I’ve never read the Ghost Rider comics but as far as movie adaptations go, he’s had a really bad run. The first movie, cleverly titled Ghost Rider that explained Johnny Blaze’s origins as the rider from hell was rather lackluster and hampered by a serious lack of action. This time however I did have some hope for the sequel as it was under the loving care of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the creative duo responsible for the completely rad and over-the-top Crank series. And while they have ramped up the action with their brand of kinetic style, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance still ends up being rather lackluster affair.
In case you missed out on the first movie (which most people probably have), there’s a nice little recap sequence during the opening credits where Johnny Blaze himself (played by a rather old Nicolas Cage) recaps his birth as the demonic bike rider. From there on, you’re transported to Eastern Europe where you learn the devil himself is looking for a new host as the one he currently inhibits is old and frail. He’s set his sights on some random kid who we learn real fast is his own son. Sort of!
Blaze in the meantime gets approached by a dude called Moreau (played by The Wire’s Idris Elba) who like any sane dude opposes the Devil’s plan. From then on a game of cat and mouse ensues as the devil hires a mercenary to grab his kid so he can finally complete the hellish family reunion.
Normally Cage and Elba are really good actors but they did look pretty bored in their roles. Also Elba’s accent was painful. Ciarán Hinds, the old dude who plays the devil really doesn’t look as menacing as he should, instead looking like a poor old man in serious need of some medical aid. Johnny Whitworth, the relentless mercenary does look like he’s having a bit of fun with his role but doesn’t get a lot of screen time anyway. Fergus Riordan plays Danny the kid as a kid you’ve seen a million times in Hollywood flicks by now. Annoying, overtly confident, brave beyond measure but of course saddened by the lack of any real father figure.
Now I’m not sure if the movie’s plot was inspired by one of the Ghost Rider comics but either way, it was highly clichéd. Right off the bat you can figure out who’s going to die, who’s going to sacrifice his life (in vain) and of course, the Ghost Rider himself will sprout fatherly tendencies toward Satan JR. But you know what, I can let that slide as long as I’m entertained by some good old fashioned action. Unfortunately, that never really happens.
Get over here
I’m not saying the movie lacks action. I’m saying it lacks the spark I‘ve come to expect from Nevadine and Taylor. Their traditional shaky cam style was present in almost every fight sequence but most of them got over in the blink of an eye. The climatic showdown between good and evil is also rather short and terribly abrupt. I mean you’d think there would be some sort of epic battle between the Ghost Rider and the devil but this devil just lies down and takes it like a little b***h. Another unnecessary addition to this movie was of course the inclusion of 3D that like all movies, felt completely unnecessary. Ironically, the 3D effect looked best during the credits and the graphic novel-esque flashback sequences.
If the movie churned out a lot more action and trimmed down on the cheesy plot, we could have had yet another mindless action flick this duo is well known for. And sure, it’s my fault for expecting Spirit of Vengeance to be another Crank but if you heard James Cameron was making a new sci-fi epic, you’d probably measure it against Avatar too right? Even if you enter the theatre unfamiliar with the directors or any of their prior work, you’ll still walk out a bit disappointed at this rather tame comic to movie adaptation Hollywood has become so notorious for.