Superhero Month: "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" Review

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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.
2.5

Superhero Month: "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, language)
Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: February 17, 2012
Directed by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Genre: Action/Fantasy/Thriller

"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" picks up several years after the events of the original "Ghost Rider," with Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) hiding out in Romania. He is trying to lead a quiet life that won't force him to invoke his Ghost Rider curse, which he's had since he made a deal with the Devil many years earlier. Unfortunately for him, that plan unravels very quickly when his pal Moreau (Idris Elba) comes to him with a call for help only Johnny can really help him with.

It turns out that the Devil (Ciarán Hinds) has taken a keen interest in a young boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan), who Moreau is trying to protect. It turns out Danny is an innocent boy who also happens to be the Devil's son. Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth) is dispatched by the Devil to find Danny to be used in a ritual ceremony that will allow the Devil to regain and strengthen his ultimate powers. This ritual would alter Danny's life by eventually making him the next Devil incarnate, a fate which he doesn't want. This is obviously bad news for the entire world, so it spurs Moreau into asking Johnny and Danny's mortal, human mother Nadya (Violante Placido) for assistance in protecting the boy.

Johnny reluctantly agrees to help, but only after Moreau, who happens to be a monk, offers to help him get rid of his Ghost Rider curse. Moreau has ties to a mysterious monastery that could be the key to unlocking the curse, allowing Johnny to be a normal man again. It's too tempting to resist, but also might be too good to be true. Even if it seems impossible he could be rid of the curse, Johnny takes a chance and uses his powers to help throw Carrigan off of Danny's scent. There's plenty of action and thrills along the way, with Johnny showing of his wicked sense of humor to give the proceedings a little bit of levity. Will Danny be forced into an evil life or will Johnny save the day and regain his soul in the process?

Ghost Rider is a popular Marvel Comics character whose movie rights were leased to Sony so they could make the original "Ghost Rider" in 2007. When Disney bought Marvel, they created Marvel Studios to handle all future superhero adaptations in-house, with the notable exceptions of popular characters like Spider-Man and Ghost Rider that had already been given to Sony. The way the agreement works is Sony would automatically relinquish the film rights to the character if they go a certain amount of time without making a sequel. In order to avoid losing the rights to Ghost Rider, Sony hastily came up with the concept for "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" five years after the original.

When movies are quickly put together like this, there's risk in them looking cheap or cobbled together. Luckily for fans of the character, "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is well made and well thought-out, even if it was rushed into movie theaters. Credit goes to co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who are no strangers to making films quickly and on a modest budget. They had previously made "Crank" and its sequel "Crank: High Voltage," so they're also no strangers to high-concept sequels, which is exactly what this film is. Sometimes having more than one director on a film can be akin to too many cooks spoiling the broth, but these two clearly worked together with a single vision, making the film a fun and cohesive dive into comic book lore. Sony might have hurried to start production of the film, but the wise choices they made in screenwriters and the two directors prevent the film from looking rushed at all.

Over the years, some actors have a screen presence and certain acting style that's unique enough to be named after them. For example, when Jack Nicholson is in a film, some will often describe his performance as being very "Jack being Jack." Cage has gotten to the point in his career that when he does his wide-eyed, slightly crazy stare, he can best be described as Cage being Cage. In "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," Cage is very much being Cage, and that's a good thing. His almost manic, energetic take on the character serves the film well, helping to make it more entertaining and giving it a soul, even if that soul, like Ghost Rider's, has been sold to the devil.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5