Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hands, Anthony Head, Christopher Lambert
Brian Taylor, Mark Neveldine
David S. Goyer (Story), Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman
It's understandable why the talented actor Idris Elba signed on for this second Johnny Blaze cinematic endeavor. After all, Elba is an acclaimed actor who continues to largely go unnoticed by mainstream Hollywood. So, I can easily see Elba's agent looking him in the eyes and saying "Idris. Okay. Okay. This project really isn't that great. The script sucks. The directors? Well, um, they're not exactly knocking on Oscar's door. But, Idris. MILLIONS of people will show up at the box-office no matter how badly this film sucks because America loves to see Nicolas Cage go ape-shit."
Idris contemplates while likely reflecting back over the course of his critically acclaimed yet seldom rewarded career then sheepishly replies "Oh, hell. I'll do it."
If you're going to see Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, there's a pretty good chance you don't give one iota about the film's review. You're either a diehard Johnny Blaze fan, a diehard Nicolas Cage fan or you just can't get enough of a dude peeing flames.
Take your pick.
When in Rome director Mark Steven Johnson has been replaced here by the Neveldine/Taylor directing duo responsible for such amped up trash as the Crank films and Gamer, but the real surprise here may be David S. Goyer, who shared writing credit on Christopher Nolan's Batman films, is the writer of this overblown, inept and graphically horrendous film.
Cage is, of course, back as Johnny Blaze, the dude who sold his soul years ago to save the life of his father and is now prone to exploding, fire-shooting skull fits of rage. This time around, he comes into contact with a troubled priest (Elba) who tells him that he can free him from the whole flaming skull thing in exchange for helping to hunt down a child (Fergus Riordan) with more than a little mystery behind him along with a certain Satanic dude (Ciaran Hinds).
While it would have seemed that Mark Steven Johnson was in way over his head with the first film, as bad as it was it still had a certain likable goofy quality about it and, let's face it, it's hard not to get a goofy grin on one's face anytime that Nicolas Cage gets a chance to go completely over the top.
This time around, however, all the fun has been wrung out of the film and replaced with a 3-D debacle featuring absolutely horrid, cheesy CGI that is either intentional or just plain awful. Even with its 3-D in full force, the special effects in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance feel muted and, perhaps even more surprisingly, so does Cage's performance. Cage has openly said that he wanted to create a darker, more intense Johnny Blaze but in so doing it he's taken all of the fun and personality out of the character. In this film, Cage's Blaze is more brooding and tentative, an approach not that far removed from the comic but much less interesting than Cage was in the first film.
Elba is actually the film's highlight, but Neveldine and Taylor never really take advantage of his more resonant and adventurous performance. Having almost no familiarity with the comic upon which this film is based, it'll be interesting to see if Elba shows up on what feels like a pre-destined third go around with Johnny Blaze.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic