It’s been five years since Marvel’s Ghost Rider first appeared on our screens, an uninspired and decisively bland affair with Nicolas Cage giving one of his worst performances of the last decade (and that’s saying something). Now fast forward five years and we have another Ghost Rider movie, this time subtitled Spirit of Vengeance, with different directors, writers and supporting cast – basically Cage is the only constant in the transition.
The story is that Johnny Blaze – who made a deal with the devil to save his father, resulting in him being taken over by a vigilante demon – is in hiding in Europe trying to avoid anyone being hurt by his demonic alter-ego. However, one day he is called upon to help protect a boy whom the Devil has dangerous plans for.
The idea was to sort of forget the last Ghost Rider movie happened – there is a five-minute segment at the beginning, which basically explains everything that happened before moving on – and start afresh, except keep Cage in the lead role. And that leads right into the problems the film has, of which there are many.
First off, since Cage is back, it practically negates the whole “boldly going in a new direction” sort of thing. It’s like rebooting a horror franchise and not having someone different play the killer (something which the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, for example, shrewdly avoided). So it’s hard to truly invest in this as a brand new movie when Cage anchors it, and reminds us, of the first one.
Further issues with the film lie with the directors, Mark Nevaldine and Brian Taylor. The duo gave us the bonkers Crank movies (which I enjoyed very much for what they were) and the hugely disappointing Gamer. The trouble is that their frantic style doesn’t work with this sort of big blockbuster, as we saw in the aforementioned Gamer but even more so here. They can’t seem to film a car chase or any other sort of action sequence for that matter without shaking the camera around as if they’ve drank too many Redbulls before shouting “action!” This isn’t a Bourne movie where (arguably) this style enhances the action, it just distracts and annoys.
The shaky cam is also an issue when it comes to the 3D aspect, which requires slow and smooth camera movements to allow the extra dimension to take full effect. It’s the main reason Transformers: Dark of the Moon was an improvement over the first two in terms of action, because director Michael Bay was forced by the 3D aspect to keep the camera steadier. The 3D here just adds insult to the injury caused by the manic camera-work. And finally the 3D is a huge problem with regards to the flame effects; it just doesn’t look right with the 3D and doesn’t in any way enhance the immersive experience the technique is supposed to achieve.
Where the first Ghost Rider was completely lazy and boring, the sequel somehow manages to be even worse because it feels like more of a misjudged assault on the senses. Added to the popcorn blockbuster aspects we have the terrible dialogue, bad acting – from normally really good actors such as Idris Elba and Ciaran Hinds – and a storyline that is as dumb as it is disengaging. There are moments here and there that are kind of goofy fun (one in particular involving Cage being his over-the-top, crazy self) but they are severely overshadowed. Avoid, avoid and avoid some more.