It remains a mystery how the turgid 2007 campfest Ghost Rider made $228 million worldwide, considering the movie’s sophistry was on the level of a kid floating his plastic boat in a bathtub. But somehow people filled theater seats and as a result we now have an even more horrid sequel slash reboot – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
The new film, just like the first one wears its grindhouse crudeness as a badge of honor. There’s plenty of bad dialogue, terrible acting, and an awful story that simply puts Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in the growing list of unnecessary Hollywood reboots. The good news is that it runs just short of 90 minutes, and the CGI is a minor improvement over the previous film. But it suffers from more of the same infirmities that made Ghost Rider a bore – appalling writing, irritating characters and Nicolas Cage attempting to act. And it’s in dreadful eyeball-hurting 3D.
Cage makes a roaring return with his over-the-top hamming as the titular motorbike rider with a flaming skull – and he is even more grotesque than in the previous film. He urinates fire, spits bullets, commandeers flaming cranes, grapples a car with a chain, yet he is as threatening as a parking valet at a Colaba restaurant. In fact Cage’s colossal hamminess is just one of several cringe-inducing factors here. There is Ciaran Hinds as the devil who is just painful to watch, especially during his back-and-forth with the Ghost Rider. Idris Elba is completely forgettable and Johnny Whitworth who plays the embarrassingly ill-conceived Blackout the villain has nothing to do but sneer in bloom. Then there is the love interest Violante Placido who is lovely to look at but seems more worried about the critical reception to this film than her acting. Everyone else is asleep, none more so than directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor who landed this franchise with their infamous Crank films to their credit.
There’s not much of a plot – the Ghost Rider makes a deal with a European church to save a boy from the devil in exchange for becoming human again. The sheer lethargy of Neveldine and Taylor’s direction is so prevalent that it seems like the plot was an afterthought to all the CGI buffoonery. To make matters worse, the stunt work is incorporated to the point of ridicule – in one scene a character hangs around in mid-air and shoots bullets to topple a car. Then in a big highway action scene Cage leaps from a moving motorcycle to a truck, fights baddies and jumps back on the bike. The whole thing is clumsily put together and instead of offering any entertainment it just lurches along stupidly. Perhaps this is what is fundamentally wrong with the Ghost Rider movies – not only is the action boring, but none of the characters are likable, and there’s nothing particularly heroic, fascinating or even interesting about the Ghost Rider himself.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a garbled mix of a few cheap special effects and a couple of clever ideas, but it doesn’t have enough creativity to offer any fun. If ever a film franchise needed to be shut down for good, it’s this one. Even Catwoman and the first Ghost Rider film seem like masterpieces compared to this hogwash.
(First published in Mid Day)