Trust me when I say that I’m trying to take this movie in the spirit in which it’s intended.
Because, I realize this flick is losing half of the nation’s critics right from the get go with its kind of irreverant style of handheld film making and in your face juvenile humor…
But I can’t help but feel like “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” missed the mark by being a little safe. It’s like they tried to infuse the “Crank” style into the film, but with a PG-13 rating, which thus eliminates a LOT of the “Crank” content. (The directing team, for those unaware, did both films)
That’s not the way to get the best results.
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are two junior high school kids whose parents are on vacation. While the adults were gone, the two raided the liquor cabinet, started eating straight sugar and broke out the video camera and shot some movies. I jest of course, and the comment isn’t directed to the quality of the movie (per se), but to the spirit of it. Like their preceding efforts (The “Crank” films), GR:SoV is infused with a “YEAH MAN, WHOO!!” sensibility that fluctuates between endearing and ingratiating. Occasionally I would laugh at their sophomoric sensibilities, but at other times I would roll my eyes, thinking, c’mon, grow up. I think (without Wikipedia or anything) it’s a safe bet that these guys have like 1,000s of gigabytes of themselves skateboarding off of railings and jumping their bikes off of hills and stuff from when they were young.
Of course, they have the perfect man for the job in Nic Cage. Given the green light, Cage can chew scenery like Jaws chewed on Quint. Unfortunately, I actually didn’t think he was off the hook enough here. When he’s fighting the transformation to “The Rider”, he’s a spastic loon, and a lot of fun to watch. But when taking the role of Johnny Blaze seriously, or, as seriously as we can take him at least, he’s a bit dour, gettin’ puffy, and a little old for the part. I actually wished that he was MORE insane. Somehow this flick didn’t capture that Nic Cage is a maniac energy half as well as “Bad Lieutenant” did. It was like watching him do an imitation of himself.
The special effects were great though, and the action scenes are… lively. If you’re a fan of the character from the comics, at the very least this movie is going to provide you with an opportunity to see Ghost Rider in motion like you never have before. His blazing skull and fiery motorcycle both look fantastic. I think on the whole, the action sequences (with one exception) are far too infused with that Neveldine/Taylor hyperkinetic ADD energy, but given Ghost Rider’s “powers”, I’m not sure what could have been done. The finale was a decent set piece at least.
He squares off both against the Devil (Ciarán Hinds’ Roarke) and Blackout (Johnny Whitworth’s Ray Carrigan). Along the way he runs across the return of Christopher Lambert as well. Violante Placido supports here as the Mom of the demon boy, and she’s joined on Team Ghost Rider by Idris Elba. None of the supporting cast bring enough flavor to really elevate the film though.
The entire plot can be summed up in one sentence. Here goes:
A cult offers Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider the opportunity to break his “curse” if he can stop the devil, who seeks to transfer his soul into the body of his (the devil’s) son.
A bunch of fights and chases, etc. ensue due to that, but that’s the framework it’s all hung on.
The lackluster plot and cast, coupled with the less than thrilling action sequences that the majority of the film featured, led me to be disappointed in the end result. Add in the fact that the Neveldine/Taylor brand of manic intensity rubbed me the wrong way at times, and I can’t give it a good grade. But the awesome special effects for Ghost Rider, the couple of action moments they had that were cool, and the fact that Nic Cage is always a fascinating person to watch no matter how terrible he is, save this movie from getting a truly bad grade.
It’s a wash in my book.