'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' Review (2012)

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance movie review
Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Photo: Columbia Pictures

About midway through Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance I began to think it wasn't made purely for monetary reasons (which it obviously was). Instead it appeared as if director duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor were actually trying to see how many stupid things they could get Nicolas Cage to do before he caught on to their prank. While they may not have verbalized their intentions, I can only imagine in their heads they were chanting, "Dance monkey dance!" as Cage twitched around the set as the titular Ghost Rider and screamed in a high pitched squeal, "Scraping at the door!" in a scene that must have been nearly impossible to keep a straight face while filming.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Grade: D-

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is a Columbia Pictures release, directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language. The running time is .

The cast includes Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba and Johnny Whitworth.

For whatever reason it was made, here it is, the sequel to 2007's Ghost Rider. The film no one asked for and yet, somehow, we got it. Taking its existence into consideration, it's only logical to assume a studio would green light a sequel to a previously loathed first installment if they felt they had something good on their hands. Or at least reasonably decent. Yet, if you made that assumption you would be dead wrong.

I'm not sure what you would call Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, but a film it is not. Screenwriters Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David Goyer may have put a few words on paper and called it a screenplay, but if there's a story here I sure missed it.

For those unfamiliar with the first film, or have chosen to forget it, the opening moments offer a brief re-introduction following a sequence where we learn the fate of a young boy will be serving as the centerpiece to this "story." Yes, Cage is already treading the same territory he essentially walked in Drive Angry, a film not too dissimilar from what you get here. But at least that film, as awful as it was, had a beginning, middle and end whereas Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance essentially begins with the first 75% of the story dismissed.

Returning to the lead role, Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a one-time stunt cyclist that made a deal with the Devil (Ciaran Hinds) to save his father's life. The deal went bad, and now Blaze is relegated to becoming the demonic, flaming skull that stalks the night known as the Ghost Rider. Since we last left him, however, Blaze has gone into hiding where he is found by Moreau (Idris Elba), a messenger of sorts for a secret society that hopes to keep the boy safe from the Devil.

You see, the Devil can't do much while he's on Earth in human form or his body just tends to waste away into something of a melted Marlon Brando circa-Godfather appearance. For this reason, he recruits people such as politicians, business executives and even Jerry Springer to do his bidding. This little problem, however, can be solved should he be able to get his hands on this boy, a boy we learn is actually his son (shocker, I know) and being half-human, half-Devil(?) he can apparently handle the power once given to him. I think we are supposed to just assume his son will take that power and become a bad guy, but what do I know?

So, in short, the Devil, or Roarke as he's referred to here, wants to find his son and give him his power. Blaze is recruited by Moreau to protect the kid (and by association his mother) and the chase goes on for about 95 minutes and the film ends. Oh, and should he get the job done, Blaze's curse will be lifted. There's that too. So that's your story, and you can guess what happens along the way -- the kid is on the run with his mother, he's found by the bad guys, saved by Blaze, taken by the bad guys, found by Blaze, tug-of-war, slap-and-tickle, duck-duck-goose and Bob's your uncle. The fact they managed to weasel 95 minutes out of this nothingness is impressive, but absolutely none of it is of any interest.

Neveldine and Taylor are best known for their work on the hyper-kinetic Crank franchise and they bring quite a bit of that frenzy to this film, but that only works if your film is meant to exist within that environment. This just isn't that kind of story so it's one redundant set piece after another with random bits tossed in and the only entertainment along the way being a chance to watch Cage perform in strung out fits of constipated performance. To that point, I'm not exactly sure what to call what Cage is doing nowadays in films, but it's like he's become so self-aware that he's almost mimicking the mimic.

Meant to distract you from realizing there is no story, the effects work turning Cage into a flaming skull is actually quite impressive, as he's engulfed in flames and black smoke. That being said, there's a climactic car chase that borders on amateur as it's impossible to mix Neveldine and Taylor's in-the-thick-of-things shooting style with CG cars flipping over into animated dust clouds that look like they are straight out of Looney Tunes.

All things considered, I can't see any way this franchise continues after this. Perhaps this is a character that's unfilmable or perhaps the idea of telling the story of a flaming skull that kills people just isn't meant for the big screen, or at least not as a PG-13 feature. I've never read the comics so I have no idea what these books have to offer, but if this film is any indication I have to believe what's on screen isn't indicative of what's on the page. Neveldine and Taylor have managed to present something of a comic book style of framing each scene, but their ability to move from one panel to the next is nonexistent.


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  • Randy

    So I'm assuming this is no guilty pleasure type of movie.

  • maja

    No surprise here at all...it really is sad what has happened to Nic Cage's career especially since I thought he is a good actor 5-6 years ago. Since then (with exception of Bad Lieutenant) he has just done the most awful 'fantasy' movies where he effectively plays the same role and I feel like directors are just making a movie to make fun of him.

  • Brian


  • Danny

    i usually do disagree with brad (though still respect and love reading) his reviews, this one i fully agree with, it was just one big pile of pretty dog shit.

  • Tom Knoblauch

    A Ghost Rider sequel gets made, but an Anchorman sequel is too risky? what a world, what a world

  • http://desertofreel.wordpress.com/ Kob

    Won't be seeing it. Never had much of an interest in Nelvedine/Taylor's visual style or their editing. I'm not sure why this film was made unless it really was a merchandising grab.

    Then again, who buys this crap?

  • Carlos

    Very well written review. Thanks.

  • Doc Holiday

    I knew that my wife was going to be my wife when she told me that she couldn't stand Nic Cage movies.

  • Bren

    Not gonna lie, I love Nic Cage and his terribad movies but even some of his latest ones have been difficult to get through. This might be at least better than Drive Angry, though. And I thought it was understood that Cage is taking these roles for the paycheck alone with all his real life financial messes? Or maybe I'm just hoping so?

  • G Clem

    Maybe they should have rebooted this series. I always thought Nic was the bad choice for this movie. It should have been much darker. The special effects looked pretty bad-ass but I guess they spent the money on that alone.

  • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

    As a comic book fan I had a duty to check it out. Damn, not so good. There were laughs had, but most unintentional... And sadly, as many have said, it never quite reaches that point of 'so bad it's good'.

    To say the character is unfilmable though, I would argue, is incorrect. Ghost Rider is a very cinematic character - aesthetically especially. But even then, the character he interacts in within the comic book world are much more interesting. Granted, he does not have the depth of a Batman or Spider-Man, but think they can't make an entertaining Ghost Rider film is a falsity in my opinion.

    The big problem here, really, is story and Cage. When your protagonist can't be taken seriously - well, clearly things aren't going to work.