Today: June 20, 2024

Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance

Mark Steven Johnson’s Ghost Rider (2007) was about as boring as a film about a flaming skeleton riding a motorcycle could possibly be.

Mark Steven Johnson’s Ghost Rider
(2007) was about as boring as a film about a flaming skeleton riding a
motorcycle could possibly be.
However, despite getting seven shades of
satanic sh*t kicked out of it by film critics, the film went on to make nearly
$250,000,000 worldwide thereby requiring that someone somewhere make a sequel.

Thankfully, rather than giving
Johnson another chance to bore us, the producers decided to hire Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor whose films Crank 2: High Voltage (2006) and Gamer
(2009) raised the bar for experimental action direction while also lowering the
tone of cinema as a whole. Given that it is funded by a major studio and
features both a Marvel comics character and a pre-teen friendly 12A
certificate, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was never going to be as much
fun as the Crank films. However,
thanks to some groundbreaking cinematography and the awesome powers of Nicolas Cage, Neveldine/Taylor have
somehow managed to turn an absolutely terrible script into a wonderfully shot,
eminently silly and thoroughly entertaining action film.

Johnny Blaze (Cage) is a former
stunt rider who sold his soul to the Devil in order to save the life of his
father. Now possessed by a soul-eating demon, Blaze is hiding from the world
lest he be dragooned into service by the forces of evil. Blaze’s self-imposed
European exile is ended by a renegade priest named Moreau (Elba) who promises to return Blaze’s soul if he can help prevent
the Devil from getting his hands on a child who could very well be the next
Antichrist. This set-up delivered, Blaze and Moreau tumble in and out of a
series of spectacular fight-scenes and car chases until eventually confronting
the Devil in the remains of a Turkish Church.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
credits no less than three different writers, one of whom gains a credit both
for screenplay and story. The reason for this surplus of ‘talent’ is that the
film manifestly went through a number of re-writes before eventually being
made. As is all too often the case with these types of scripts, Ghost
Rider 2
is filled with characters and plotlines that seem desperately
under-written. For example, the script repeatedly makes allusions to the
concept of ‘The Deal’ and the obligations of fatherhood but while these
nebulous concepts are clearly intended to lend emotional heft to the film’s
action sequences, the reality is that they are never anything less than hot
air. Similarly, the film’s only female character is the mother of the
Antichrist but her sole function is to sit and listen while Blaze explains the
plot. However, while the film’s plot is poorly conceived and under-explained,
there really is not much of it and what dialogue the film does contain is witty
and more than adequately serves its primary purpose of slowing the pace between
action sequences. As with Justin Lin’s
(2011), the plot of Ghost Rider 2 does not really get in
the way, but it does leave you wondering how awesome this film might have been
had it contained a few more jokes and a few more interesting ideas.

The film’s action sequences are on
an entirely different level to those of the first Ghost Rider film. While the Rider himself is effectively omnipotent
(a fact that deprives the film of any sense of threat or tension), the manner
in which he dispatches his foes is never anything less than hugely
entertaining. Particularly noteworthy are the car chases, which are so
exquisitely shot and briskly paced that you cannot help but wish that the film
had contained a few more of them. Also fascinating is the film’s use of 3D.

Most 3D techniques operate by either
creating an illusion of depth, or creating the illusion that something on
screen is jutting out into the cinema. 3D films create these illusions by
forcing your eyes to focus on two different things at the same time, which is
why watching 3D films can be a headache-inducing experience. While
Neveldine/Taylor make good use of ‘traditional’ 3D effects, they also set out
to push the limits of 3D by intentionally recreating those moments where the 3D
techniques break down and your brain rebels, forcing you to look away from the
screen in disgust. The result is a series of sequences that are both deeply
unsettling and entirely appropriate given the context and subject matter. Think
of the way in which Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible
(2002) used brown notes and violent camera work to induce feelings of unease
and you will get some idea of how visceral an experience Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
can be.

Unfortunately, while the film is
littered with great action sequences and moments of high insanity from Cage,
there is no denying that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
feels slightly more ramshackle and hurried than it should have done. Aside from
a few noteworthy and under-used cameos, Cage has nobody to play against and the
script is sorely lacking in the moments of mentalness that make Cage such a
compelling screen presence. Similarly, many of the sets look quite cheap and
many of the gunfights feel as though they needed a bit more thought and some
more careful choreography. Though these niggling doubts may prevent Ghost
Rider 2
from becoming the cult hit it clearly aspires to be, it remains
an entertaining way of spending 95 minutes.

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