Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) – Review

3 Stars


As a film critic I am supposed to approach every movie with an open mind. In these days of internet gossip and social media it has become nearly impossible to have an impression free experience with a movie. The almost unanimously panned Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was not something I was looking forward to enduring, but for the sake of my craft I pushed on. It’s with a silly grin and a bashfulness that I must admit, I really enjoyed this funny, loopy sequel. There seems to be a certain notion that popular entertainment is somehow less valuable than art house character studies. I’ve always scoffed at that sentiment, some of the greatest b-movies from past generations have inspired the filmmakers of today. Every film deserves its day in court, so to speak, and I must be forth right in stating that this movie plastered a grin on my face and there it remained for the next 95 minutes.

The aspect I appreciated in this follow-up is for the first time the character of Ghost Rider is presented as a menacing figure. In the original, the CGI and dazed performance from Cage came off as campy in a movie that was pushing for Spiderman level pathos. In this incarnation Cage’s off the wall line delivery and overall acting style fits right in line with the tone and energy of the film, directed with adrenaline by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. The pair uses comic book inspired camera placement, mixed with frantic cinematography that in its best moments recalls some of Barry Sonnenfeld work as a DP. Combining the unique talents of Nicolas Cage and Neveldine/Taylor turns out to be a brilliant pairing. I imagine from the on screen result that each is an undeniably, bizarre and gifted artist. In addition we are also given the talented Idris Elba as Moreau, this marks Elba’s second appearance in a marvel franchise in as many years. There is also a surprise cameo appearance by Christopher Lambert that recalls the equally bat-shit crazy Highlander films.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a movie that deserves to be mentioned along with Blade 2 and Spawn. He is a second tier hero saddled with a back story involving the devil. It’s not particularly light material and with the correct creative approach these films are elevated past guilty pleasures and into the ranks of solid pop culture filmmaking. Also like those previous titles most of the film takes place at night, which in turn creates a lot of opportunities for striking lighting design, heavy on the blue and green hues, painting the actors as if they were panels on the page. Neveldine and Taylor are still fallible to their own instincts and go overboard on several occasions, these moments are cringe inducing. Yet it’s the directing duo’s greatest asset as well, they are energetic and bring a vivid vitality to the project. Gone is the goofy love story of the first film, I am sorry, Cage and Eva Mendez had zero chemistry. In its place we get an explanation of how Ghost Rider pisses, hint it’s like a flamethrower. That last sentence should tell you if Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a movie for you.

Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba

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