The original Ghost Rider was released in 2007 and took its time to tell the origin story of the flaming skulled demon rider from Hell. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance follows on from the original, but with a few notable changes that make it almost a reboot of the character. Nicolas Cage is once again cast as daredevil motorbike jumper Johnny Blaze. This time the script and direction have fallen to the team behind the Jason Statham Crank series, who clearly wanted to distance themselves from the critically panned first film.
Johnnny Blaze (Cage) still struggling with the demon that he becomes when surrounded by evil, is hiding in Eastern Europe when Moreau (Idris Elba), a religious warrior priest finds him and asks him to protect a child from the Devil (Ciaran Hinds). Reluctant to get involved, Moreau promises to remove the curse if they’re successful, which would allow Johnny to live a normal life.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has clearly been made as a way to wipe the original from history. Improving upon the problems that plagued the first, the villains are now convincing and interesting (notably Hinds) and the action involving the Rider is exciting with a strong final battle including the star performer in Elba’s wine-quaffing bad-ass French priest. Sadly for every problem that is overcome, another raises its ugly head.
The innovative camera angles and shots, developed in Crank, are overused and feel cheap and give the impression of a straight-to-DVD release rather than a blockbuster. With a few exceptions like close-ups on the flaming skull, Ghost Rider’s enemy Blackout (Johnny Whitworth) using his stealth and an impressive set-piece involving a piece of heavy machinery, the cameras shaking approach blurs the action and removes any satisfaction from the individual fights. The Rider in fact is another major problem, as he’s only used about 4 times in the whole film.
Nicolas Cage too, has gone off the boil somewhat and replaces his over-the-top demented approach to the character in the first with a more subdued version. Luckily, his performance when in Ghost Rider mode is suitable quirky and interesting enough to make this one of his better overall performances in recent years.
However, no amount of Cage spouting ridiculous one-liners and Elba being cool and French was ever going to be enough to make this a good, or even mediocre entry in the comic book genre. It is a shame that having waited five years for a sequel that the one that has arrived is as problematic as the first.