Review of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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Nicolas Cage reprises his role for the sequel to 2007's Ghost Rider, which is directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Set several years after the first film, Johnny Blaze (Cage) is in East Europe, living in self-imposed exile after convincing himself that his powers are a curse. While there he's approached by Moreau, a member of the monastic order of Michael seeking a protector for a mother and son duo being pursued by a figure named Roarke. Once the devil turns Roarke into Blackout, he's left with the fortitude and supernatural ability to take on the Ghost Rider.
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Movie Review: "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance"

-- Rating: PG-13 (action sequences, violence, disturbing images, and some foul language)
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: February 17, 2012
Directed by: Mark Neveldin and Brian Taylor
Genre: Action, Thriller, and Fantasy

Nicolas Cage rides again as "The World's Darkest Hero," Johnny Blaze, in this sequel to "Ghost Rider." Comic book sticklers may want to look the other way, as some creative license has been taken with this film adaptation of the popular Marvel series. The film picks up in the aftermath of Blaze breaking the Devil's bind that condemned him to the dark life he had led for many years. The audience is presented with flashbacks of the events that led up to that moment. He lives in Eastern Europe and seems to be running from himself. He despises his supernatural form and its powers. He is offered a chance at redemption-a way to break the curse of The Rider and reclaim his soul.

A motorcycle-riding monk named Moreau (Idris Elba) makes him aware of a new threat that has emerged. The Devil, known as Roarke (Ciaran Hinds), is after a young boy. He is growing weak in his mortal form. If he is able to take the boy's form, evil will be unstoppable. It turns out that Danny-played by Fergus Riordan-is his earthly son. Moreau makes a deal with Blaze that if he protects the boy, his curse will be lifted. Of course, as a side benefit, the world will be saved.

The film trailers promise some visual appeal, and that can certainly be found throughout the film. The location settings in Turkey and Romania are stunningly beautiful. However, this film lacks the sharp effects that made its predecessor, "Ghost Rider," so successful. A noticeable difference occurs when Blaze takes on his flaming skull form. In this movie, he smolders like tar is bubbling around his leather jacket. The flaming chain that he uses to dispense justice to demons and other enemies barely glows. It is almost as if another CGI company was used to take care of these effects.

Cage provides an acceptable performance, but his sideways looks and one-liners are even more off-the-wall in this sequel. His morphing into The Rider is more comical than terrifying. Cage laughs it up almost like he knows it. His character seems to spend a lot of time in the air during the many action scenes. The scariest part about him has to be his walking gait. Most people would not want to see it, let alone think about staring into his flaming eye sockets.

There are some chuckles of amusement that can be had, depending on the viewer's taste in comedy. When asked what he does when he has to answer the call of nature, Blaze responds with a well-placed trail of fire. In contrast, one of the more serious parts of the film deals with the Ghost Rider's desire to give Danny's mother Nadya (Violante Placido) the stare, due to her dubious past. This movie has no room for love stories, which will please some of the viewers.

The entirety of the movie is intensely action driven, almost to the detriment of the story. The film looks like it was shot at a very rapid pace, and it phases back and forth between displaying good cinematic qualities and looking like a fancy film school project. Some scenes that connect from one fight to another seem to lack a coherent narrative glue that would give the film a sense of purpose. The villains lack depth and are very one-dimensional. For those who enjoy a well-developed villain, such as Loki from Marvel's "The Avengers," this can diminish enjoyment of an otherwise decent film. Luckily, Johnny Whitworth's (Ray Carrigan) transformation into Ghost Rider's nemesis, Blackout, is a treat.

The minor characters-although they do have their moments-fall flat in development. They seem to quickly fulfill a purpose and then fade into the background. Moreau has potential, but ends up being nothing more than the stereotypical drunken monk. Nadya could have had an interesting backstory, but her inclusion in the story doesn't match its tone.

Blaze says that there is some good and bad in all of us. "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" proves that this is also true with movies. Take the film for what it is meant to be. It's not a philosophical treatise like "Prometheus." It is, however, a fun and cartoonish flick for when you just don't want to think too hard. Plus, the ending is satisfying, and who doesn't like a good ending?

Rating: 2 out of 5