Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance seems to have been doomed from the get go. Right out the gate I’ve heard nothing but people bashing this movie based off the reception of the first film. Heck, even Marvel had little faith considering how poorly advertised it was. Despite this, I went in optimistic. The crazy combo of Crank directors Neveldine & Taylor had me hopeful, their “do or die” approach to filmmaking promised a good time to be had… but did it indeed live up to those expectations?
I should probably rundown the plot first, eh? Well, we find a haggard and weary Johnny Blaze living in a dumpy garage somewhere in Eastern Europe, still struggling with his curse (retold in flashback via a pretty cool animated sequence). Wine loving French monk Moreau, played by the always awesome Idris Elba, recruits Blaze to help him protect Nadya and her son Danny from Rorake. You see, Rorake just happens to be Danny’s dear old dad… and Satan. He needs the boy by the Winter Solstice in order to possess his body and renew his powers. Johnny is reluctant to help at first, that is until Moreau offers him the one thing he desires most… a release from his “affliction”.
That’s pretty much all there is to it, really. The plot is simple and straight to the point; bad guys want kid, good guys keep kid safe. The story isn’t the deepest, and has a few holes, but it works fine for this type of movie. Honestly its weirdly similar to Terminator 2, just substitute demons for cyborgs… hell there’s even a scene where the good guys load up on guns in a hidden underground bunker. Does it get cheesy? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all.
The action scenes deliver, living up to the directors style. The car chases (especially the finale) evoke Road Warrior with their sheer balls to the walls, high octane insanity. Unfortunately, there are such long crawls in between these sequences where very little happens and this is one of the film’s major windfalls. While Cage, Elba, and Johnny Whitworth (looking very much like a young Kurt Russell here) are massively entertaining to watch, the rest of the cast are one dimensional and uninteresting. Rorake has to be the wimpiest devil I’ve ever seen on film and, while I like the actor portraying him, is just downright uncharismatic. I wish Peter Fonda would have reprised his role from the first, as he made for a much more menacing character.
The Ghost Rider himself, rightfully so, is the star here. Special mention has to be made about the VFX team, because they did an outstanding job! The Rider looks truly intimidating with his charred, bubbling leather jacket and scorched skull, literally appearing as if he just stepped out of Hell itself. Ol’ bone head is a much darker entity… almost like a force of nature. Blaze has very little control over him, really only enough to point him in a direction and set him loose. One thing I really loved was how they treated the character less as a superhero and more of a monster. His jerky head movements, his cackling laugh as he lays waste to a small army of thugs with mining equipment, the merciless way he dispatches and toys with the unjust… you do NOT question this thing is demonic in nature.
The final product is a little uneven. I wish we could have seen more of the Rider as well as had more substance to the overall plot. All in all though, Spirit of Vengeance is leaps and bounds ahead of the first movie. I honestly don’t get the venomous hate its getting; it delivered exactly what it promised, only slightly faltering in spots. Is this The Dark Knight? Hell no, but it never strives to be. It aims to be a entertaining, over the top B-movie and more or less succeeds at it. Much like Punisher: Warzone (another critically panned Marvel Knights production) I can see this becoming a cult hit down the line. One last note, if you’re planning on seeing this in 3D… don’t. You’re not missing anything, trust me.