Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
When I go to see a Nicolas Cage movie I expect cheesy fun. There should be plenty of over the top action and even further over the top acting. I've seen so many of his movies now that I know better than to expect one to actually be good. The most I ever hope for is that it will be so bad that it's good. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance accomplishes the first half of that quite easily, but never gets around to the second. It's just plain bad.
Do you remember the first Ghost Rider movie? I saw it less than 5 years ago and yet I only have the vaguest memories of it and what I do remember of it is all negative. I had to reread my own review just to remind myself what I thought about it, which wasn't much and this review will mostly say the same.
Cage is once again Johnny Blaze. A man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his father's life. Johnny got screwed in the deal and now occasionally transforms into the Ghost Rider, a flaming demon who rides a motorcycle and wields a burning chain. He has the ability to see into men's souls and devour them. He looks incredibly badass and the premise sounds dark and laden with possibilities, all of which go unfulfilled. What should be a dark and twisted movie instead seems to be aimed at kids or at least young teens.
For reasons not explained the devil resides on the earth in the form of a man. To keep existing he must occasionally transfer himself from one body to another. Over 12 years prior to the movie's start he begat a boy onto a mortal female and now that the boy is nearing his 13th birthday the devil plans on moving his own essence into the body of the boy. The Ghost Rider is promised by a priest that if he can protect the boy and stop this from happening than the priest will lift the curse from him. The rest of the plot is just a lot of chase scenes as the devil and the Rider take turns chasing whichever one of them has the boy in their custody during that particular chase.
Some of the visuals are quite cool. The flaming skulled Rider with his burning chopper and extensible chain still looks badass. One of the devil's henchmen gains the power of decay, meaning that anything he touches will wither and waste away in seconds, which looks pretty good, but the final battle between him and the Rider is a let down.
The violence is all very cartoonish and blood free. The Rider kills but does it with his chain, which disintegrates his victims. He is able to withstand the greatest of punishment with ease, including getting blown up by missiles. Because of his near complete invulnerability there is never any real tension.
I wasted an extra four dollars by paying to see this movie in 3-D. In a world where 3-D adds very little to films, this one outdoes itself by doing even less. There's absolutely nothing to be gained except the studio a little more money by seeing this in 3-D.
What's missing most is a sense of fun. There's no humor whether intentional or unintentional. The actors take it seriously enough, but not seriously enough to make it camp. It's downright dull. About the most fun I had was spotting Christopher Lambert and Anthony Head in two very small parts.
I don't know what keeps that flaming motorcycle running because these movies ran out of gas sometime during the first film.
Johnny Whitworth as Ray Carrigan in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Scott, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance does make some attempts at humor. At one point Danny asks Johnny Blaze what happens if he has to pee when he is the demon. His urine flame thrower garnished a chuckle from my younger son. However, as the Ghost Rider is a skeleton, he would not have a bladder let alone a urethra. Then there is the line that is destined to become a classic. The Rider dispatches someone whose body ends up on the street, and the Rider says, wait for it......"Road kill."
Of all the famous actors in all the world, how in the hell does Nicolas Cage still get work? His style of pausing between words and lines make it sometimes seem as if he went to the William Shatner school of acting. He by no means has leading man looks. The only roles he can play are quirky and crazy. Anyone casting him in anything other than those types of roles have never watched many Nicolas Cage films.
As Scott pointed out in his review for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and we both pointed out in our Ghost Rider movie reviews, the image of the Rider is awesome to behold. The problem is, that is as deep as the character gets. Like Kim Kardashian, he is all looks and zero substance. We look forward to him showing up, but then get disappointed when he does, and at first just stands there as if waiting for her mother to tell her what to do. Oops, I got him confused with Kardashian again.
Seriously though, Blaze only turns into the Ghost Rider three times in the entire film. Usually he roars up on his motorcycle and then strikes a pose as if he has no clue what to do next. Like Marvel's other powerful anti-hero, the Hulk, it is hard to give character to someone who only shows up when they are pissed off.
Was Christopher Lambert in the neighborhood when they filmed this movie, and someone thought to ask him to do a days work? You can count his brief scenes on one hand and any actor, or non-actor, could have said his lines. In one shot he is shown holding a sword. Maybe someone thought it would be a cute reminder of Highlander, but only an idiot would remind it's audience that they are watching an inferior film.
The most unique aspect of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the overt Catholicism. At one point Johnny Blaze takes the sacrament. Years of childhood church attendance came back to me when the priest broke the bread, calling it the body of Christ and Blaze says, "Amen." I guess if a film contains the devil it should at least acknowledge God.
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (2012)