Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “they can’t all be winners”…which is too bad, because it seems to be that films that are “hyped” and that I am looking forward to seeing are the ones that let me down, while films that I just stumble upon and want to watch are the ones that I enjoy the most.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (or Ghost Rider 2 if you will allow) wasn’t extremely hyped; it is a “Marvel Knights” film, too obscure a character, or too mature a subject to fall under the regular “Marvel” imprint; but I had heard it was coming out, saw lots of commercials, and that sort of stuff. I will admit that I enjoyed the first Ghost Rider film despite plot holes you could drive a flaming motorcycle through, and questionable casting, I was still a fan of the character. After seeing it in theatres I felt an urge to drive really fast. After seeing Ghost Rider 2, I must say that I’m rather glad I didn’t shell out the money to see it in theatres, something I had considered doing if friends were interested. I think if we did go to see it, I’d be repaying them to this day to make up for the letdown.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance finds Johnny Blaze hiding in Romania still dealing with the curse of the Rider, which was his “reward” for the deal he made with the devil to keep his mentor from dying from cancer. True to his word, the devil cured the man’s cancer, only to allow him to die in a motorcycle stunt shortly thereafter. Now, a priest called Moreau (Idris Elba) has sought him out to help protect a boy named Danny who is the devil’s son, as a result of his mother Nadya’s own “deal with the devil” (or Roarke’s he’s called here (the devil is known by many names we’re reminded)). As part of the demonic prophecy Roarke will transfer himself from his dying earthly body into that of his son’s, granting him access to more power than he has ever wielded on earth. Blaze (Nicolas Cage again) accepts because he is told that Moreau’s brethren can lift the curse of the Rider from him.
The story was actually pretty good this time, but my problems were that it moved a little too slowly, the style of shooting that was used for the action/fights/special effects shots really took me out of the “enjoyment zone”, and most of the dialogue was pretty badly written. It seemed that the writers this time around were not sure what sort of powers to give the Ghost Rider, and seemingly forgot how they were handled in the first film. His Penance Stare; whereby whoever he looks at was made to experience all the pain they had ever inflicted on anyone; this time around, Ghost Rider stared…and screeched….a lot…..and, uhm, kind of twitched his head back and forth…like he was puzzled with whatever he was looking at, and instead of inflicting any harm on the target of his gaze…not much really seemed to happen. I think one of them fell over…once.
The effects were brutal compared to the first film. The flaming skull of the Ghost Rider looked to be poorly done, and had a lot of smoke for some reason. Many shots were taken from camera angles below the Rider’s waist and from behind, so that his head was not actually in the frame. This may have been done for budgetary reasons ($75 million is easy to fritter away I guess), or because maybe someone realized that the effect did not look very good. The look of the Rider’s jacket was even poorly done. It looked as if he was wearing….oily charcoal or something, not the crisp, cool jacket he wore a few years ago. If the distracting special effects were not a big enough letdown, they also added annoying camera work. At times it has the hand-held shakycam and at other times we are treated to twitchy, fish eye lens, multiple angle closeups that are really just distracting you from seeing what is supposed to be going on. When Roarke’s supernatural bad guy henchman is using his “wither/rot/aging” powers on someone or something, the background disappears, the lighting is turned on its head and the camera zooms, twists and jumps from angle to angle, again taking us from the “enjoyment zone”…. As a quick note, there was nothing after the credits in this Marvel offering, again perhaps that is more a “Marvel” thing and not a “Marvel Knights” thing, and I don’t believe I saw a Stan Lee cameo either. If someone did, please let me know! After a quick bit of research, this list of Smilin’ Stan’s cameos may interest some readers. ‘Nuff said.
There were some things that I (or at least the fan inside me) did enjoy about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, There were some pretty cool fights, but these only really appeared at the climax. I liked the idea of the story, and a few of the nods to fans that it did give. They never give the last name of Roarke’s son Danny, but I’ll wager it’s Ketch, as in Danny Ketch, the second Ghost Rider from the comics, or I suppose third if you don’t count the western version…Also, the head priest or monk of Moreau’s group, Methodius, was played by Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame. At one point the monks need to make a sacrifice, so if somebody’s going to die, and you have Christopher Lambert in your movie, you better make sure he tries to cut off somebody’s head with a sword. There can be only one.
Other than that, sadly there was not a lot to like in this one. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was brought to us by the writers of Crank, which may explain a lot of their camera work, as I recall similar shots in the Crank trailers, and it turns out they also wrote the Jonah Hex movie…well that may explain a few things too. Anyone got the directions back to the enjoyment zone?