Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Review
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a 2012 American action/horror film based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name and serves as a sequel/reboot to 2007's Ghost Rider. Nicolas Cage reprises his role as Johnny Blaze, the titular anti-hero, and the duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) take over directing duties. Idris Elba (The Wire), Johnny Whitworth (3:10 to Yuma), Christopher Lambert (Highlander) and Ciarán Hinds (HBO’s Rome) round off the cast with a script by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins).
Being placed under the 'Marvel Knights' banner seems to be a bad luck omen as Marvel's last darker attempt in Punisher: War Zone led to very little financial success but garnered a dedicated cult following. Will Spirit of Vengeance suffer the fate?
SOV is one of those films where you just have to throw away everything you know about films and just sit back and enjoy the ride (pun intended). The plot is as simple as can be: the Devil is trying to imbue the Anti-Christ with all of his power (for some kind of world-domination scheme, I imagine) so a secret church sect hires Johnny Blaze to stop him; and whilst there are a few complications created by Elba's alcoholic French monk, Moreau and Whitworth's evolution from human mercenary to super villain Blackout, the events still follow the predicable and obvious route.
Neveldine and Taylor have such a distinct style that they have a very polarising effect on audiences, either loving their over-saturated avant-garde style or hating their composition-less, handheld, shaky camera technique. In truth, their direction comes across as schizophrenic or 'different for the sake of being different', as in one scene you'll notice faint whiffs of Gasper Noe or Shinya Tsukamoto but in other scenes, Michael Bay or Joel Schumacher. Be prepared for their fast-paced, ridiculous, in-your-face way of doing things or else you will be lost very early on in the film, because that's what Neveldine and Taylor do, rather than provide you with a show they provide you with an experience.
Interestingly enough, there are two fantastic animated segments used in the film to present backstory in an interesting manner which makes good use of 2D animation, as well as providing a cheeky cameo for the film makers. The music is as loud and violent as the film itself and SOV contains possibly the best post-converted 3D that I have ever seen.
The acting is a mixed bag with Cage utilising his usual brand of loony, ADHD otherworldliness and Hinds focusing all of his inner panto spirit into his constantly grimacing Devil. Whitworth makes for an adequate one-dimensional mercenary but his terrible Blackout make-up ruins any chance of taking his super villain seriously. Relative newcomer Fergus Riordan (Fragile) makes a reasonable effort as the Antichrist plot device Danny and forms a semi-believable relationship with his on-screen mother Nadya, portrayed by singer/songwriter Violante Placido (The American). British TV actors Anthony Head (Buffy, Merlin) and Vincent Regan (300) turn up for tiny appearances whilst Lambert gets an extended guest role which would really not be worth talking about if it were not for a visually glorious action piece with Whitworth's Blackout.
Being a fan of the comic books, I thought it was great that they decided to include Zarathos (nerd points) into the film's mythology but I was a little disappointed that they never strictly confirm whether Danny is Johnny Blaze's successor Danny Ketch or not.
Although Spirit of Vengeance is doomed to critical and commercial failure, I predict that time will be kinder to this 'requel' and that if you do enjoy the film then be rest assured; there are plenty of others just like you. In summary, a fantastic 3D romp for anyone looking for a good time without any hint of seriousness.