Ghost Rider: Spirirt of Vengeance is exactly the movie I was hoping it would be. Veering away from the abysmal original movie, this sequel is all killer and no filler, focusing less on story and more on over the top, comic book action. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s' manic filmmaking is a perfect match for Nicholas Cage's cartoonish performance, and together they deliver the proper Ghost Rider movie we should have had the first time around .
An animated sequence near the beginning of the film brings viewers up to speed, where we find out Spirit of Vengeance picks up eight years after the original. Johnny Blaze has traveled halfway around the word to live in self-imposed exile, trying to repress the Ghost Rider and keep the Spirit of Vengeance from manifesting at all. He's pulled back into active duty when a monk comes to him for help, explaining that the devil has fathered child here on the mortal plane, and he plans on using the child as a vessel to become as powerful here as he is in hell. The monk promises to lift Johnny's curse if he saves the boy from his fate. The Ghost Rider must then protect the boy and his mother from the devil and his minions until the window for the transference ritual has closed. It’s an interesting but simple premise, and the rest of the movie doesn’t spend a lot of time developing the story further. What little we do get is delivered in the same sort of animated sequences that contribute to the comic book feel of the movie.
If you've seen the Crank movies, then you know that Neveldine and Taylor are known for their crazy camerawork, and that is evident here right out of the gate. The way they film the chase scenes in this movie puts you right at road level, and it really lends to the action. Outside of the action scenes, their twitchy camerawork drives home the idea that Johnny is constantly fighting the Spirit of Vengeance for control, as when the Ghost Rider really takes over, no one that has ever sinned is safe.
Speaking of the Ghost Rider, he looks as dark and nasty as he should look in this movie. The special effects on his head and on his bike are fantastic. The way he moves is creepy, and he feels more menacing every second he is onscreen than he ever did in the first movie. The effects are all the more impressive due to the fact that the budget for making Spirit of Vengeance was $35 million less than its predecessor.
At the end of the day though, you will either love or hate this movie based on Nick Cage’s performance. He is completely over the top in this movie, playing Johnny Blaze as a man who is half crazy from his constant battle to keep the Rider at bay. I loved his performance--he goes all out, and I think the movie is a lot more fun because of it.
For me, the jump between the 2007 original and this movie was like the jump between the Punisher and its sequel. While the first movie was meant to attract a wider audience, the sequel is more concerned with doing the character justice. And it succeeds here just like it did there. My only real gripe was that it could have been rated R, but I'm hoping for an unrated DVD down the road. For me, this is the only Ghost Rider movie, and it's one I would gladly pay to see again.
4 out of 5 Nick Cage Fans
P.S. I didn't see the movie in 3D, so I'd love to hear if anyone did and what they thought of it.