- We have already learned that Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) sold his soul to the Devil to become the Ghost Rider, a demonic bounty hunter who takes on the appearance of a flaming skeleton in a leather jacket. He rides a motorcycle, also flaming, and carries with him a chain which he uses as a weapon. About midway through Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, we learn that his powers extend beyond even this – according to what he tells a young boy, at least. It seems that, when he has to pee, he unzips his fly and lets loose a steady stream of fire, like a flamethrower. All of a sudden, I understand the euphemistic meaning of the word “fireman.” Never mind the fact that, as a skeleton, the Ghost Rider would lack the equipment necessary to produce a stream of any kind. Of course, this is not the kind of movie that bothers to think along such lines.
I was not a fan of 2007’s comic book adaptation Ghost Rider, although I would happily sit through it a second time if it meant never again having to see the sequel. On so many levels, Spirit of Vengeance is painfully bad. It tells a story that doesn’t even try to make sense. Cage gives what will undoubtedly be regarded as his worst performance, and his costars don’t fare much better. No one is helped by dialogue so excruciatingly juvenile, it’s as if the screenplay was written by fifteen-year-olds with short attention spans. The story and some of the screenwriting credit is given to David S. Goyer, who can no longer coast by on his involvement with The Dark Knight. With films like The Invisible, Jumper, and The Unborn all under his belt, he has officially disappointed me one too many times.
On top of everything, the film in no way benefits from its overhyped 3D effects. We’re not immersed, and we can barely make out that something is flying off the screen – or even that the person standing closer to the camera has more definition than the person standing further away. It didn’t help that the picture was so unpleasantly dim; day scenes looked like they took place at dusk, and night scenes were barely visible. Even the title’s characters blazing skull, which I naturally expected to look bright and glowing, was a murky ball of dirty yellow flames. I would normally recommend you save the extra money and opt for a 2D projection, but in this particular case, I recommend you save your money entirely and not see the movie at all. Dimension (or lack thereof) is only part of what makes it so bad.
Since the events of the first film, Blaze has left the United States and is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe. He broods over his curse, in which he turns into the Ghost Rider in the presence of evil and feeds on souls. He’s sought out by his friend, Moreau (Idris Elba), a member of secretive church sect. If I’m remembering correctly, his job was to protect a boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan) and his mother, Nadya (Violante Placido), as it seems Danny is somehow involved in some kind of satanic conspiracy. But Moreau failed; both Danny and Nadya have been kidnapped by a group of mercenaries led by Nadya’s former lover, Ray (Johnny Whitworth). He’s now in league with the Devil in human form, named Roarke (Ciarán Hinds, replacing Peter Fonda), who wants the boy for his own evil purposes.
The connections are a bit arbitrary and rather confusing. It seems that, like Blaze, Nadya made a pact with the Devil – only in her case, she was pregnant at the time. Is Danny the Devil’s son? Narrative logistics would make this impossible, unless I’m forgetting something important, which is quite possible given how hard it was for me to follow the story. We do know that Danny will gain hellish superpowers when he comes of age and goes through a ritual, the time of which is rapidly approaching. Hence, all the chasing across the back roads of Europe and the Middle East. Whatever the specifics, Moreau wants Blaze and his demonic other half to find mother and son and protect them. In return, Blaze is promised a way for his curse to be lifted.
At Roarke’s behest, Ray is transformed into a supernatural being with the ability to make things decay simply by touching them. This does allow for one amusing scene in which he tries to eat someone’s lunch; after picking up a sandwich and an apple and watching both disintegrate into nothing, he grabs hold of a Twinkie, which remains intact. A cute moment, however, doesn’t excuse the delivery of lines that wouldn’t pass muster in a raunchy teen comedy. This goes double for Cage, maybe even triple. There’s a scene early on in which Blaze confronts a sleazy club owner while trying his hardest to keep the Ghost Rider under control; Cage’s lines, coupled with his goofy style of verbal and physical convulsing, make for one of the most embarrassing performances he has ever given. He has made his share of bad movies over the last few years, but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is going to be a tough one to live down.