GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2012) / Action-Adventure

Running Length: 95 minutes
MPAA Classification: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language.

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Fergus Riordan, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Avi Arad, Michael De Luca, Steven Paul
Screenplay: David S. Goyer, Scott Gimple (based on the Marvel comic book series)

‘Depressing’ is not a dark enough word to adequately describe what these past couple of weeks at the movie theater have felt like. There has simply been nothing worth waiting for or looking forward to. Movies continue to be released and people continue to see them, but overall, the interest level of America has remained at a disappointingly low level.

Now of course, this is expected. The first quarter of the year is never an exciting time for cinema, so putting up with the bad movies is routine as long as there are a couple of good ones to keep us distracted. But lately, there hasn’t been. The movie industry is stuck in a rut. As each Friday comes along and a few new titles are added to the marquee, I become more and more curious of what those people in Hollywood thinking. Are people out there even trying anymore? Do they even care? Are they so out of fresh ideas that making something like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance sounds like a good idea? If so, they must be more desperate than I thought.

There have been many big screen adaptations of superhero-based comic books over the years and the Ghost Rider franchise is by far the most worthless of them all. Not much can be done with a character as uninteresting as Johnny Blaze and both films centered on him have proved that. Like the rest of America, I didn’t like the first Ghost Rider. I didn’t really like anything about it. But as box office totals will go on to prove, if a movie manages to make enough money, it will more than likely have a sequel made, even if the movie is entirely unworthy of having a sequel.

Now, while the first Ghost Rider is a bad movie, I don’t hate it. Sure, it’s unattractive and lousy and stupid to boot, but overall, it’s relatively forgettable. When I first saw it, I griped and complained and said what I needed to say, but when it ended, I moved on. Such is not the case for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I’ll be talking about it for a long, long time.

To get right to the point, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is an extremely awful movie. It is wretched and foul and degrading and so supremely god awful in every single aspect that making fun of it seems like the wrong thing to do. I feel like by attacking it, I’m giving someone the opportunity to utter the phrase, “Hey, go pick on someone your own size.” Well, when a movie as unforgiving as this steals an hour and a half of your life and money from your own pocket, what else are you supposed to do?

The story transpires somewhere in ‘Eastern Europe’ on Johnny Blaze (Cage), a man whose own soul is possessed by the Devil. Blaze has this curse where his body will burst into flame at any given moment, turning him into Ghost Rider. It’s an annoying curse and he rightfully wants it gone, so enter Moreau (Idris Elba), a man who claims that he can get rid of the demon trapped inside of Blaze’s body as long as Blaze does him a favor in return. That favor consists of escorting a young boy (Fergus Riordan) and his mother (Violante Placido) to a monastery while having Mr. Roarke (Ciaran Hinds) and his band of misfits hot on their tails.

It’s safe to say that Nicolas Cage is at the lowest point in his career right now. He’s made one bad move right after the other, consecutively appearing in movies so crummy that it’s starting to seem like he may never get out of the hole he’s in. (Currently, he’s the laughingstock of Hollywood.) Sure, in the first Ghost Rider, Cage isn’t any Ben Sanderson, but at least he’s acting and we can tell that he is. In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, his acting is so incredibly bad and horrendously wooden that it seems entirely intentional. It’s as if he’s making fun of himself and in turn, we’re not entertained; we’re bored. It’s sad to watch a once-great actor embarrass himself upon the screen, looking like a deranged psychopath as he trips over line after line, shaking and laughing like a tweaked-out crack addict. The only other performance to speak of comes from Ciaran Hinds, who blabbers cheap one-liners and looks like a Robert De Niro knock-off recovering from a stroke.

In Crank, the directing duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor incorporated a lot of their trademark frenetic camerawork and campy humor, but here they just completely overdo it. They take advantage of both the Steadicam and ‘Zoom’ option, overusing them in unnecessary situations to the point where it becomes annoying and a little self-indulgent. Essentially, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance could make for a decent B-movie if it didn’t take itself so seriously, but because it’s just so flat-out bad, there’s no way that we can enjoy ourselves.

The CGI is woefully cheap-looking and entirely unconvincing, resembling something from a late 90s video game. You’d think that a 60 million dollar budget could buy a better visual effects team, but apparently, it can’t. On top of that, the editing is frantic and incomprehensible and at times it feels like scenes have been scrapped from the film altogether, making an already incoherent storyline even all the more difficult to understand. Eventually, I just stopped trying to follow everything and gave up on caring. I wonder; when the final result was shown to the crew, what were they thinking? Did they fully realize what they had just made? The people involved with this soul-sucking hunk of overstuffed garbage should be downright ashamed of themselves.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is not only the lowest thing that Hollywood has had to offer this year, but in a long, long while as well. The ineptitude on display here is astonishing. It’s despicable that a thing like this can be made and make profit, which it undoubtedly will. Of course, bad news is what you’d expect from a movie like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, so you may not be surprised by my warnings. But trust me: it’s a whole lot worse than I’m making it out to be.

Final rating: 1/2 (out of ★★★★)

© 2012 Stephen Earnest

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