Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is, thankfully, brief. That might also be one of the main problems with it.
But first, how about a preview:
Released February 17, 2012
Written by Scott Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer (!!) (Click on Goyer’s name if you want to know why I’m surprised at his writing credit here)
Directed by Neveldine/Taylor
Starring Violante Placido, Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds, Fergus Riordan, Christopher Lambert, and Johnny Whitworth
* * * * *
What happened to Nic Cage? We know he can act. Or maybe he lost the talent along with his fortune that he spent on castles. Whatever the case may be, he only sort of tries to elevate a production that is directed by people who should stick to making music videos for Linkin Park. I liked the first Ghost Rider, and I loved the comics.
Ghost Story: Spirit of Vengeance picks up where the previous film left off, sort of. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Eva Mendes in it. In fact, the way this movie is cast and where it takes place really makes it feel like a cross between Crank and Blade. Johnny Blaze (Cage) still has the curse where he’s possessed by a demon made of napalm when Blaze approaches someone who needs to have his or her soul sucked down by a burning skull. Blaze doesn’t like this curse, so he’s somehow made it to eastern Europe and is hiding in a warehouse where Moreau (Elba) inexplicably finds him.
Moreau is a member of a priestly order that is trying to protect a young boy who is Satan’s version of Christ. This boy is Danny (Riordan) who spends his time mostly looking like he’s not sure what he’s supposed to be doing. Danny and his mother, Nadya (Placido), are on the run, trying to get away from her ex who is working for Satan’s avatar on earth, Roarke (Hinds). Roarke wants to transfer himself into Danny because Danny’s body is made of stronger stuff and can handle the power of Satan better than Roarke’s degenerating clay. If this works, mankind’s days of peace and plenty are numbered.
So Moreau somehow finds Blaze and makes a deal to have Blaze help protect the boy in exchange for having his curse lifted. Blaze has daddy issues, as is highlighted by the strange script, and he forms an attachment to the boy, a feeling which is reciprocated.
This all leads to a big showdown where two titanic powers fight each other and the sympathetic hero has to dig deep into himself to finally define himself as a good yet flawed person who has forgiven himself, whereupon he gains greater strength and vanquishes the implacable and incredibly evil foe in a moment of emotional crescendo.
Sorry, that last paragraph is wishful thinking. What this all leads to is a rather dull and very uninspiring climax.
The story is not bad. It deals with some neat religious themes, is populated by potentially interesting characters, has a very cool looking central hero, deal with high stakes, and essentially follows an arc for Johnny Blaze.
But the script is bad. No really, it’s bad. And the direction is worse. The pacing is uneven, in the extreme. We start off all right, with a smarmy and interesting villain. Moreau is also fun to watch, a credit to Elba. But we go astray fast, with Blaze’s inner struggle far too melodramatic and with no successful balance between attempted insane humor and dramatic mugging.
We feel hurried and pushed and confused, even while important elements are repeated multiple times by strange voice-over narration and characters. Scenes are not allowed to unfold; they are thrown at the viewer fully formed and hard to swallow.
Then we have a second act that spends an inordinate time taking us down a road where the religious themes are confusingly illuminated and taken far too seriously. Suddenly this movie becomes a snoozer.
The overall critique of this movie is that the scenes and characters are never allowed to grow, form, and evolve for the viewer. Because of this, there is no emotional investment possible on the audience’s part. There are only scenes in chunks, potentially interesting but instead very flat characters, and some great, simply stupendous really, visual effects.
The climactic struggles are a boring combination of Mad Max, Fast Five, and any Arnold Schwarzzenegar movie. You’ve got cars dying, clever zingers, creative action, but by the time the end has rolled around, we still don’t care about these people and we know exactly what’s coming.
You would think that a movie about a napalm-peeing demon who is the devil’s bounty hunter wouldn’t be such a snoozer. You’d be wrong.
Content warnings: mid-to-high level profanity, plenty of comic violence.
Writing: 1.5 Acting: 1.5 Overall: 1.5
Don’t believe me? Compare my review with those on Rotten Tomatoes.
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