Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is what you get if Rob Zombie directed The Crow IV. To some, that may seem like a match made in heaven. However, it’s ironically, and appropriately, a match made in cinematic hell. And yes, there was actually a fourth Crow movie. My professional advice on that guy: avoid the temptation and never seek it out.
This is a poorly paced 95 minutes comprised of a riff-crunching soundtrack and wacked out imagery. Now if this was loyal to the comic (I never read it) then one star will be rewarded for staying true to the source material.
In getting back to the Ghost Rider sequel, Nicolas Cage is once again in the title role and half the time he looks like he’s having a bad asthma attack. The character is presumably coming unhinged within the story so it technically makes sense what Cage is doing here. Yet it comes across messy through the directing efforts of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank directors). Also scuffing up the screen is the filler dialogue, where only half the audio dubbing is clear while the rest sounds muffled – which may be a blessing in disguise. For instance, at a pivotal point in the story, a young boy by the name of Danny (Fergus Riordan) – who is a threat to become the anti-Christ – is about to take part in a ritual that could save and/or rid the world from the wrath of Roarke/Satan (Ciaran Hinds strolling around in a three-piece suit). Christopher Lambert plays a head monk of an ancient order and he refers to this prophecy-like moment as “the thing.” Worthless dribble such as this is spewing out of everyone’s mouth so it’s tough to take this “thing” seriously. Sure it’s a comic book flick, but at least convince me to care a little bit about what is happening.
And it’s not like there is anything else besides a few CGI action-set pieces, which do have the power to widen the audiences’ eyes. Yet things are moving so fast you kind of get the feeling that the cast and crew just wanted to earn their respective paycheck and be done with this cash-grab. Because that’s all this really amounts to folks; an early year release to hold the studios over until summertime. Hell, the trailer was paced more effectively than the feature.
The one cool and nearly inspiring aspect of this comes in the form of the featured villain, well, the villain that receives the most screen time, in Kurdish/Decay (Johnny Whitworth). He seems to find a way maximize his performance and steal every scene he’s in. Plus, it’s a unique antagonist wielding an unusual power. Too bad, there wasn’t enough time to develop him further for it could have been a more exciting showdown between him and the rider. Speaking of the ending, talk about a mediocre build-up to pure obvious crap! Once again, this is a comic and perhaps the writers wanted to keep this simple for the younger viewers. Still, have some dignity and cover all the angles. There aren’t necessary plot holes one could fall through, but there are a lot of questions or points that are never fully addressed. Why? Because the rider apparently doesn’t reduce people to ashes by the hour my friends. Thankfully, the CGI is much better than part 1.
Overall, this mindless, and mind-numbing, comic book shenanigan that is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was in a terrible rush both in front and behind the lens. While having a few killer action sequences, where the pyrotechnic CGI burns brightly, it’s just not memorable. And frankly, not even all that fun. The earlier jab about the “wacked out imagery” could be construed as a negative; however, it is in fact the only time the storytelling is engaging and thoughtful. Now that we have the sequel, the first installment doesn’t seem all that painful after all.
By the way, there are 666 words in this movie review.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is rated PG-13 and opens in the Tampa Bay market today.