Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, Christopher Lambert, Johnny Whitworth, Violante Placido, Kevin Nash, Fergus Riordan
RunTime: 1 hr 34 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: http://www.thespiritofvengeance.com/
Opening Day: 16 February 2012
Synopsis: Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Columbia Pictures' and Hyde Park Entertainment's "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance". In the successor to the worldwide hit Ghost Rider, Johnny - still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter - is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy - and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.
2012 was shaping up to be one heck of an exciting year for comic book heroes on the big screen, with plenty of hype built up for Marc Webb's Spider-man reboot, the highly anticipated coming together of individual heroes from their respective film franchises into The Avengers, and Christopher Nolan's finale to his Dark Knight trilogy. All's looking well in the build up to the Summer, but you have a party pooper like Ghost Rider coming along with caution that hype, is just that, and that the actual delivery
I will unabashedly say that I had rather enjoyed the earlier 2007 film directed by Mark Steven Johnson, even if general consensus was otherwise. Having to deal with an origin and coming from the B-list of heroes isn't easy, but it did what it had set out to do to introduce the character to the film masses. With Spirit of Vengeance, it had elevated the 2007 effort to an assured classic. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor did good work with the Crank films in terms of making a high octane action flick that played out like a mindless yet fun computer game, but their lack of grasp of another sub-genre got exposed here pretty bad, and one wonders that either they're non Ghost Rider fans, or can't be bothered with the source material, fashioning it as just another effects film that they can use to play with some cool production toys.
David S. Goyer has got his name down on a number of comic book films turned into movies, but this was probably something he had hacked up while in lala land. It's generic, cliche and derivative, and the gist is Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage) being sought by Moreau (Idris Elba) to prevent a prophesied anti-Christ kid Danny (Fergus Riordan) and his mom Nadya (Violante Placido) from falling into the wrong hands, led by the devil himself (Ciaran Hinds), and some other bad asses along the way such as the very unnecessary and underutilized group of monks led by Methodius (Christopher Lambert, why did you even agree to do this? I hope they paid you well). The Rider plays protector and bonds with this kid (Hello James Cameron's Terminator 2), and plays catch almost all along the way to fulfill his mission, so that he can have the rider expelled from Blaze himself once and for all, and return to normalcy, and convince Eva Mendes to be back for Part 3.
I have to admit there were some nice touches, but these were not enough. The opening credits to ret-con the origin and in a way disregard the 2007 one was nicely done through a series of animation, voiceover and self-deprecating humour, as was the story about the Spirit of Vengeance. The revelation of Johnny Blaze's selfishness also added a little more dimension to the character, and the Rider this time was given a meaner, grimmer look with better effects done up for its hell fire get up. In short, Ghost Rider never looked better with its many cosmetic changes, but alas everything else was also purely cosmetic, and pretty randomly, and haphazardly put together, having set in an Eastern European background to try and desperately add a touch of class which it sorely lacked.
The first film suffered from weak villains. And if you agree with me there, then may you now know that this film had even weaker ones. They cannot fight, they stand around, and generally the Ghost Rider obliterates everyone, and I mean really obliterate, everyone into dust and ash, before you can even shout "Rider in da house". The rider's first fight sequence was laughable and tiring to watch. He stands around with villains in awe of his newly designed hot head, then someone decides to threaten the Rider, and the latter moves in quick time toward his victim, and poof, he's gone. Repeat until head count equalled 0. And when the going's tough, whip out those mean metal chains, and everyone it touches dissolves into ash. Case closed, time for a coffee break.
There's absolutely nobody standing in the way of the Rider, and the filmmakers failed in realizing that heroism comes from overcoming incredible odds set up by villains preferably with both brain and brawn. The villains here were one dimensional and cardboard, with a one tracked mind to execute a singular plan, and turned Ghost Rider into an unintentional god with no weaknesses. Scenes got unnecessarily dragged out to either try and inject some humanity into the characters, or to try and place ill timed comedy. Worst, there seemed to be some fetish fixation over Blaze's transformation into Ghost Rider, with a number of scenes just lingering on that change, though with Nicolas Cage very adamant in wanting to challenge Jim Carrey in the rubber face department.
It's the first Marvel Knights imprint film after Punisher: War Zone to signal material meant for a mature audience, but it's laughable since Spirit of Vengeance turned out to be so juvenile, sans sane plotting and zilch characterization, with a focus only on action sequences that turned out to be very generic. What was kind of fun in the trailer had Ghost Rider pissing flames, but that made it into the movie. Twice. Utilizing the same clip each time, as if a forewarning of the insult any member of the audience has to bear in forking out good money to watch this piece of junk, only to be peed upon by the shoddy storyline.
All in all, the Ghost Rider franchise is finished and left for dead, with this film being the final nail in the coffin until some other more concerted effort comes along to exhume and resurrect the character for the silver screen. It's highly disrespectful to the source material since it's done by filmmakers with no inkling of what it's all about - despite what they say the end result on screen have already proved otherwise - and insults the audience's intelligence. From the trailers one would have hoped it had worked for this film, but sadly it was nothing but absolute smoke and mirrors.
(Whoever conceived this story should have his own soul claimed by the devil)
Review by Stefan Shih