Newest Review: ... The film launches into action with Idris Elba's Moreau (some French religious hero) trying to save the life of a random kid who is purport... more
Better than the original? Not a Ghost of a Chance
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (DVD)
Member Name: SWSt
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (DVD)
Advantages: It only lasts for 95 minutes
Disadvantages: Dire plot, dire acting, dire directing
Fast forward five years and Ghost Rider has received a somewhat belated (and inexplicable) sequel. In 3D no less. Surely lessons will have been learned: the weak plot, dull characters and pedestrian pacing of the original rectified? Not a chance. If anything, Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance is even worse.
Like its predecessor, the vague plot is muddled, confused and dissatisfying. Don't even try and make any sense out of it because you will only end up hurting yourself. There's something about a boy that everyone is hunting because he has some vague power or other Oh, and he might be the son of the Devil who turned Johnny Blaze into Ghost Rider in the first film. Johnny is dragged into all the child-hunting shenanigans by the mysterious Moreau who promises to cure him of the Ghost Rider curse if he rescues the boy and keeps him safe until some vague threat or other has passed.
Ghost Rider is all style over substance. OK, you expect that from a comic book adaptation. After all, by their very nature, comics are a highly visual medium, so you would expect any film based on them to follow the same pattern. And Sin City showed how it could work if you got the right blend between comic book visuals, strong writing and great characters.
Ghost Rider has none of these. Instead, it has special effects. Lots and lots of special effects. Realising that Ghost Rider is somewhat deficient in the plot and character department, directors Neveldine and Taylor (the people responsible for the abomination that was Crank 2) rely on special effects to overwhelm the viewer. So, we get some sections that are told using semi-static comic book images; ones which are in stark black and white; bleached effects where everything is shrouded in darkness or the bizarre (and totally inexplicable) sequence where Ghost Rider is lying down, unsupported in mid-air. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have both showed that this type of approach can work, but Ghost Rider lacks the tight plotting and consistent visual approach needed to pull it off.
The fact is that Kill Bill was directed by a Master; Ghost Rider 2 by a couple of kids who have had too much sherbet and fizzy pop. Neveldine & Taylor have repeatedly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with even a point and shoot digital camera, let alone an expensive Hollywood film-set up, and there's nothing in Ghost Rider 2 that is about to change my mind.
Of course, any comic book film is going to stand or fall on its set-pieces and fight scenes and thanks to some awful directing, Ghost Rider 2 firmly slots into the "fall" category. They probably looked quite good when storyboarded, but Neveldine/Taylor turn them into an unholy, confusing mess. Their inability to place a camera correctly or, indeed, to hold it still for more than half a second means that much of the time it's hard to see what is going on.
This confusing direction also impacts on the 3D which is almost completely pointless. Since it's so hard to see what is going on at the best of times, the brain barely registers the fact that 3D has been used. It's neither used to give the film depth, nor to make it more interesting. It's a shame, because this is a film where 3D could have worked. Imagine Ghost Rider's fiery chain flying out of the screen at you, or his flaming motorcycle heading right for you. That would have been worth paying to see. Sadly, that's not what you get.
I'd like to report that fine acting saves the day, but there's none to be found here. Most of the characters are empty ciphers that pop up from time to time, utter some trite dialogue and then disappear until the next time their "words of wisdom" are needed. Nicolas Cage looks far too old for the role of Johnny Blaze, his laconic drawl robbing the character of any sense of passion or drama and his bizarre movements (apparently Cage was trying to make Ghost Rider cobra-like) just make him look like someone has shoved itching powder down his leather jacket . This is lazy stuff from a once good actor and his tendency to gurn his way through this film is truly embarrassing. Acting has been replaced by the random twitching of facial muscles.
Nor are things any better elsewhere. Ciaran Hinds as Roarke (or Satan) follows Cage's lead and contorts his face in a manner that makes him look like a horse trying to eat a caramel toffee, speaking his turgid dialogue in a gruff voice which is meant to sound tough but just sounds like he needs a good gargle. Idris Elba pops up in a baffling cameo as some French geezer who is protecting the child for some unknown reason and somehow manages to track both child and Ghost Rider down whenever he needs to (how is never explained; not that you will care. Poor old Christopher Lambert, meanwhile, is so bored with his role as A Mysterious Monk that he has taken to doodling all over his skin. The one vaguely bright spot is youngster Fergus Riordan as youngster Danny, the child everyone is looking for. Riordan reminded me of a young Edward Furlong in Terminator 2 - a good child actor who can be both vulnerable and determined.
It could have been fun; if the lessons had been learned from the first film, Ghost Rider could have worked. After all, how can you not like a film which has a flaming skeleton riding a motorcycle as the hero? The problem is that this is all the film has going for it. With no coherent story to follow or characters to care about, Ghost Rider 2 is left entirely reliant on those special effects.
Sadly, having a flaming, motor-bike riding skeleton hanging around for 90 minutes is clearly going to be a serious drain on your special effects budget. But that's not a problem for the Neveldine/Taylor Brains Trust! The solution? Simple. Just write a script where The Rider (as he's referred to throughout the film in a desperate attempt to appear cool) disappears for the whole middle section. Sure, this might rob the film of its one potential bright spot, but Hey! Think of all the money that's being saved! Instead of calling the film Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (a mostly meaningless sub-title that is only explained right at the end when the writers remember), it should have been called Ghost Rider 2: Where's Ghost Rider?
Possibly the worst thing is that Ghost Rider tries to be funny and falls flat on its face. It's seriously embarrassing - a bit like having to endure your drunken uncle regale people with a rambling unfunny anecdote at a family part. It tries to be funny through (what it thinks) is a bit of witty banter and repartee, a few one-liners that even Roger Moore's James Bond would have been ashamed to make and a few visual gags that few but the most hardened Marvel fans will pick up. There's a particularly unfunny visual joke centred on what happens when Ghost Rider has to have a wee. This is apparently so funny the directors feel the need to use it twice. The few laughs the film does raise are unintentional, the result of some awful, cheesy dialogue ("I give you the power of ... DECAY!").
On the plus side, it is mercifully short. That genuinely is about the only nice thing I can find to say about Ghost Rider 2: Sprit of Vengeance. Other than that, it's a disaster.
Ghost Rider is yet more proof that when it comes to turning their second or third tier heroes into successful films, Marvel are pretty clueless. It's clear that Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers have eaten up so much of Marvel's budget so there was not much left for Ghost Rider; something which shows in the end product.
Directors: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Running time: approx. 95 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: Nothing Marvel-ous here