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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

Cover art:

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)Starring Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage’s hair, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, Violante Placido, Ciaran Hinds, Spencer Wilding

Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor


Some years back we got our first cinematic taste of Ghost Rider, and without too much bashing, we’ll just say the flick’s flames weren’t too hot. Now the guys who made the Crank movies so chaotic have put their stamp on this latest installment, thereby creating the ultimate high octane horror hero!

We pick things up eight years after the events of the first Ghost Rider film. Johnny Blaze is skulking around Eastern Europe doing his best to stay clear of every human being that he can as a means to keep his inner-demon Zarathos at bay. Should Blaze come across evil, the demon will begin manifesting as a blazing skeleton. This spirit of vengeance is an unstoppable force, turning flesh to ash with a whip of his chain or even just an accidental glance into his cold, empty eyes. Unfortunately for Johnny things are about to heat up as Moreau (Elba), the happy drunk battle monk, has come calling with news of a boy perused by minions of the devil himself. From there Blaze is reluctantly drawn into the battle and … wait for it … ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!! (You see what I did there?) With the despicable Carrigan (Whitworth) following their every move with his right-hand man, The Wolfman (Wilding), Blaze’s more demonic half has plenty of evil men to chew on. This is the entire plot, minus the spoilery bits that would take up a single sentence.

What we have here is a far more intense, otherworldly Ghost Rider with eerie horror film-esque sound cues to announce the demon’s arrival. In the first movie when Blaze would flame up, it was as if he just put on a costume and went to work. Here the demon surfaces with a maniacal cackle that’s vintage Cage and erupts from under his skin. The Rider twitches like a being infused with too much power to contain and cocks its head like a bird of prey sizing up a meal. This performance is coupled with the sheer beauty of Ghost Rider’s carbonized skull, bubbling leathers and living flame. The whole effect is amazing. I’d watch “Ghost Rider Does His Weekly Shopping at Walmart” if it looked this good. Luckily, we get “Ghost Rider Goes Sickhouse on a Small Army of Evildoers” while answering the question, “If his bike erupts in flames when he drives it, what happens when he drives other things?!” INSANITY. The most excellent kind of insanity.

Acting performances, however, are a sort of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” type situation. Being a fan of over-the-top B-movies, I can tell when a director has told the cast something to the effect of “Pretend you are in a gonzo 80’s comic and have fun with it!” Wide-eyed exclamations and upturned lip grimaces are commonplace on the face of this film’s devil Roarke (Hinds) in counterpoint to Elba’s happy-go-lucky French party monk portrayal, with the baseline being Cage’s stony face when not in an action sequence of any kind. When evil is afoot, this all changes. Cage shudders like a recovering heroin addict off his meds … smiling … growling … laughing … wincing … looking as if he is trying to hold back the monster inside himself but bursting at the seams to let it out. You’ll sit there, jaw agape, wondering how soon you’ll be able to watch this spectacle again. I want to loop these scenes, set them to “Thieves and Liars” by Ministry and watch them until my eyes bleed. I loved every second!

Stylistically, Team Neveldine and Taylor have outdone themselves. They shatter the myth that post 3D conversion will always look horrible. This is some of the best 3D I’ve ever seen in a horror movie, if not some of the best I’ve ever seen. There are gimmicks surely shot with the effect in mind, but we are not left feeling like we are watching Jason Voorhees poking at us with a spear for two minutes for no good reason. Now think about Team Crank’s signature punk rock do-or-die shooting style, coupled with excellent 3D AND the beauty of the previously mentioned Rider himself, and you’ve got Saturday night movie gold.

Make no mistake; this film will play best on a giant screen, allowing you to drink it all in like some stunning, psychotic, post-apocalyptic landscape. Neveldine and Taylor also brought some new tricks to the table with pseudo Sin City-esque silhouettes against stark backgrounds and the ultra dramatic Carrigan demon power display which you’ll be treated to every time he kills. If I say any more, I’ll wreck it for you so just trust me when I say you are going to see some things you’ve never seen before in a 3D film. That alone is an amazing feat. It’s also worthy of mention that Neveldine and Taylor manage to create some seriously creepy moments without spilling more than a drop of blood. Modern filmmakers … take notes! This is the most excellent horror superhero movie since Darkman, and yes, that is high praise from me!

Let me be clear – this is not a thinking man’s film. You wouldn’t drop in on a film called Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance looking for steely glances, pursed lips and heartfelt tirades concerning love and loss now would you? This is CAGE … the man … the myth … the legend … directed by madmen who “get him” and let him loose in a world he is perfectly at home in. What we have here is a “Shut your brain off, shut the hell up and have a killer time” movie, best viewed with a beer shoved in your face ten minutes prior. Strap in and take the ride.


4 out of 5

Discuss Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in the comments section below!

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  • MonsterMash

    It was fun, dumb fun, but the 3D was seizure-inducing. My eyes are still all red and hurt like hell. And the half hour drive home in the dark with all the bright lights? I almost needed to pull over. I’m not seizure prone, but if you are, do not see this. Especially in 3d.But it is full of vintage Cage and for that I love it. I’ve never seen him crazier.

    • Foywonder

      “I’ve never seen him crazier.”

      I take it you’ve never seen Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans or The Wicker Man?

      If “vintage Cage” was butter his performance in this film was the equivalent of some butter-flavored seasoned you sprinkle on food to give it the flavor of butter without using the real thing. He was totally phoning in his craziness. Wasn’t the real thing. The scene where he interrogated the guy while trying to keep from transforming was the only moment that came close to being the real thing. Everything else was a tub of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Nic Cage”.

      • MonsterMash

        I agree, but you can’t tell me you didn’t laugh at him when he delivered the line “I’ll eat your stinkin’ soul!” Yes, the craziness was phoned in, and some of the humor was pretty lame, and the kid was a brat, but I still enjoyed it. Cage may have been phoning in, but I still loved that he embraced his craziness. I have seen his craziest moments from Wicker Man, not Bad Lieutenant, but I’m curious about it. I still think he was craziest here than in either of those. I didn’t take a thing he said seriously. The interrogation was spectacular.

        • Foywonder

          “but you can’t tell me you didn’t laugh at him when he delivered the line “I’ll eat your stinkin’ soul!”

          In all honesty, I don’t even remember hearing that line. Was it during the interrogation scene?

          If you haven’t seen Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans you really have no idea was what vintage Cage looks like. His performance is maximum Cage times two. Just look up some clip of it on YouTube. Then you’ll understand why his Caginess here did nothing for me.

          • Genrewriter

            More vintage Cage can be found in Deadfall, an obscure little movie he did in 1993 for his brother that I recapped over at The Agony Booth a few years back (not to shamelessly plug my stuff or anything). He has only a supporting role but once you see it, you will never, ever forget it. It’s the kind of acting you can’t un-see.

            http://www.agonybooth.com/movies/Deadfall_1993.aspx

            It’s really something, a bad movie lover’s paradise. The rest of the movie is equally insane too.

            BTW: You’re right, Foy. Port of Call New Orleans is classic Cage as well.

          • MonsterMash

            Groovy.

          • MonsterMash

            I know we usually have the same opinion on stuff so I’ll go rent it instead. I went to see Spirit with four other people and like the movie or not, they all laughed at that line. It was during the interrogation. If Bad makes Spirit’s interrogation scene look bad, I need to see this ASAP. I just enjoyed most of the movie because it was just crazy dumb fun(not as fun as Drive Angry, but still entertaining.). I wish Bill Moseley got to play the decaying guy. That would have been amazing.

  • vorodex999

    It was better than the first one. 3 out of 5 for me. Its not great its not bad its simply middle of the road. Entertaining if forgettable.

  • Cinemascribe

    The bulk of this comment is from of a review I’ve posted elsewhere. I haven’t been chiming in on the film review aspect of the site lately , but I wanted to toss in my two cents for this one.

    I have to disagree with the majority of the mainstream critics and back up Nomad this go round. This movie is a darker, grittier film than the original and had what I felt were superior villains. Peter Fonda was okay the first time,but I found this incarnation of Roarke creepier (it never helped matters in the first film that the moment we see Peter Fonda, the movie goes the obvious route and touches on the Easy Rider connection by having him look around and comment “far out” , thus undermining any sense of dread.I mean, why bother to make the guy creepy. He’s only the fucking DEVIL. Ciara Hinds has this weird, spooky vibe going on that’s one part all powerful mogul with a hint of possible pedophile thrown in). I also thought the power to instantaneously bring about decay was actually a pretty cool concept (plus it led to a genuinely funny scene where the guy realizes he now has an issue with trying to eat).

    Also, despite only having roughly half the budget the film makers had the first time, the “Crank” team somehow made Ghost Rider:Spirit of Vengeance visually much more impressive. As to Cage, I’m convinced that this time out he’s deliberately playing to that part of the audience watching the film in the hopes of experiencing his patented over the top, batshit insane persona. He doesn’t disappoint. Actually, the performances are generally better all around this time (no Eva Mendez, thank God. There’s not even a romantic subplot. No loss).

    Where I think the film works best is in it’s relentless intensity. After sketching out the skeleton (pun intended) of a plot on which to later hang the more eye popping visual effects, this flick shifts into overdrive and essentially becomes a superhero variation on The Road Warrior- once Blaze meets the woman and her child , they hit the road and that’s where they remain for the majority of the film.And before anyone pops a gasket scrambling to protest, no I’m not saying it’s equal to the Road Warrior.Nothing is equal to the Road Warrior. I’m just saying that GR:SoV follows the “action on the open road” pattern more than the whole “dark/costumed/otherworldly avenger terrorizes the criminal element in the city” theme and it’s a better fit for the premise.

    To be fair, the trailers for this movie pretty much sum up what you can expect going in, so you know what you’re getting. The movie delivers exactly what it promises.. a feature length adrenaline rush punctuated by some truly off the hook action sequences. In the process it improves on its’ predecessor. It may not be art, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

    I’d give it 3 out of four just because it was so damned entertaining to watch.

    By the way, I saw the 2D version on a drive-in screen (great drive in feature) and, honestly, it looked good.The 3D was post converted and, although I’m told it works, anyone choosing to skip the surcharge and go for the regular version should be fine.

    • Foywonder

      “Where I think the film works best is in it’s relentless intensity.

      You and I clearly did not see the same movie. You and most people did not see the same movie.

      • Cinemascribe

        Yeah,we did. We just had different reactions. If I waited until everyone else agreed with me to acknowledge that I found a movie entertaining, what fun would that be? There are number of low-rated movies I enjoy.There are also quite a few highly lauded films that I just don’t get the fuss over. I have this line I use as my IMDB signature (for the rare occasions when I still feel like descending into the snake pit): “I loved the Godfather. If you also loved The Godfather, then your taste in movies sucks, too.”

        Books, film, music- it’s all subjective. One mans trash is another mans treasure and all like that.I wanted to be entertained. For my money, I was. Ergo, I consider the film a weirdly likable success. 😉

        • Foywonder

          You know me. I love my cheesy movies. But this one just fell completely flat. Saw it two days ago and the only memory I have of it is that I recall Ghost Rider being cool looking. The plot wouldn’t have passed muster in a Golan-Globus film and the only thing relentless to me about the action was how relentlessly leaden it all was.

  • Uncle Creepy

    From top to bottom this movie was horrible. Riddled with plot holes and strung together with the thinnest possible of strings. That being said, I loved Idris Elba. He was easily the best thing about the movie next to the look of the Rider himself. I also found myself laughing at every single line of dialogue Cage delivered and I’m okay with that. If it were me who was reviewing the flick I’d give it maybe a 2 1/2 or a 3 MAXIMUM if I watched it shitfaced. It was better than the first and it’s certainly not the worst thing ever … and it could have been great, but nothing came together like it should have.

    • MouthForWar

      Creepy, make up your damn mind.

      “From top to bottom this movie was horrible.”

      “it’s certainly not horrible ”

      Uhh, which is it?

      • Terminal

        I’m afraid I concur. Creepy is having a lot of trouble deciding what he likes lately. Fright Night, The Devil Inside and now Ghost Rider.

        • LifeMi

          If you’ve seen Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, then you’ll understand where Creepy’s coming from. I’m still struggling to decide whether or not I liked it as a movie or as a fun diversion.

          • Uncle Creepy

            In between random brow beatings I’ve gotten so confused.

  • YandereSama

    Well, it’s about as good as a film can get when it has the brain of a peanut.

    Didn’t hate it though

  • James Coker

    oh look Nomad gave a Positive review to a shitty film . . . as always

  • LSD Zombie

    It can’t possibly be worse than the original. I think Neveldine and Taylor’s style is perfectly suited for the Ghost Rider character.

  • nonserviam03

    sooooooo uhhhhhhh… SHAMELESS PLUG!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmCwawK_Qp4

    Yeah, there’s my review of Ghost Rider. I wasn’t quite as positive as Nomad, but still more positive than most critics.

  • Vanvance1

    I love Ghost Rider and I loved the Crank flicks, even Gamer was good. But I had Nicholas Cage and I hated the first Ghost Rider movie which shit all over the comics.

    Also, it’s not an R.

    This is a hard call.

  • The Woman In Black

    I’m not expecting Shakespeare here, just a fun time with Cage being Cage. Plus, I’m dying to see these “things never seen before in a 3D film”.

    • Foywonder

      I didn’t see anything here I haven’t seen before in 3D and if there was anything new it did not make the slightest impact.

      It wasn’t as bad as I’d been hearing but it was lame in the same way a Highlander sequel was lame. In fact, when Christopher Lambert showed up the circle of suck became complete.

      The only thing this movie did right was make Ghost Rider look cooler than he did in the previous film and Blackout’s decaying powers were neatly visualized. Cage totally phoned in his craziness and the action tried really hard but did little to excite me. Then again, I cannot fathom how anyone could get excited about a movie with a storyline and characters this terrible. When you manage to come up with a plot even lamer than that of Jonah Hex and Dylan Dog… Ugh.

      And the main villain: lamest, wimpiest, most worthless Satan in the history of cinema.

  • The Buz

    Yep.

    • Doctor Gash

      Best comment ever! I’m going to have to borrow this image!

  • Sirand

    In 2012, it appears that DC is the only place on the internet where you can read a glowy review of every movie.

    • Uncle Creepy

      What can I tell you? During our heroes’ journey we busted through the fourth wall into the heroes’ cave and now we’re languishing in ambiguity.

      *adjusts black beret*

      If someone likes something, then they like it so get the stick out of your ass.

      • The Buz

      • kiddcapone

        But you have to follow the axis of action as long as the ADR (or Automated Dialogue Replacement for you lamers out there) isn’t overtly distracting. Back when I was acting as Best Boy Grip on the backlot, I was carrying a bounce board past the honeywagon adjacent to the hot set, and I got a sneak peak at the new summer pipeline. As long as the hero’s journey reaches the proper climax on the shot in the shot composition, the shooting ratio will be contained strictly for post production access only. Whoa, I was so distracted by talking to the techincal advisor I almost walked head first into the terra-flite…

        Oh us Hollywood insider folks, we’re so special…

    • Doctor Gash

      To rebut your comment, please refer to my review of Monsters in the Woods. Thank you.

  • DavidFullam

    No matter what, it has to be better than the first one.

  • MouthForWar

    Positive Nomad review = avoid.

  • Uncle Creepy

    Considering I’ve heard nothing but negative things about this flick, Nomad’s review has me guardedly optimistic. Besides that I love Cage and his insanity, and I loved the Crank movies. I can’t understand how this could possibly be bad. Gonna be an interesting weekend!

    • nonserviam03

      knowing your general taste in movies, I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s not a GOOD movie per se… but it’s very entertaining.

      There’s definitely some great Nic Cagian moments.

    • MouthForWar

      Its currently running a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.

      Creepy, if people don’t get crucify Nomad like they did to you for the Devil Inside, you should be upset!

      • Uncle Creepy

        Nomad is crucifixion proof. His reviews live in infamy god love him.

  • BoyWonder513

    So, by the Dread Central Adjusted for Nomad Scale, this is a 3/5. Still way more than I would have expected. Might have to check it out.

  • nonserviam03

    Oh man, now I don’t feel so bad about giving this a 3/5 haha.

    Nic Cage was in MAXIMUM Nic Cage mode in this movie.

Nomad