Marvel Movie Madness! Part 35: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

by | April 15, 2013 | Comments

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 35: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012, 17% @ 112 reviews)

Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, starring Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciarán Hinds

Kerr: Sorry, film artisan gurus, but I can’t slam this one. Not necessarily as hot (pun intended) as the first one, which I also enjoyed, but Spirit of Vengeance is a little bit delicious. I kind of thought I’d just have it on for a while and then give up on it, but even when I had to turn it off for a while, I found myself coming back to it, like any guilty pleasure. For a Ghost Rider film, you need to incorporate the horror elements that a lot of other comic films don’t possess. SoV did so and it works. How can you turn down evil monk-type priests? Maybe I liked it more because I have an affinity for demons in film. A fetish of sorts, perhaps.

I would not recommend this as a great film, but definitely as a fun one. I would have preferred to have seen it in 3D, though, because the dual directors (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor of Crank 2: High Voltage) created interstices designed specifically for 3D visuals (like screaming Nic Cage closeups before explosive, colorful backgrounds). I’m a 12-year old boy again when things start flying at me in 3D. Unless it’s real-life 3D. Then I run, ‘cuz… ouch. But nothing flew out at me during SoV. Except maybe a few of Cage’s eruptive veins.

I particularly enjoy any film that contains a urination-of-fire sequence (which is almost as fascinating as a urination-of-blood bit when I performed in a glam metal punk shock rock band called Bloodsak… Yup, it happened).

The idea of two directors taking this oh-so-deep deep film together makes me giggle. Does each one take on specific scenes? Specific actors? Maybe one is all, “I’ll take on the 3D parts, and the Nic Cage angry-veins shots” and the other is like, “I’ll take the urinating fire parts, because that’s really my forte, doncha’ know?” I do see Crank 2 elements in the shots: fast-paced, energetic. I mean, hey, it worked once, and a comic film is a good avenue to sport those techniques.

Some top critics liked it, so it wasn’t just me. The film has its tongue in its cheek at all times, which makes it work. Cage always makes me laugh anyway. There’s actually some suspense; who would’ve thought? One would think that successfully ridding oneself of a demon eating your soul would be a sufficient end. But nope, not here. Johnny Blaze has separation anxiety, methinks. It’s like a lip balm junkie who no longer has chapped lips, but must continue to apply the calming salve.

The effects are better in this one than the first. I remember the Rider’s flaming head looking more silly in the original. Don’t get me wrong, it still looks silly, but just better-silly. Scarier.

Cage over-emotes a lot, but I think that’s part of the movie’s charm. His performance is almost like Wild at Heart on steroids. I guess that’s most of his performances, but it’s still semi-charming to watch. Especially with his face on fire.

Ryan: Kerr, you’re a great guy and all, but you are far too generous sometimes. I tried to give the first Ghost Rider a fighting chance, but I just couldn’t bring myself to like it, and this one? This one was even worse.

To begin, one of the only things I found amusing about the first Ghost Rider film was the abundance of Nic Cage freakouts, which are often the highlight of any movie that features them. In Spirit of Vengeance, though, we get one really solid outburst, and then a couple of minor ones towards the very end of the movie. That’s it. Considering the directors on hand, one would have thought they’d make the most of their time with Cage, especially since the franchise seems intent on playing the character wild and goofy, so that was disappointing. Cage does over-emote, but less than before and not enough for my taste.

You also make the point that a Ghost Rider story needs a horror element, and I argue that absolutely nothing in SoV fits that description at all, unless you’re either easily frightened or nine years old. The monks were interesting, and I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Christopher Lambert — no stranger to unintentional hilarity himself — but their presence in the story is fleeting at best, ultimately inconsequential. Plus, any inherent menace dissolves immediately when Lambert starts speaking; all I can hear is Lord Raiden’s laugh.

I might buy your assertion that the movie works because it’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, except that I don’t agree. Not enough of it was tongue-in-cheek; there are too few jokes and too many self-serious moments. In fact, much like the last movie, I found myself wondering who exactly Neveldine and Taylor were making this for. You’ve got some silly, juvenile stuff here like the fiery urination you mentioned (by the way, TMI man) mixed in with lots of death, dark imagery, and even an F-bomb.

Lastly, the story was half-baked, with an insultingly convenient resolution, and aside from Cage, the other notable actors really seemed like they were phoning it in. I mean, Idris Elba is a wine-swilling, motorcycle-riding, gun-toting French monk, and Ciaran Hinds is the Devil, but both appear barely aware of what’s going on around them. It’s clear Neveldine and Taylor weren’t interested in making a “serious” movie, but they also failed to fully embrace their zanier tendencies, which resulted in arguably the worst offense: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is just excruciatingly boring.

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