On Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Continuing from Ghost Rider is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, which doesn’t fare better from the original film. It features Idris Elba (Thor, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Ciarán Hinds (John Carter), and Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

According to the IGN review:

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a movie you’ll either love or hate. Most critics will almost certainly hate it. I, for one, loved it.

First up, a warning: If you’re looking for nuanced performances, realistic action or a plot that makes sense, then go watch The Dark Knight.

But if you like to see a flaming-headed variation on Michael Myers turn bad guys to ash by the dozen, if you enjoy Nicolas Cage’s incomprehensibly off-the-wall latter-day oeuvre, if superheroes who piss fire are your bag well, then Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the movie for you.

The film bears little relation to the original 2007 adventure of Cage’s cursed Johnny Blaze, which surely was seen as a blessing when it was greenlit. Directed by the team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the new film brings all the cartoonish insanity of the pair’s Crank saga to the — let’s face it — cartoonishly insane concept of the Ghost Rider, a burning skeleton in leather who rides an equally fiery motorcycle. It’s a match made in, er, hell.

Spirit of Vengeance opens with Cage’s voiceover, as he sketches out the Ghost Rider’s mission and reminds all that even those of us watching dare not let the Rider’s gaze catch us — do you really want this creature of hell to see your darkest secrets? This sequence is accompanied by some stylish animation and imagery, and it’s a device that Neveldine/Taylor go back to occasionally throughout the film. They even manage to cram in the back cover of Pink Floyd’s album “Wish You Were Here.” Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts, Johnny?

The basic origin of Blaze is touched upon in brief flashbacks — his deal with the Devil to save his dying dad, which resulted in his being transformed into the Ghost Rider — but otherwise we are spared the presence of Peter Fonda, Eva Mendes and the teenaged version of Cage. Blaze is now somewhere in Eastern Europe in self-imposed exile, doing his best to keep the demonic Rider from emerging from within. But when the wine-swilling, ghost-busting monk Moreau (Idris Elba in his second Marvel movie of the year) alerts Blaze that a woman named Nadya (Violante Placido) and her son Danny (Fergus Riordan) need protection from the very creature that created the Ghost Rider, our whacked-out hero has no choice but to help.

That creature would be Roarke, a.k.a. the Devil, a.k.a. Ciaran Hinds, a.k.a. Caesar from HBO’s Rome. Stricken and growing weak because of the mortal form he’s taken, he requires the supernaturally-inclined Danny (Ketch? Maybe kinda sorta) to cure what ails him, no matter the cost to the boy. Meanwhile, Johnny Whitworth is also hanging around as Roarke’s gun-for-hire who will soon undergo a simultaneously debilitating and empowering transformation.

Cage pulls out all the stops as Blaze tries to contain the fire within, screaming, giggling and generally freaking out while his face partially CGI-morphs — a dead, blackened eye here, a wisp of char there. It’s ridiculous — and hilarious — and Cage knows it, Neveldine and Taylor know it, and even Johnny Blaze seems to know it.

When the Ghost Rider does manage to burst out, the humor is often still present (is there no greater joy than watching a bad guy get slashed into nothingness by a 50-foot-long magical chain?). But at the same time, the character becomes creepy and otherworldly, moving about with an odd gait and a cocked head. That is, when he’s not spinning about in midair like the Tasmanian Devil.

The directors’ unique style is also evident when Whitworth’s character begins to exhibit his own ghastly powers. Having inherited the touch of death from Roarke, the villain — or is it his victim? Or just the audience? — is briefly transported to a dark Other Place as the transition to nonexistence occurs.

Meanwhile, Johnny Blaze must fight the Ghost Rider’s urge to take out Nadya, who has done one or two bad things/guys in her time. It’s refreshing, in fact, that there’s no need to cram a love story in here. Blaze doesn’t want to bag the chick; he wants to burn her.

But ultimately, when the Rider emerges, we’re called back to that Pink Floyd album.

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2 thoughts on “On Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

  1. Pingback: On Daredevil | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: On Frozen | The Progressive Democrat

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