The idea to make a sequel to a movie that was universally panned about a superhero that no one really cares being played by an actor that everyone constantly makes fun of seems misguided at best. Even though 2007′s Ghost Rider nearly doubled it’s money in Worldwide box office and won it’s opening weekend, I’d find it hard to believe the sequel could repeat that considering how ticket sales have been declining since 2007 -not including 2009- and how many people will avoid it simply because they got burned by the first. That’s not to say it’s an impossible task. Ang Lee’s Hulk was disliked by a lot of people, yet the sequel was solid and felt more in line with what an Incredible Hulk movie should be: full of him smashing things.
I had very little faith in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance until I found out it would be directed by same duo who made the two Crank movies – Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. These two aren’t really noted for their subtlety and to make a movie like Ghost Rider work for audiences they were going to have to bring it to the same frenetic level they took other films to. In a perfect world the film would have taken the Punisher: War Zone approach and been roughly 75% insane action and 25% story. Making it that way wouldn’t be for everyone, but it’s impossible to make a movie about a guy who turns into a demon with a flaming head to suck the souls out of bad people for everyone. The goal should be to make it as entertaining as possible for the target audience. The trailers gave me some hope that they did accomplish that very idea, but while watching the movie it didn’t take long to realize that they missed the mark. There was neither enough action, nor enough crazy moments within the action. Too many consisted of extended periods with people staring at Ghost Rider while he just stood there or walked slowly at them. Once they did start fighting he could just touch someone with his chains and they would turn to ash. At points it felt like they just wanted to do close-ups of Ghost Rider to show how good they made him look with CGI instead of actually having him do interesting things.
It really is a shame they failed considering they had the perfect actor to accomplish an insane role in Nicolas Cage. As much as people like to dog on him, he never mails it in and commits unselfconsciously to every role no matter how ridiculous they may be. There were a few scenes where he is fighting off the Rider coming out that are funny and ridiculous that show promise at what he could have done given the proper tools. Idris Elba and Johnny Whitworth both played important characters in the film that seemed just as game as Cage into buying into their absurd characters. They consistently stole scenes and two two bright spots that will probably be overlooked in the film.
The unfortunate reason they will be overlooked is because the movie focuses too much on the less interesting parts of the story. A woman and her son are being chased by some bad guys -lead by Whitworth- to capture the boy for the devil. They are being protected very poorly by Ghost Rider and Idris Elba who are trying to get them to a religious sanctuary for safe keeping. This storyline feels ripe for nearly constant action, but unfortunately is full of dialogue based mostly around the boy who is depressed about not having a father figure and the mother whose character traits are that she used to date Whitworth’s character and that she has a son. Neither character is very interesting and neither actor has the same energy as the rest of the cast. Whenever they are on screen -most of the time- the film comes to a screeching halt as they brood and act over-emotional. Why they decided to focus more on these scenes than more action scenes where Whitworth is fighting the Ghost Rider or just letting Idris Elba be his charismatic self I’ll never know.
Overall Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance wasn’t a good movie, but I find I’m less angry at watching a 95 minute long bad movie than disappointed at the wasted opportunity of what it could have been. Whether Neveldine and Taylor wanted to do more but were stymied by the studios to keep it PG-13 and more broad is unknown. It wouldn’t shock me if that was the case as this was the tamest of their films and there were scenes that showed the clarity of what this movie could have been. Most notably, the scene where Ghost Rider was pissing fire. That’s the stuff we wanted to see.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is currently ranked #1547 on my Flickchart.