I am afraid I have to admit that the main reason I spent $40 taking Amanda to see this and buying popcorn and coke is the stinger at the end of the trailer above. I forget exactly which movie Dee and I were seeing, when we saw the trailer, but Amanda, Allison and I saw “Shark Night” back in September, and the 3D flame-throwing Ghost Rider provoked such a big laugh that we were committed then and there to seeing it. At that point we had never watched the original Ghost Rider from four years ago. I had recorded it off the satellite, and had it on DVD, but we never got around to it. Nicolas Cage is a guilty pleasure at our house. He can be a terrific actor, or a huge ham, chewing up the scenery. We like him in both kinds of movies. Last year he was in the ridiculously stupid and equally fun, “Drive Angry in 3D”. So this looked promising.
In anticipation of the arrival of the sequel, we got out the prior film and watched it a few weeks ago. It may very well have been the worst movie I have seen in five years. It should have been fun and self depreciating and stupid action. Instead, it lay there like something the dog dropped off and no one wanted to admit was smelling up the house. It certainly lowered our expectations for the “Spirit of Vengeance”, after all, there are very few sequels that live up to the original much less exceed them. What chance was there that this movie would stink less than the awful original? However, we were reminded of the scene in the trailer where we see “Ghost Rider” relieving himself and that gag had exactly the tone and humor we had expected the original to have so we took a deep breath and plunged in. I am happy to report that the experience was much better than we had any right to hope for. This movie is substantially better than the one that preceded it. That is not really saying much, but it is a start.
Getting to the point, “Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance ” is not a good film. The story makes jumps which have no sense to them, there is not much tension built up and when there should be dread, there is only the hollow sound of mild anticipation. We get no sense of character development from anybody in the story. People are killed off left and right and there is no reason to care if they deserve the fate that the Ghost Rider brings them or not. One character who opens the movie with a pretty good action scene, seems to be someone we can root for, but he is drawn in the vaguest terms possible. He appears to be a priest of dubious origins, and he is smarter than the other characters in the story, but we have no sense of why. There is a prophesy that is referred to several times, and we are never told what it says. The mother and child that the “Rider” ends up playing protector to (much like Terminator 2), are introduced but never given anything to do except be the focus of the bad guys pursuit. The kid does get one chance to shine when he is denied a request to open a car window, (there is a complicated action sequence that follows) but after that, he mostly just walks through the movie.
So, if it is not a good film, why did we still feel satisfied with the expenditure of time and money? It is simple, there are three or four good action scenes and an equal number of bad jokes that are right up my alley. Cage gets to grimace and mug for the camera in a funny transition from Johnny Blaze to the Rider, while on a motorcycle. The combination of CGI and Nic Cage facial ticks, was certainly worth part of the admission price. I also liked the long title sequence which told the necessary parts of the original story in a clearer, more interesting manner than the whole first movie. There was a nice combination of comic book animation, still shots and voice over. Skip the first movie, you don’t need it, everything that is important was in this nice recap. In the middle of the film, is maybe the best “Twinkie” joke I ever saw in a movie. There are also a few clever social jabs concerning the form that the devil takes. Let us not forget the money shot from the trailer, which is repeated a second time for an even better laugh.
No one involved in this movie will want to highlight it on their resume, but it won’t cause anybody to skip applying for a job because they did this movie. If you see the film, I don’t think you need to hang your head in shame. Be careful about recommending it to the wrong people however. Not everyone will have the demented taste to appreciate the few gems of wit in this otherwise stupid film. “Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance” does not rise to the level of craptastic that “Drive Angry in 3D” does, but you won’t have to scrape your shoes off after you leave the theater as you had to with the original.
Come back tomorrow for the live blog from the Best Picture Showcase. Four Academy Award Nominated Movies all in one day at the AMC annual event.