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Film Review: 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance'

If you find yourself interested in the concept of a flaming skull guy on a motorcycle, talk to your doctor about Edgelord Syndrome.

Not every frame a painting - more like every frame a confusing, pulsating blur.

Not every frame a painting - more like every frame a confusing, pulsating blur.

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about this movie is 'incomprehensible'. That is, remembering the plot, or even describing it, is shockingly less straightforward and obvious than it is for most movies. Other movies can be described as having a beginning, middle, and end. Other movies have arcs and hero's journeys and character growth. This movie is a sort of shapeless amoeba of a movie. It's not a "drug trip" in the cool way, like Disney's Alice in Wonderland, Inception, Paprika, or The Matrix. It's not even "on drugs" in a comedic sense, like a Cheech and Chong movie. But drugs come to mind when watching it - you start to wonder which ones, and in what quantities, influenced the movie's creative decisions.

Plot

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Eight years have passed since Johnny Blaze (played by Nicholas Cage) made a deal with the devil and assumed an alter ego called The Rider. The Rider is a death-like skeletal figure on a motorcycle with a flaming skull. His purpose is to punish evil people, whose souls he consumes. Johnny begins to see this magical vigilante thing as more of a curse or burden than a fun time, so he seeks a way to get rid of it. He seeks help from a priest named Moreau, played by Idris Elba (who was Heimdall in Thor).

He ends up having to protect Danny, the son of the devil. His main antagonist is a demon whose powers rival those of Ghost Rider, called Blackout. Both characters got their powers from the devil. So what's happening is that the living MacGuffin - Danny, the son of the devil, is caught in a tug of war between two people who were given superpowers by the devil. As if that makes sense.

It turns out that Ghost Rider is a corrupted Spirit of Justice, called Zarathos. When he is able to defeat the devil (aka Roarke) and Blackout (aka Carrigan), he is able to become this entity, ridding Ghost Rider of his corruption and becoming a positive force for good in the world.

Info

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With a weak script, uneven CG work, and a Nic Cage performance so predictably loony it's no longer amusing, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance aims to be trashy fun but ends up as plain trash.

— Rotten Tomatoes - Consensus

TitleGhost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Studio

Marvel Entertainment, Crystal Sky Pictures, Hyde Park Entertainment, Imagenation Abu Dhabi; Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Year

2011

Producers

Steven Paul, Ashok Amritraj, Michael De Luca, & Avi Arad

Director

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

Writers

Screenplay by Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, & David S. Goyer; Story by David S. Goyer; Based on Ghost Rider by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, & Mike Ploog

Main Actors/Actresses

Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert, & Idris Elba

Cinematographer

Brandon Trost

Music By

David Sardy

Box Office

$132.6 million

Run Time

1 hour, 35 minutes

MPAA Rating

PG-13

Awards

None - Not even the Razzies and Golden Schmoes it was nominated for.

Review

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The movie is incomprehensible. Only about a week passed between me watching Spirit of Vengeance and writing this review - however, I barely remembered anything about the plot, and had to crib most of the above synopsis from Wikipedia. I think that's a sign of a bad movie - it tells a story you won't remember, or even understand when you see it. This is because the movie doesn't seem like a story most of the time, just an endless chain of fights that look goofy and have no emotional impact. The camera is always bobbing up and down during the action scenes, like the camera wielder is having some kind of epileptic seizure. The overall effect of this level of shakey cam could make you sick.

There were some conversations that built some interest in the story. Idris Elba was a good supporting character as Moreau, and Violante Placido was decent as Nadya, the mother of Danny. But these interesting-ish supporting characters couldn't make me care about the movie. It's hard to understand, hard to get into, and not even that good in the "so bad it's good" way, like perhaps the first Ghost Rider movie was. The movie's primary characteristics are lame special effects and a lack of clarity.

The reason I gave it 3/10 instead of 1 or 2 out of 10 was that some people might enjoy it as a guilty pleasure or in a "so bad it's good" or "so bad it's unintentionally hilarious" way, but personally, I didn't experience the movie this way - I only experienced discomfort and confusion.

© 2019 Rachael Lefler

Comments

John Plocar from Weatherford on February 28, 2019:

I get what you mean, I certainly do. And forgive me, I am going off a memory that's seven years old now so I may be completely off the mark for some of my comments. I do remember the shaky cam, I don't think it bothered me so much because I don't recall it being too overwhelming and was in brief spurts at a time. Plus I've seen way worse in terms of shaky cam so I guess that probably helped my tolerance for it. The aesthetic of the movie I chalked up as a gritty grindhouse look that they were going for, but I totally understand what you're saying about it. And I can't really remember how the effects work was, from images play in my recollection of it I don't remember thinking they were all that bad. But again, I know that I've seen way worse in terms of special effects so my tolerance may again be just higher on that one or I'm remembering them all wrong. I might have to revisit the movie sometime, it may effect me in a whole different way now than it did back then.

Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on February 28, 2019:

I understand how it may have that appeal of a so bad in an over-the-top way that it ends up holding entertainment value. For me there were a few issues preventing that. One the unsteady camera work made me nauseous. Second, the special effects looked bad, like something from a low-budget video game from the late 90s/early 00s. The final issue for me was that the visuals were of a "teenager who desperately is trying to be edgy" aesthetic. The over-the-top nature of some of it could work for some people to make something kind of silly enough to enjoy, but for me, that was not this movie.

John Plocar from Weatherford on February 28, 2019:

I'll be honest, I'm probably like 1 in 10 people that actually enjoyed Spirit of Vengeance. It's been since 2012 since I last watched it, but I actually still remember quite a bit of the movie. I had a good time with it in the same way that I would enjoy a Troma film like The Toxic Avenger. It's absurd, over-the-top, insane, and does not take itself seriously in the slightest. Spirit of Vengeance, by all accounts, is not a perfect film and I understand why anyone wouldn't like it. I just have a soft spot for it, plus I'm a big Nic Cage fan. I will not deny that lol and it's always nice to see Christopher Lambert in a movie.