Oh boy, here we go. Here’s a joke for everyone: how do you know when Nicolas Cage has hit rock bottom? Trick question: Cage has already sunk through the bottom. In fact, the bottom is so high above him now that Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation aren’t even specks anymore. Any shred of respect that audiences could hold onto for Cage will quickly dissipate as they try to take in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the horrible sequel to the horrid Ghost Rider that stained movie screens in 2007.
But Mr. Cage isn’t the only person to blame here. Every other actor, actress, director, producer, editor, writer and caterer involved with this film should be reprimanded for allowing this to be released. Directing team Neveldine/Taylor, the sick geniuses behind Crank and its epileptic sequel, sunk around $75 million into Spirit of Vengeance and not one cent of it shows.
Picking up where the original left off (and should have stayed), Johnny Blaze (Cage) is hiding out in Europe when a religious cult asks him to help save a young boy named Danny from the Devil (Ciaran Hinds). For some reason or another, the Devil wants to take over the Danny’s body through an overly complicated ritual that involves chanting, black cloaks, and every other cliche in the book. To save Danny, Blaze has to stop holding in the Rider and unleash him, which leads to some of the best action scenes of the year.
No wait, that came out wrong. Let me rephrase it: the action scenes featured in Spirit of Vengeance are as boring and cliche as they can get, which is truly shocking seeing as they come from the team who created Crank. Any sequences that aren’t banal and derivative are instead shot in such a confusing manner that audiences will be scratching their heads and wondering who made these decisions. From inexplicable blackouts to shots of the Ghost Rider urinating fire (not joking), the film is shot with all the grace of a last minute film school project.
But enough about the non-action. How about this cast, ladies and gentlemen? Nicolas Cage gives a performance that is so hilariously bad that it’s impossible to tell if he even tried this time around. The script could have been written by a child that was kicked in the head by a mule, and Cage’s wooden delivery accents how trite the writing is. Lines like “Oh I get it…you’re the devil’s baby mama” are just plain awful. My ears jumped off of my head and took my eyes with them by that point.
It’s not that the rest of the actors are terrible, it’s just that they perform at the bare minimum level of entertainment. I had already forgotten what they looked like about thirty seconds after the movie was over. Danny’s mother Nadya (Violante Placido) is painfully one-dimensional, only expressing worry for her son and nothing else. No happiness, sadness, fear, anything. Blaze’s sidekick-type Moreau (Idris Elba) is too flat to even try and be the “funny” best friend type. That being said, aside from Cage’s stoic delivery, every other member of the cast was at least tolerable.
The story that inspired a completely lifeless script was written by David S. Goyer, someone who can do so much better than a failing franchise such as Ghost Rider. His work credits include The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and because of those I still have faith in him. But I can only hope that he learns from this gargantuan mistake and sticks to writing heroic epics that actually resonate with audiences.
Any fans (all seven of them) of the Ghost Rider character will be disappointed by this sequel. Even if they somehow derived pleasure from the corpse of a movie that the original Ghost Rider was, Spirit of Vengeance will break their hearts and leave them in a ditch. There are only two redeeming factors to be found in Spirit of Vengeance, and even those seem a bit generous. The cheesy dialogue sometimes devolves into “so bad it’s good” territory that provides plenty of laughs for all the wrong reasons. Of course, the other silver lining is that the movie has an ending.
There’s a part in the Nicolas Cage epic The Wicker Man where his character convincingly shouts, “Not the bees! They’re in my eyes! They’re in my eyes! AHHHHHH!” Anybody who remembers that and sees Spirit of Vengeance will wish that someone would pour bees into their eyes, because at least that would be cheaper and slightly more enjoyable than watching this drivel.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance aims to be an over-the-top, B-movie good time that shouldn’t be taken seriously, but in the process it becomes a huge joke that offers little to no enjoyment for audiences. The action isn’t intense enough to get any adrenaline going and the “dramatic” spaces in between are insulting to anything with a brain. Even my popcorn sighed at the dialogue a few times. Unless you’re a complete masochist and have a need to get rid of ten bucks fast, avoid Spirit of Vengeance at all costs. If we keep feeding Nicolas Cage, God knows how many more steaming piles of “film” he’ll make.