Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance
A truly bizarre comic book adaptation that seems destined for a cult following.
With Nicolas Cage’s bizarre passion project Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Crank 2 directors Mark Neveldene and Brian Taylor have produced something which although of very narrow appeal, seems destined for cultdom. What the partnership have come up with here is essentially Crank 3, but with a burning skull as a hero.
The frenetic, violent style of filmmaking is certainly visually arresting, with the pair’s daredevil shooting techniques giving rise to some truly kinetic shots -an early effort following a motorcycle rider thrown off a cliff seems impossible- but also makes the film so impossible to follow at times that we grasp desperately at any line of dialogue for a clue as to what exactly is going on. From what we can gather though, the plot concerns Johnny Blaze/ The Rider’s race to stop a young boy from falling into the hands of the Devil, in order to prevent the coming of the antichrist.
What makes this film truly stand out as a candidate for a cult following is its star. Nicolas Cage is an interesting character himself, always committed to the sometimes bizarre roles he picks, and renowned for his eccentricity. If he is usually regarded as playing slightly unbalanced characters, here he is totally bananas, with a gurning physical performance as both the titular Rider and his alter ego Johnny Blaze. Grappling with the inner conflict of his character, Cage cuts a deranged figure as he twists his features and cackles maniacal dialogue – this is not a bad performance, but rather the sort that will become a YouTube sensation before long, with several lines (“Scraping at the door!”) reminding us more than a little of the infamous Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 ( home of the notorious “Garbage Day!” meme). It is clear how much work Cage puts into what is a campy, almost comic role, and the quotable results are nothing if not memorable.
The supporting cast really do seem out of place here, with Idris Elba popping up as Moreau, a French alcoholic warrior monk who aids the heroes one of the highlights of the film – particularly in his scenes with Cage, as the pair share an amusing chemistry throughout. Ciaran Hinds is another cast member who seems far too classy a performer to be in this sort of thing, but makes for a convincingly evil antagonist.
The action scenes themselves are simply too fast paced, with cuts, shaky-cam and confusing editing giving us little to hold onto as the film blazes along. There is also a real lack of variety here, with scene after scene of the Rider facing off against a large number of villains becoming repetitive quickly. The 3D work isn’t too objectionable, seeming clearer than most, but it is never really used to any great effect, seeming to be rather tacked on.
A confusing, below-par comic book adaptation then, but a stronger film than its predecessor and at least worth a laugh or two when the home video release comes about, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance seems destined to become a cult oddity in time, but can’t really be recommended to a wide cinema audience. The visuals are a treat the few times that the directors can resist their hyperactive editing, and as bizarre as it is, this performance reminds us just why we love Cage, no matter how weird his choices seem to be at times.