Title: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Directors: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, credited as Neveldine/Taylor (‘Crank,’ ‘Gamer’)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds (‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,’ ‘The Woman in Black’) and Idris Elba
Comic book heroes are often synonymous with self-loathing or conflict, questioning of their own purpose and desire to rid the world of those who wronged them and plan to harm the rest of the world. Their misfortunes, combined with their proven track record of stopping the evil that plagues mankind and impressive stunts and visual effects, usually guarantee success on screen.
Unfortunately, the new ‘Ghost Rider’ sequel, ‘Spirit of Vengeance,’ based on the Marvel Comic of the same name, fails to follow in the shoes of other successful movie follow-ups, such as ‘The Dark Knight’ and Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man 2.’ ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,’ much like its predecessor, includes uninspired acting, scarce plot points and unimpressive stunts.
‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ follows Johnny Blaze (played by Nicolas Cage), as he continues to struggle with his curse of being the Devil’s bounty hunter, the Ghost Rider. Rebel monk Moreau (portrayed by Idris Elba) asks Johnny to help save Danny (played by Fergus Riordan), the son of the Devil (portrayed by Ciaran Hinds), on the eve of his 13th birthday. If Johnny is able to deliver Danny to the secret sect Moreau is part of, and help prevent the Devil from taking control of his body, the monk will take away the curse of being the Ghost Rider.
But Johnny also faces the obstacles set by Ray Carrigan (played by Johnny Witworth), the ex-boyfriend of Danny’s mother, Nadya (portrayed by Violante Placido), who’s working for the Devil. Ray is ultimately turned into the demon Blackout by the Devil, in an effort to be given the strength to fight Ghost Rider. Despite the struggles he faces against the Devil and Blackout, Johnny is determined to defeat them both in order to save Danny, no matter what the cost.
‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ had the potential to create a more cohesive plot-line than its predecessor, as David S. Goyer, the screenwriter of ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight,’ co-wrote the script. The scribe has proven his value and skills in creating in-depth, suspenseful stories for films based comic books, and could have done the same for ‘Ghost Rider.’ But Goyer and his co-writers, Scott M. Gimple and Seth Hoffman, failed to create any motivations for any of the characters in the sequel.
Johnny spends a lengthy amount of time telling anyone who will listen that he wants to get rid of his demonic curse during ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,’ but fails to explain why he suddenly decided to put so much effort into helping Danny and Nadya. Moreau and his fellow monks also say they want to help protect Danny from the Devil’s prophecy, but also fail to explain what the prophecy is. Ray’s transformation into Blackout is also quickly and minimally portrayed, and the Devil never fully explains what his full intentions are for his new demon.
Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (who are credited as Neveldine/Taylor), who took over the directorial duties of ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ from the original film’s helmer, Mark Steven Johnson, also included unintriguing stunts and visual effects in the sequel. While Ghost Rider’s firing skull, body and motorcycle are on par with the look Johnson featured in the original movie, the choreography and intensity of the fight sequences between the title character and the Devil are lackluster and forgettable. Cage and Hinds also did little to help the matter, as they didn’t overtly showcase their characters’ contempt towards each other while fighting.
While Johnny says he wants to rid himself of being the Ghost Rider, and stop the Devil from taking over Danny’s body, Cage also seems unconcerned over whether or not his character succeeds in his goals.
Cage’s seemingly disinterested and simplistic attitude in battling the Devil and his enemies, combined with the quick battle sequences and limited plot-line, make it questionable why it took Columbia Pictures five years to distribute ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,’ after the 2007 release of its predecessor.
With the multitude of successful films based on popular superheroes being released in recent years and the many scheduled for release later this year, including ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ unfortunately gets lost lost in the shuffle. Even with the help of Goyer, who has worked on the scripts for Christopher Nolan’s Batman series and next year’s ‘Man of Steel,’ he unfortunately failed to showcase his talent for creating in-depth conflicts and characters. Even directors Neveldine and Taylor, who co-wrote the script for the film based on DC Comics’ ‘Jonah Hex,’ failed to bring their knowledge to the second ‘Ghost Rider’ movie, deeming the film unfulfilling and unnecessary.
Written by: Karen Benardello