The review of “Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance” was published in our column “Animadversion” on March 11, 2012. This post is the unedited version. Links to Dawn are at the end of the post.
The Real “Horror” of the Flaming Skull: A Maniacal Laugh and Bad Career-Day
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
The saddest point in any film’s nascent life is when every major film critic does his desperate best to avoid reviewing it; However, I doubt if this news makes a spec of a difference to the film’s directing-duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (of Crank fame).
Ghost Rider’s sequel, subtitled The Spirit of Vengeance, again has Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a once celebrity motorcycle stuntman with the devil’s luck on him. Duped into signing a contract with the prince of darkness, Blaze, endowed by the “spirit of vengeance”, is immune to death. In his superhero avatar, Blaze gets a flaming skull, a manic loony-toon inspired laugh and the tendency to incinerate evil people. But that may not be a bad thing – at least with a laughing flaming skull, he looks like he’s happy on the job.
So the question becomes, why aren’t we?
The plot (and the screenplay), penned by Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer, comes bundled the allure of a seen-it-all-before C-grade flick. The devil (Ciaran Hinds taking over from Peter Fonda), incarnate in a withering mortal shell wants to use the boy’s body as a vessel for his continued trot on man’s world. Soon Blaze, hiding in Europe, is persuaded by a monk (Idris Alba) into keeping the devil’s infernal son (Fergus Riordan) safe from daddy. In return Blaze will be freed from his deal.
In one of the film’s revved up action scenes, the Rider commandeers a heavy crane and turns it into a giant flaming hell-spawned bike. And he does it with the finesse of a bad theme park ride, in equally atrocious – and glaring – 3d. At that very loud point in the film, one questions ones sanity to be present at that particular screening.
For the most part the film does not feature an equal villain for the Rider. Way past the first half, the devil tricks up one of his mortal hoodlums (Johnny Whitworth) with a decaying touch. Anything he touches shrivels up and dies, including food, which he desperately tries to eat in one of the film’s funniest scenes. Like the filmmakers, the devil does not think two steps ahead of the problem.
Spirit of Vengeance, overflowing every which way with lawless energy, is unapologetic of its awfulness; its cartoony take is uncaring – both for the audience and the Marvel comic character. I seriously wonder if there will ever be a sequel after this.
Often during the movie, one actually feels for Cage, who is directed either to mope or guffaw uncontrollably when near baddies. Cage is a dependable actor (and still a personal favorite), even when one sees his bad filmography overtaking the speed of his receding hairline. He clearly needs to read his screenplays before signing them.
Released by Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. Produced by Hyde Park Entertainment, Imagenation Abu Dhabi, Marvel Knights and Crystal Sky Pictures. Based on the Marvel comic character. Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance is rated PG-13.
There’s choppy hand-held camerawork, bad CGI and amateurish direction of a YouTube-worthy filmmaker (actually, I take it back, I have seen some pretty good YouTube filmmakers).
The online version at Dawn.com is this: http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/11/animadversion-the-horror-of-the-flaming-skull.html
The printed version is this: