Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” was very similar to another recent disastrous film-going experience I had. You may recall how I described “Underworld: Awakening” as “a film that was so soulless and so lifeless that it had not made a single bit of impact while it was playing.” Well, the “Ghost Rider” sequel made me feel that way all over again. Here was another movie that played out on screen, but was also inconsequential and unmemorable, leading to the question of why anyone would bother making it.
The film revolves around Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), a man who made a pact with the Devil and is now inhabited by an evil demon that turns him into the vigilante Ghost Rider. Johnny makes a deal with his friend, Moreau (Idris Elba), to help protect a child, Danny (Fergus Riordan), from Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), who has been sent by the devil, Roarke (Ciarin Hinds), to fetch him. Apparently Danny was born the son of the devil after his mother, Nadya (Violante Placido), made her own pact with him to save her life. Now Johnny, Moreau, and Nadya must prevent Roarke from using Danny as a means to obtain even greater power.
Just from that you can see how completely ridiculous this movie becomes, and because of that, it’s not hard to see why it becomes so uninvolving. It’s basically composed of a nonsensical plot and a few action scenes, again reminding me of the latest entry in the “Underworld” franchise. There are no characters to get invested in here, nor any story that even slightly begins to engage the viewer.
Its problems don’t even end there as it’s also clumsily directed. For those few action scenes where the filmmakers are trying to keep the audience awake, you can hardly tell what’s happening due to the jumpiness of the camera and the quick cutaways. Apparently the directors/writers, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, adhere to the Michael Bay style of action where shots can only last a second or two tops in fear of losing the audience’s interest, something they never had in the first place.
These are the same two who also brought us the interesting film “Crank,” which turned out to be a fun, fast-paced thrill ride. Their sequel to it attempted the same thing, but was not quite as successful. They then turned their attention to the disastrous “Gamer,” which was basically nonstop shooting and utter boredom. This brings us back to present day where “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” clearly shows their continual decline.
It really has to be seen to be believed just how ridiculous it gets. Eventually, Carrigan, the man pursuing the child, dies, but the devil, apparently unable to do such chores himself, needs him back, so he simply brings him back to life. However, his appearance changes from his old self to that of someone who looks like a Goth rock star.
This all comes down to an ending that is so utterly lazy, silly, and just plain dumb that you can’t help but feel embarrassment for the writers. Whereas they had been so inclined to include action scenes throughout the film, suddenly they decided to cut out what could have been a fairly interesting showdown by replacing it with something beyond simplistic. Perhaps they ran out of ideas at this point. It did seem like they were reusing the same few techniques over and over (chain of fire burning people up, Ghost Rider wobbling his head back and forth at people like a bobble head doll, etc.).
Cage, who seems to make one good movie out of every ten he signs up for, does his standard crazy routine, a routine that becomes rather dull when you’ve seen it over and over again. Sometimes his craziness can be amusing even when the film is terrible (see the awful remake of “The Wicker Man” for a prime example), but here, even he seems to realize there’s not much to work with. Other notable players include Idris Elba, who has received much praise for his role on “Luther,” and Ciarin Hinds, who has starred in such popular projects as “Rome” and “There Will Be Blood.”
This is destined for a place at the bottom of the pile come the end of the year, but in all honesty, did anyone really expect anything good out of a movie about a guy with a flaming skull going around killing people? There’s got to be a more engaging story to be told with this character given that the comics have been around since the 70s. Whether the original premise was actually interesting enough to be made into a feature film in the first place is a completely different matter. 1.5/4 stars.