If 2012 holds another film as catastrophically bad as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, it’ll be one of the most dismal years on record. The Neveldine/Taylor drug trip has come to the inevitable crash, leaving us with the cinematic equivalent of someone sitting strung out on a park bench, their pants soaked in urine.
Look, I get the Neveldine/Taylor ‘thing.’ I was a huge supporter of Crank and Crank 2. But the problems in Ghost Rider aren’t of the ‘IT’S TOO CRAZY!’ or ‘THEY’RE BREAKING ALL THE RULES!’ sort, they’re of basic incompetence and lack of drive. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is tedious.
The film’s a shapeless mess. There’s a throughline, but it’s not particularly compelling and it’s told poorly. There’s a holy child born, and the Devil - who walks the Earth in Ciarán Hinds’ form - wants him. Idris Elba is a drunk monk dedicated to saving the boy, and he enlists Johnny Blaze to help. Blaze is told that if he saves the boy, Elba can remove the demon Zathura from him. In order to give Ghost Rider something to do in the movie, the Devil turns terrible actor Johnny Whitworth into Blackout, a villain who decays anything he touches.
This sort of a by the numbers story wouldn’t be so bad if Neveldine/Taylor brought their usual nuttiness and inventive energy, but outside of an opening sequence that sees Elba flying off the side of a mountain shooting bad guys, the film is a snooze. I don’t know if a low budget hobbled them or if it was simply sheer laziness, but the film is slack and there are a dearth of action scenes. In fact you’ve seen most of them in the marketing campaign already; hopes that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance holds unshown zaniness should be quashed immediately.
What we’re left with is a rotten knock off of Terminator 2, with Johnny Blaze as the Terminator, irritating child actor Fergus Riordan as John Connor and shockingly sub-talented actress Violante Placido as Sarah Connor. These scenes are excruciating, and they’re endless. The movie is made up of about 80% filler, and much of that filler is these three bouncing off of each other. The vaunted shot of Ghost Rider pissing fire? A throwaway gag in the ‘bonding’ process between Blaze and the kid.
Most disappointing is the fact that Nicolas Cage is completely phoning it in. He’s not bringing the real crazy or the honest weird - he’s playing to the cult. He’s doing what he thinks you want to see, and with one or two exceptions he’s totally wrong. What makes crazy Nic Cage work is the truth and the commitment, the sense that he believes this is a valid choice. This is crazy Nic Cage doing the dance but not feeling the beat.
It says a lot that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance made me nostalgic for the bad first film. This is a movie of shattering ineptitude, starting at the script and reaching into every aspect of the cheap, rushed, shitty-looking production. There’s something contemptuous about serving a movie like this to an audience.