Not too long ago, I reviewed Ghost Rider. Well, it made very little sense to watch one superhero movie without watching its sequel, so I followed it up with a viewing of 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Venegance.
Hoo, boy, was it something.
Now, I’ll start this by saying that the titular hero and his totally radical ride were given a visual overhaul for this film – and that’s good, because in Ghost Rider, it was all brought to life with truly awful CGI. Spirit of Vengeance was something of an upgrade (aesthetically speaking, at least) from its predecessor, so it quite quickly has that going in its favour. Unfortunately, this appears to be the only thing about this sequel that’s any sort of improvement – on the surface at least.
If you’ve read my review of Ghost Rider (seriously, please just go and read it), you’ll know that its action sequences left a whole lot to be desired. Well, Spirit of Vengeance has got some big ideas there, too, and although they’re a little patchy in overall quality, there’s an obvious and genuine attempt at crowd-pleasing set pieces – with Blaze’s power to turn any vehicle he rides into a fireball of demonic badassery in particular being utilised to add a little excitement to proceedings. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of seeing a flaming leather-clad skeleton operate a crane during a superpowered fight scene?
Another (sort-of) improvement is the attempt at fleshing out Blaze’s character a little. It’s done with Nic Cage’s trademarked bug-eyed manic charm, and honestly, it almost works. The Johnny Blaze of the first film was a brooding daredevil, but this more experienced Ghost Rider makes for a Blaze on the brink of insanity, his nightly ritual of transforming into a demonic bounty hunter having pushed him to the very edge. Were it given just a little more attention, it might have made the film just a little more palatable to audiences.
Instead, Blaze’s potentially interesting character arc is buried under flat dialogue, a generic story and a cast of the most forgettable characters imaginable. There’s also numerous baffling choices; Idris Elba’s borderline offensive French accent (as well as his character’s clichéd love of wine), the so-bad-it’s-hilarious design of one of the film’s main villains, and the inexplicable recasting of big bad Mephisto (Peter Fonda has turned into Ciarán Hinds, which is a significant downgrade).
The worst part is how unnecessary these choices were. Elba’s character, Moreau, was an original character, so he didn’t need to be French (or have the genuinely awful accent that Elba elected to use), Blackout’s design in the comics looks far better than the albino monstrosity in the film, and Peter Fonda had expressed interest in returning for the sequel.
Yes, it’s story was pretty flat, but it felt a little more coherent than the first, and this sequel embraces the insanity of the Ghost Rider far more than its predecessor dared. The first film felt like the shoehorning of the character into a generic blockbuster mould, whereas Spirit of Vengeance took risks. Its interesting angles, somewhat unique directorial choices and the introduction of a whole new character certainly could have been a good thing – but sadly, they simply weren’t.
Summary:This oft-reviled sequel took risks where its predecessor dared not, and for that, it deserves a little credit. However, it also happens to be a pretty dull and incredibly forgettable film.
Highlight: Nic Cage’s sudden shaky, screaming outburst of “HE’S SCRAPING AT THE DOOR!” (as well as the entire interrogation scene it occurs in) is by far the film’s best moment.