Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

24 Feb

Title: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Year: 2012
Directors: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Writers: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer, based on a story by Mr. Goyer
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Fergus Riordan, Idris Elba, Christopher Lambert
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Metacritic: 32

Nicolas Cage’s career choices are super entertaining to watch, and the fact that he seems to be in a zillion films every year has become a mocking matter, one that he himself joined in at laughing at in a recent SNL episode, so at least the guy’s a good sport about it. The thing is, for every horrible Nic Cage performances, there’s a really good one so he keeps it balanced, though there was that 2003 (post-Matchstick Men) to 2009 (pre-The Bad Lieutentant: Port of Call – New Orleans) period in which he did pure crap. During that period, in 2007, he did the original Ghost Rider, and that film was truly bad with dialogue that was horrible and performance by Mr. Cage that was just such a disservice to the comic book character, an even sadder fact when you consider Mr. Cage himself is a big comic book fan.

So of course when it was announced that there was going to be a sequel to that film I thought it was just a hugely unnecessary move by Marvel, who should stick to the really good films they make, or at least try and reboot the character in a whole new (darker) direction. But a part of me held out some hope because part of what came with Nicolas Cage’s fame of doing bad films and bad roles is the fact that he went so insanely over-the-top in his portrayals that it could be funny, it could get to the so-bad-that-it’s-good territory, much like what happened in last year’s ridiculously exaggerated Drive Angry, which I ended up giving a B+ to. So, if the film wouldn’t turn out to be good, I at least expected Nicolas Cage to be really loud and larger than life to get the film into that so-bad-it’s-good territory, and the fact that trailer had Ghost Rider peeing fire and that the film was being directed by the Neveldine/Taylor team (whose Crank films fall under that category) had me thinking that might just be the case.

Well, it turned out my cautious hopes were totally for naught, as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance falls to a level just as low as its predecessor, if not slightly worse, thanks to a seriously horrible script (which surprisingly came from David S. Goyer and, less surprisingly, also had two other cooks in the kitchen with him) and visual effects that really should have been better. And, what’s worse, it’s as though this movie knew that it was no good to begin with and tried to be the type of movie I explained above in which it was so bad that it was good. But that’s not something you can plan to be, you can’t calculate the amount of badness needed to be a fun kind of bad, so what we get was just a plain bad movie that has a Nicolas Cage performance that, while as unhinged as usual, feels too predictably over-the-top, so there wasn’t that surprise element to how crazy this guy was. Truly a movie we didn’t really need.

I’m not going to fail this movie, though, because it wasn’t as big a waste of time as I may have made it out to be in the above paragraph, that was just frustration for it being a seriously huge waste of potential. This really could have been a cult kind of hit when you consider all the ingredients: a lesser-known Marvel character that was inspired by Evel Knievel, the shamelessly indulging Neveldine/Taylor team, the crazy Nicolas Cage and a cast of supporting actors that includes Idris Elba who’s about four different kinds of awesome and is surely headed for great things no matter how bad this film is. It’s as though this film went from a bad idea, to a good one in its badness, to bad again after not hitting its marks, and it’s a pity in my opinion, I wanted to but this one in blu-ray and watch it at midnight a few years from now whenever I needed some mindless entertainment.

This is a (very slight) grittier version of Johnny Blaze we get here, our motorcycle-riding friend who, whenever he is in the presence of evil, becomes an angry monster complete with a flaming skull for a head. That happened after a deal he made with the devil in order to save his dying father years ago, and so he became satan’s bounty hunter of sorts. But then a group of rebel monks, led by Mr. Elba, tracks him down to ask for his help to save a young boy from the devil, and in the process Johnny may get ride of his curse as well.

What we get never really comes close to what we should have gotten. The use of CGI should have been far more inventive in the hands of these maniac directors, and Ghost Rider feels really stale as a character, a really sad fact considering it had Nicolas Cage there in order to bring in some over-the-top personality to the character, but it’s just not to be, he tries but it all feels recycled, maybe he should go back to doing decent films again. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, let’s hope, will be the last we see of this character, at least until some more daring and imaginative filmmakers try to offer up a new take on him.

Grade: C

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