Ghost Rider 2 – The Do-over
It is safe to say that the original film is best forgotten, so much so that for the sequel the director relies on voiceover cutaways to provide a painstaking explanation of the backstory throughout the narrative. While these plot devices draw attention to an unengaging and poorly written narrative they are animated beautifully, much like The Tale of the Three Brothers from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One (2010). For Sprit of Vengeance these fast paced sequences, with their painterly aesthetic, are the brief highlights of the film that best translate the comic book form.
Simmering beneath the narrative is a sub-plot which, unlike the original film, focuses on Blaze’s inner turmoil against the Rider. Cage’s acting style is perfectly suited to a character fighting for control over his own body and to keep the ferocious and vengeful Rider at bay. The film gives him license to draw upon previous performances, for which he is most acclaimed, and portray a psychotic and tormented character. This performance however fails to compare to the alcoholic destructive attitude from Leaving Las Vegas (1995) or the drug fuelled rage from Bad Lieutenant (2009). Cage renews the arrogant, “cool” guy persona that may have worked in the comic doesn’t translate into film.
Cage’s performance is supported by ridiculous and well crafted visual effects; exemplified by the transitions from Blaze to the Rider as his face twists in pain before erupting into flame, melting away his skin and emptying his eye sockets to be replaced by the burning fire.
Unfortunately sloppy cinematography cheapens the film and fails to support the CGI. While the basics are down well, though some shots are underexposed, the director and cinematographer were a touch adventurous. The filmmakers use jump cuts, camera shake and overlaid shots throughout the film to create a unique style, but they are poorly executed. Most significantly in the action sequences that, despite being well choreographed, fail to reach a similar intensity of other films from this genre.
Spirit of Vengeance is certainly an improvement from the previous film, but once again falls short. After two attempts it should be sinking in that the Ghost Rider series, and all comic books for that matter, won’t work as a film unless they are treated with appropriate skill and a similar funding that Nolan received for his interpretation of Batman.