So, while the rest of you were out there watching your Hunger Games and your Three Stooges and (to a somewhat lesser extent) your Cabin in the Woods, I was enjoying, for certain values of the term “enjoy,” a free screening of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance:
Yes, it’s another Nicolas Cage-tacular, with no piece of scenery left unbitten. It was also directed by the same guys who did the Crank films, and there were at times moments of those films’ energy and humor in this otherwise turgid sequel, but alas the decision was made to attempt “plot” and “characterization” at the expense of “Ghost Rider doing crazy shit.”
Or “Nicolas Cage doing crazy shit,” I suppose I should mention, since there’s one scene where Cage, as Johnny Blaze, is apparently barely containing his transformation to Ghost Rider while he’s interrogating this one fellow. Did I say “interrogating?” I mean “yelling and jerking his head around and acting like a lunatic and basically barking at the dude” and it was either the worst acting I’ve ever seen or, dare I say, the greatest acting I’ve ever seen. Honestly, say what you will about the man and his acting choices…once he’s made his decision, Cage just full out goes for it.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first film, so I don’t recall if it establishes Ghost Rider’s super power of making anything he rides turn into a flaming hellengine of death. In this film, he hops into the control booth of some huge piece of construction equipment, which proceeds to burst into flames and become something terrifying and awesome, and later Ghostie hops onto some big truck which also becomes all fiery and rad. Frankly, had the film just been Ghost Rider driving a variety of vehicles that are on fire while fighting the bad guys or monsters or other cars that are on fire, I think we would have had somethin’ here.
Also of note:
- Cage’s opening narration catching folks up on Ghost Rider’s back story: pretty sure the intent was “down to earth recounting of fantastic events” in order to somehow promote the audience’s suspension of disbelief in the premise, but somehow the tone of Cage’s line-reads made it sound hilarious. Not to mention the fact that you’ve already got people who willingly came to a film about a demonically-possessed motorcyclist…they probably don’t need the semi-embarrassed hardsell on the product.
- There’s a cheap, obvious joke in which one of the villains of this piece, Decay (who has the power to…well, guess) is going through a lunchbox trying to find food that won’t crumble to dust in his hands, and finding success with a Twinkie. Like I said, it’s cheap and obvious, but still, it was amusing.
- Ghost Rider is not nearly as loquacious as he is in the funnybooks: he only speaks a couple lines of dialogue. The first time, it’s genuinely creepy, as he mockingly repeats “does this hurt” (or something similar) to a bad guy who had mocked him with the same words a bit earlier. The second bit is Ghost Rider laying the completely unnecessary quip “Roadkill” after his nemesis is flattened by a vehicle after a battle. I suppose it was supposed to be “funny” or “cool,” but…nah, sorry, it was neither.
- And there are times when Ghost Rider just does…odd things, which were sort of baffling at the time (like when he just kinda stands there, rocking back and forth, during a pause in a battle). While talking about this film with a coworker, he mentioned that he read an interview where Cage said he took inspiration from a pet snake in his portrayal of Ghost Rider, and…you know, I haven’t verified that, have no idea if it’s true, but I’m not going to check because I want that to be true and I do not wish to be disappointed.
So, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – worth seeing for free, I guess, if you’re not otherwise busy. Even at about 90 minutes or so, it’s a bit overlong, but if you enjoy Nic Cage movies, this one is certainly very Nic Cage-y.
I should also tell you that, as we were walking into the theater, there was a group of about a half-dozen or so kids, about 6 to 8 years of age, coming to the movie as well, all cheerfully chanting “GHOST RI-DER! GHOST RI-DER! GHOST RI-DER!” …All things considered, that made the evening’s entire movie-going experience worth it.