Spirit of Vengeance
- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
fter Mark Steven Johnson’s disastrous 2007 attempt to bring “Ghost Rider” to the big screen, setting a new low for the comic book genre in the process, it seemed like that would be the last we’d ever see of Marvel’s B-list hero. For some reason, however, Sony has decided to give the character a second chance, handing over the reins to the gonzo directing duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, whose work on the “Crank” movies certainly suggests that they would be the perfect guys to take on such an incredibly bizarre superhero. But while they definitely do a better job of bringing Ghost Rider to life, everything in between is absolute rubbish.
Although it's not a direct sequel to the first film, “Spirit of Vengeance” picks up after Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage, reprising the title role) has already been cursed with the demon of the Ghost Rider after making a deal with the Devil to save his father’s life. While hiding out in Eastern Europe, Johnny is visited by a French warrior priest named Moreau (Idris Elba) offering a different kind of deal. In exchange for helping him rescue a young boy that the Devil (Ciarán Hinds) has targeted for a body-switching ritual that will grant him full use of his powers on Earth, Moreau promises to help Johnny get rid of the Ghost Rider for good. But the Devil has some help of his own in the form of an arrogant mercenary (Johnny Whitworth), who's destined to transform into a supervillian if he hopes to pose any sort of threat to Blaze's demonic alter ego.
It was never going to be very difficult to improve upon the 2007 movie (seriously, it was that bad), and yet “Spirit of Vengeance” is only better by the smallest of margins. One of the few things that it does do right is the scenes involving Ghost Rider. Neveldine and Taylor clearly understand that the character isn’t your typical superhero, and they really emphasize his demonic nature by making him as frightening and intimidating as possible. Though he’s not featured nearly as prominently as you’d expect for a movie with the character’s name in the title, the Ghost Rider sequences are actually quite fun and benefit from the directors’ hyper-stylized method of shooting. Unfortunately, that’s where the magic ends, because the rest of the film makes many of the same mistakes as its predecessor, including lots of bad dialogue, poor attempts at humor, and what will likely go down as one of the worst performances of the year by Johnny Whitworth.
Nicolas Cage is surprisingly restrained as Johnny Blaze (probably to make him appear even more deranged when he’s playing Ghost Rider), but there is an unintentionally hilarious scene midway through the film where Blaze is trying to contain the Rider that’s more laughably over-the-top than just about anything the actor has ever done, “Deadfall” included. Despite its many B-movie qualities, however, the biggest problem with “Spirit of Vengeance” is that it’s just plain dull. Though Neveldine and Taylor at least managed to avoid the camp factor this time around, it’s almost as bad as the first movie and not nearly as fun to ridicule. And in retrospect, that makes it feel like an even bigger failure.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Sony may not have succeeded in rebooting the “Ghost Rider” franchise with "Spirit of Vengeance," but the studio has done a bang-up job with the Blu-ray release. In addition to some deleted scenes and a digital copy, the disc also includes a six-part making-of featurette that covers the entire gamut of production, from shooting in Romania, to Nic Cage’s performance capture of the Ghost Rider, to special effects and more. And if that's somehow still not enough, there's a really cool feature hosted by directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor that's similar to Warner Bros.' Maximum Movie Mode in that it combines the typical commentary track with behind the scenes footage and the ability for the directors to pause the film in order to discuss certain sequences in more detail.