Directed by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba
The legend of Johnny Blaze and his demonic alter ago/antihero Ghost Rider is one the lesser explored niches of Marvel’s cavernous canon of varying mythos. He’s never really been a part of any particularly groundbreaking comic book endeavor (my own opinion of course), but when coupled with heavy-hitters like Spider-Man, Thor and the like, what chance does this franchise really have? To answer this question, and as a direct reaction to my recent viewing of Neveldine & Taylor’s latest: None at all. This film, while agreeably proficient in a technical sense, self-important avant garde-esque cinematography and all, is devoid of literally anything characteristic of an entertaining comic book adaptation including prolonged, mindless and presumably engaging action sequences involving Blaze himself as the titular Ghost Rider.
Do not take that introduction lightly, as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is easily one of the most inept films, comic book mythology notwithstanding, to come about in quite some time. It’s almost as if the writers felt compelled to suit the needs of the directors, catering to their now discernible off-the-wall visual panache employed to great lengths throughout their two gleefully abhorrent Crank films. The central story arc is as bland and scatterbrained as they come, introducing characters at regular intervals and thrusting them smack in the middle of a lackluster tug-of-war to reclaim a young boy’s soul from, you guessed it, the devil himself. Forgoing the groundwork the initial film laid down in an attempt to pave the way for bigger and better things, the powers-that-be tried their best to essentially reboot the franchise with the same headcase male lead while incorporating brief instances of “stylish”comic book-infused back story to “fill us in” on what we probably don’t remember, and for good reason.
Nothing substantial can really be said about Spirit of Vengeance outside of that it’s quite literally a mindless distraction for us filmgoers, providing you walk into the theater expecting nothing more than C-grade schlock unworthy of the Marvel brand and a heaping dose of inconsequential nonsense. The Cage, needless to say, amiably gives us his best portrayal of the off-kilter stunt rider-turned-demon motorcyclist, willingly subjecting himself to further scrutinization regarding his role choices (that he’s apparently very selective about) and a tasteless running gag involving the Rider himself pissing flames whenever he feels the need to relieve himself. Elba and Hinds as the Rider’s boozed-up French sidekick and Satan respectively portray their characters with surprising conviction given the sheer ridiculousness of a majority of the proceedings, and as to be expected, nothing can really be said for anyone else involved.
For lack of a better comparison, Neveldine and Taylor’s go with the Ghost Rider license is like a sopping wet jigsaw puzzle they haphazardly smushed together to craft some semblance of a film. There’s little to no cohesion to be found within the already wafer-thin, insubstantial and offensively unfunny narrative, with the film’s over-the-top visual presentation remaining distracting as all hell (no pun intended) at all the wrong moments and the Rider himself peculiarly absent as Nic Cage predictably loses his marbles over and over again. Now I’m familiar with the idea of “style over substance,” and I can appreciate most forays into this territory, however when presented with something so juvenile, ADD-riddled and plain unwatchable, you start to wonder why Marvel doesn’t have the guts to just close the lid on certain franchises that were doomed from the start despite their obvious willingness in recouping a decent-sized paycheck come opening weekend.