Movie Review - Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance
By Matthew Huntley
February 28, 2012

This isn't that far away from what happened in the Dayton 500.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a bad movie, yes, but it’s not a painful one. There’s something guiltily amusing about it, thanks mostly to an animated, over-the-top performance from Nicolas Cage, who employs his usual Cage-isms so we’re able to focus on him instead of the shallow story and filmmaking. Cage twitches his head sharply, blinks his eyes rapidly, breathes heavily and constantly uses his hands and fingers to express himself. He also yells a lot and has a perpetual owl-eyed reaction to everyone else on-screen. If there’s any reason to see this movie, it’s Cage. The man is so frenetic and wild that the movie is mildly enjoyable, or maybe tolerable is the better word.

That’s not a recommendation, mind you, but rather justification for why “Spirit of Vengeance” isn’t a complete throwaway experience. Without Cage, it probably would have been, because who was really asking for a sequel to Ghost Rider (2007), the dark, unwholesome and somewhat dull superhero movie about a daredevil who received a curse from Mephistopheles, a.k.a. the Devil? You’ll recall that Johnny Blaze (Cage), a stuntman in a traveling carnival, made a deal with the Devil in exchange for his father’s life. The price: Blaze inadvertently became the Devil’s bounty hunter, meaning he goes around to evil-doers, sucks out their souls and sends them to hell. He performs this action as Ghost Rider, who has a fiery skull for a head and mutters near unintelligible dialogue.

Why can’t the Devil do this himself? Apparently his powers on Earth are too limited; although Blaze informs us he can still take many shapes, which is probably the filmmakers’ way of explaining why the character is now played by Ciarán Hinds instead of Peter Fonda. But no matter, the plot finds Blaze hiding out in Eastern Europe until he’s found by Moreau (Idris Elba), a member of a secret church sect who seeks Blaze’s help in finding and protecting a young boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan). Danny’s mother (Violante Placido) also made a deal with the Devil and now Danny is the price. He’s kidnapped by a gang of the Devil’s henchmen, headed by Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth).

The details of the plot are a tad murky, so let’s just say the Devil needs Danny to carry out a specific ritual on Earth that would give him greater power and Moreau and the church want to prevent this from happening. The church knows Blaze has the power to help and, in exchange, they’ll lift his curse for good. That is, if Blaze is worthy.

As you probably surmised, the story of Spirit of Vengeance is thin and inconsequential, while none of the characters are original or interesting enough to give a second thought. They’re mostly used as pawns in some rather cheap-looking action sequences, which offer no excitement or rush to the viewer. Compared to the original Ghost Rider, not to mention the plethora of other Marvel superhero movies, the sequel looks and feels inferior in just about every regard. The special effects are especially disappointing and the presentation overall looks soft and dark. I thought the first movie’s effects looked better, and five years have passed since then.

The lone saving grace is Cage, who is sort of a riot to watch, even if he is only doing his Nicolas Cage shtick. Lucky for us, it works well enough that it prevents us from growing restless or irritated by an otherwise unnecessary sequel. I imagine the only reason it was made was because the directors, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, collectively known as Neveldine/Taylor, convinced the studio they could throw a Ghost Rider sequel together for half the original’s budget. Unfortunately, it shows and it’s hard to imagine the select few who were asking for a sequel to Ghost Rider will be asking for a sequel to Spirit of Vengeance.