy, dark humour is in short supply. Hinds plays the devilish figure of Roarke, whose intense, scary face makes him look a lot like Harry Grout, the gangster-inmate in TV’s Porridge. The strangest part of this film is a quick montage showing the various historic and mythic incarnations of evil: there’s Idi Amin in there, and Stalin – but no Hitler, and the big ironic showstopper is a huge picture of Jerry Springer. Not exactly topical, not precisely hilarious and, presumably, not technically libellous. Time for this rider to head off into the sunset.
Blaze agrees and jumps on his motorcycle in order to find the child. But will Blaze ride as himself or let the Ghost Rider take over?
The supporting cast seemed to bit more on-board with the project than the lead star. I’m sure a lot of people have questioned why Nicolas Cage would come back to play Ghost Rider. Based on his off-key performance I would say that his main motive was the smoking-hot paycheck Marvel handed to him.
So here we have Idris Elba rocking a French-flavored accent and contacts, Ciaran Hinds playing a grumpy yet still menacing incarnation of the King Of Hell, Johnny Whitworth as the crafty henchman “Carrigan”, Violante Placido as the embattled mother fighting some incredible odds to save her son and young Fergus Riordan who struggles with mustering an ounce of hope that he won’t end up as Satan’s latest little helper (and, yes, Christopher Lambert as a “helpful” priest but his role is so criminally small it’s barely worth mentioning, sadly).
A huge reason why “Vengeance” exceeds the original is the fact that Cage actually plays Ghost Rider in this one. I can’t believe other stuntmen acted out Ghost Rider the first time around. It looked too fake, and you can tell it wasn’t Cage. The directors’ choice to finally have Cage play Ghost Rider made all the difference. Cage wore a skull mask while filming, and CGI artists later added the infamous flaming skull.
As a 3D film, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance was decent. On a scale between “mediocre” and brilliant” this 3D presentation was closer to the center with a slight lean towards the “mediocre” side. There were enough scenes that didn’t make the experience a complete waste of cash but if I was going to advise a friend on the decision (hi, friend) I would tell him/her to pass because the 2D would be just as good and cheaper.
Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance was the sequel no one really asked for but here it is. The “nutshell review” is that the sequel has an adequate plot and decent action sequences with so-so 3D enhancements. But the flames of fury are somewhat doused by a combination of choppy editing and a wavering leading man. See it in the theater, if you dare, but this latest Ghost Rider film can be enjoyed just as much when released for home viewing.
“Vengeance’s” plot is merely mediocre, and the film includes some of the goofiest dialogue and acting I’ve ever seen on screen. However, it’s self-aware of its ridiculous and corny moments, qualities that could translate into a great “bad” movie classic.
The 3D is basically non-existent, and that’s because it wasn’t shot in 3D. The third dimension was added later. So if you choose to see it in theaters, save yourself a few bucks and see it in 2D.
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” is over-the-top and dumb, but the film lets Cage have more fun than he had in his recent, inferior action films.