Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
To think there was a time when I thought this looked good…
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance picks up with our stuntman-turned-flaming corpse Johnny Blaze hiding out in the boonies of scenic France. Apparently his last run-in with that weird-ass kid from American Beauty left him pretty shook up, so to prevent “The Rider” from cutting loose and wreaking havoc again, he crawls into a bottom of a bottle and stays there until further notice. But then an alcoholic, trigger-happy French priest shows up at his door and offers Johnny a deal: help him find Satan’s teenage spawn before Satan gets to him first, and in return, Johnny’s demonic curse shall be lifted. Apparently Satan’s trying to rain Hellfire down on humanity or something, and his kid is the key to doing just that. Since Johnny hates Satan and he’s really freakin’ tired of turning into a flaming skull every time he stubs his toe, he hits the road and starts reapin’ souls.
Hold on to your asses, folks, but I’ve never seen the original Ghost Rider. Heresy, I know. Been lucky enough to catch bits and pieces over the years, and had a damn good laugh when my friend introduced me to Nic Cage’s transformation scene, but alas, life beckoned. Although from what I have seen and from what I have gathered, there was no effing way that a sequel was in order. A remake, maybe? No. Screw that. Forget I even suggested a remake of anything, ever. But then February 17, 2012 rolls around, and whaddaya know! It’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance!
“Why are you doing this to us?” cries mankind. “FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY!” laughs Hollywood all the way to the bank.
Yes, boys and girls, this is the world we live in, and I guess it’s up to us movie bloggers to bear the cross. But as much as I hate to admit it, I was actually pretty stoked for this movie, at least until the reviews started rolling in.
I vividly remember the day when I saw the first trailer for this, a trailer that pissed flames over all my preconceived notions towards a Ghost Rider sequel. Before that day, the thought of me seeing Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was on par with me birthing a rhesus monkey out of my armpit. But I watched the trailer anyway, then I watched it five more times, then I sent it to all my co-workers, and dare I say that I thought it looked awesome. Whereas the first movie felt like a stale turd, something way too cookie-cutter and Nerfed-down for one of the more decidedly badass heroes in Marvel’s backlog, this felt different, this felt right. The speed, the boiling leather jacket, the bullet barfing: that’s what I’m talkin’ about, that’s how you re-up a character. It was unexpected in the best way a movie can be and all the pieces were there for something truly, insanely fun.
But some things in life are just too good to be true. Some day I’ll stop watching trailers.
Before I go any further, let’s just get it out of the way because that last thing this blog needs is another Nic Cage rant. In short, he’s a Looney Tune, as per usual. His lines are ridiculous to begin with, but he brings it to a new height of unintentional hilarity thanks to his uncontrollable need to one-up The Wicker Man and literally sing his point across whenever Johnny Blaze gets angry. But I get why he got the part. The Ghost Rider is the spirit of angel who went mad and turned into a demon. Nicolas Cage is a human being who went mad and has all but given up looking for the cure. It makes sense, but it doesn’t make his performance any easier to swallow. It’s Nic Cage on speed, which is Nic Cage 99% of the time, which might work for some folks, just doesn’t jive with yours truly. Someone really needs to show him Raising Arizona again, hopefully that’ll flip some kind of switch.
Although the one benefit to his involvement is that the Ghost Rider doesn’t walk around like a mannequin from Hell this time around, which is due entirely to the fact that Cage got to wear the motion capture suit. But that’s it. Starting to feel bad for the guy at this point. At least his hair looks relatively normal.
Idris Elba also encounters all the same problems and is arguably just as horrendous as the aforementioned French priest, Moreau. Dude seems to be a pretty good actor, not sure why he got cast in this part or what compelled him to accept the offer.
The rest of the cast is entirely forgettable/generally useless. Serenity now.
But acting aside, it’s pretty amazing how boring this movie is. The story goes absolutely nowhere as it recycles the same plot device ad nauseum until Johnny has one last chance to reclaim Satan, Jr. and take out his old man for good, and any deeper meaning/character development that it tries to achieve beyond that either feels random or hollow with every attempt. And despite how kickass the action scenes in the trailer look, there aren’t nearly enough of them to balance out how mind-numbingly banal everything else is. And, boy, is it frustrating and then some to watch a movie that’s filmed entirely in shaky-cam. Worked for Neveldine/Taylor in Crank, but that was a different beast. Crank was an exercise in non-stop, mindless entertainment. This, unfortunately, has a mind, or at least thinks it does. Just hard to appreciate the “novelty” of something when the whole damn movie’s taking that “novel” approach.
Ugh. Alright, one last thing…
If there’s one rule of thumb to always keep in mind when deciding on a movie, it’s this: does Christopher Lambert make an appearance? If not, what the hell, give it a whirl. But if so, kill it with fire and run for the hills. As you’ve probably guessed, this is unfortunately one of those latter movies. And it’s not that Christopher Lambert is even bad enough or around long enough to really make an impact on why this gem landed a 3 out of 10, it just says a lot about how seriously the film makers are taking their responsibility to, you know, make a good movie. You just don’t cast Christopher Lambert. That’s like casting Howard the Duck. Not a cameo that anyone wants to see, especially if it’s not meant to be funny. Seriously, fuck Highlander.
Even though my expectations for this had dropped by inordinate levels over the past few months, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was still really, really disappointing. I know I’m not alone in this, because when I look at Ghost Rider, the potential’s all there. He’s a biker from Hell who kills bad guys with a chain. How hard can it really be to make him cooler than he already is? This is a character whose story should write itself, but for some reason, that’s not what happened. Instead, the stars aligned to royally screw the pooch. The script, the direction, the cast – it was Hurricane Irene all over again. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this got milked into a trilogy, and when that day inevitably comes, I hope I get asked to write the script.