Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

The sequel to 2007’s Ghost Rider is an unnecessary, confusing muddle of a film that features a Nicolas Cage performance so hammy and so strange that it’s almost worth seeing. Almost. This really is a terrible motion picture by almost any standards. The special effects are uneven, the characters are weak and pointless, the cinematography from Brandon Trost is chaotic and dumb, and the trash factor is nowhere near trashy enough.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the sort of picture that Jenna from 30 Rock heads off to some far-flung country to shoot. It’s the sort of movie that should only be found digging around in the dollar bin at Wal-mart. It’s the sort of film that, by all accounts, should simply be forgotten about and left for dead.

Cage is Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider, a fire-headed spirit thing. In the previous movie, he made a deal with the devil to save his father’s life and wound up with the fire-head spirit thing as a sort of curse. This time around, the Ghost Rider gets involved in a plot that has him holding back the devil’s forces from seizing a boy (Fergus Riordan).

The boy is on the run with his mother, Nadya (Violante Placido), and needs the help of the Ghost Rider to help fend off the bad guys. Roarke (Ciarán Hinds) is the lead bad guy and he works with his henchmen, including Ray Carrigan/Blackout (Johnny Whitworth), to get at the kid. There are also some monks involved, led by Methodius (Christopher Lambert) and Moreau (Idris Elba).

I may be doing the plot of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance a disservice, but it really is a convoluted and mind-numbing affair. It’s hard to get a handle on the Rider and what he’s all about, as the laws of his existence seem to keep changing as the movie progresses. And the villains don’t have much meat on their bones, so their Machiavellian plots to snag the kid don’t seem all that menacing.

Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, this flick is the second to be released under the so-called Marvel Knights banner (the first was Punisher: War Zone). I’m not overly sure what the Knights banner signifies or if things are headed to an Avengers-style head, but nothing about the characters and movies under it is all that interesting.

Sprinkled with frequent zooms and awkward camera angles, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is hard to watch. It was presented in 3D for its theatrical release, which may or may not have added something to the gracelessness. The character of the Ghost Rider is aesthetically adjusted from the first film and appears to be an almost 100 percent CGI exhibition. He’s an unwieldy character at the best of times and the added “bonus” of his voice just makes him unbearable on any serious level.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is just a bad movie and it’s made worse by Cage’s performance. He has taken a lot of flak for his acting lately and has deserved much of it, but here he really drives the cart over the cliff. His delivery is so hammy, so corny and so god-awful that it’s hard to stand. It’s not even fun in a Wicker Man sort of way.

It doesn’t help that Cage has no help. Whether it’s the raccoon-eyed but weirdly cute Nadya or the bland Roarke or the inane cast of monks, the characters of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance simply don’t matter. The actors are phoning it in, the production design is bleak and appalling, the effects are overworked and cheap-looking, and the plot is elaborate and dumb. There’s really no reason to see this film at all, unless you like dense eyeshadow.


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