When I first heard that a sequel to the 2007 Ghost Rider movie was being released I was wary. Yes I enjoyed the original but it wasn’t without its faults - actually it had quite a few! But when the trailer for Spirit of Vengeance burst onto my local cinema screen with the names Neveldine and Taylor assigned to the directorial roles, I have to say I got a little bit excited. Their style is not to everyone's tastes and tend to contain a lot of juvenile humour and crazy camera work (filming on roller skates while holding onto the back of a motorbike?!). I’d hoped that they would inject new life into the Rider movie franchise as I’d enjoyed their previous work (Crank/Gamer) for its fun and frivolity.
After a slight retcon of the character's origin from the original movie (Blaze now willingly sells his soul to the devil to save his father), the main section of story revolves around a guilt-ridden Blaze once again played by the one and only Nicolas Cage, now living the life of a hermit and hiding away from the world in an abandoned shack set to the backdrop of a very nondescript Eastern european wasteland (Doctor Who style quarry usage galore!).
The ever entertaining Idris Elba plays a gritty warrior monk with a slight penchant for wine - oh and a bloody terrible French accent. He enlists the help of the Rider to protect a very special boy whom the Devil (played this time by Ciáran Hinds) is hunting in order to transfer himself into the boy's body and survive on this plane without his ‘suit’ deteriorating. If the Rider can succeed in his task to protect the boy then the curse on Blaze will be lifted and his soul returned to him.
Some people may say that Taylor and Neveldine have succeeded in what they set out to do with this movie and in comparison to the original it definitely has their stamp on it, but I personally feel that it could have been so much more. With them at the helm it needed to be bigger and more madder than ever seen before, but every time you think the movie is about to get really good it's pulled back from the brink - we just never quite reach full speed.
It doesn't quite understands what it wants to be - part dark anti-hero movie, part fast paced action flick, part over-the-top Cage crazy cheese fest. Because it never fully commits to any one of these individual elements, the movie doesn’t succeed on hitting the mark with any of them. It’s scattered with odd gags (peeing fire?!) which really fall flat and I felt that the decision to make the Rider move in a flickering staccato-style manner - akin to Sadako from the Ring - was also weird.
On the flip side I think the new character design for the Ghost Rider is much better. He's now a lot darker, more charred and billowing with smoke. His motorbike has also been updated, it's a hell of a lot less shiny and fits better with the Rider's new rougher look. There are also some nice throwaway supporting roles filled by Anthony Stewart Head and Christopher Lambert which I enjoyed even if they are brief.
I believe the movie would have benefited a lot from having an older age rating (12A currently) so they could play further around with pushing the dark boundaries of the character, I mean come on - the dude sold his soul to the devil!
Overall I would say I actually prefer the original, so I highly recommend you actually go back and give it another look. Then maybe check this one out later when it graces the reduced/sale shelfs.
Stefan Harkins will overlook the martini glass full of M&Ms in this instance.