Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider

I didn’t want to see Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I saw the first movie, Ghost Rider, years ago and didn’t enjoy it. The plot wasn’t that great, and I didn’t connect with the action scenes. The commercials for the sequel made it look like more of the same. But then I heard an interview with the always interesting Nic Cage on the always funny Ron and Fez show on Sirius XM satellite radio, and my curiosity was piqued. He was there promoting Spirit of Vengeance, and he and Ron Bennington discussed a number of topics, the most interesting to me being how Cage picks his movie roles.

On Saturday Night Live, Andy Samberg portrays Nic Cage as a near lunatic who will take just about any role Hollywood throws at him—the crazier the role the better. It’s a sign that we all want to know why someone of Cage’s caliber chooses such odd roles like Ghost Rider or Drive Angry or Season of the Witch. In the interview he states, “Right now I’m interested in horror films or science fiction films because that gives me a chance to provide a context where I can express some of the images I have in my mind about where I want to go with film acting.” And about acting he says, “Naturalism is a style that I’m becoming increasingly bored with. It’s fine. I’ll do it. I’ll do very photo realistic natural movies with small performances, but I also want to expand and open it up a little bit and be larger and more operatic about it. So I have to do characters that have their head light on fire and flaming skulls to provide that context.”

It makes me wonder what is actually going on in a person’s mind that he feels the need to experience what it’s like being a demon with a head of fire. But to him Ghost Rider is not just about the flaming skull. “[Ghost Rider] is a symbol of like a mistake and what can you do after you made the mistake. Taking negatives and turning them into positives.” I was geeked by idea that the movie would actually explore the idea of mistakes and redemption. I also wanted to view Cage’s performance to see just how operatic he would get. So I saw the movie.

The back story of the Ghost Rider character goes something as follows: Motorcycle stunt rider, Johnny Blaze, gives his soul to the devil in return for his dying father’s life. In return Blaze becomes a sort of minion of the devil, tasked with smiting evil souls to Hell. Whenever he’s near evil, he changes form—going from a regular man into a soulless, man-shaped being with a flaming skull and skeletal hands.

In this second film, Blaze is offered the opportunity to get his soul back. All he has to do is prevent the Devil from getting his hands on a special boy. The boy is special because he’s the Devil’s son. Satan created him as a half-human, half-demon vessel for his own essence because the current body he inhabited could no longer handle his power. The boy’s human mother tries to hide the boy in holy temples but the devil’s minions keep coming for him.

Overall, the plot was predictable and not very interesting. It would have been more interesting if the characters were more interesting, but the boy, his mother, the Devil, and his minions are all fairly two-dimensional. They only exist to serve the plot. Cage’s Blaze could have been more complex and interesting if the idea of mistakes would have been more thoroughly explored. It comes up, but it’s not the center of the film.

It’s an action film first and foremost, which is to be expected with a movie based on a comic book. So I guess it’s understandable that it’s more focused on action than ideas, yet I think it would have been a better film if it tried harder at both. Yes that includes the action, which I didn’t think was very exciting. Part of the problem is that the Ghost Rider is nearly indestructible. Bullets can’t harm him. Missiles only slow him down. He can defeat any human with the crack of his iron chain. He’s almost guaranteed to save the day. A lot of the movie is him being shot, but not killed. It’s hard to care about a character like the Rider who has nothing at stake. Blaze is the character with something at stake, and so I was always more engaged when he was on the screen.

The only excitement in the film for me was watching the Rider on his fiery motorcycle, which looked good and was well-serviced by the 3D, though I will say even the chase scenes weren’t as exhilarating as I’d have liked. Also the movie builds toward a showdown between the Devil and the Rider. I was hoping for an action-packed battle, but their fight is so short and unrewarding that I was left thinking, “That’s it?”

I wasn’t invested in this movie at all—not the characters nor the story, and it has me wondering if I’m still the target audience for these films. When the movie ended I overheard several prepubescent kids telling their parents how good the movie was and how much action there was. I’m glad they enjoyed themselves. Maybe it was meant for them all along.

There were a few parts of the movie I did enjoy; most had to do with Nic Cage’s acting choices more than anything. He’s such an interesting actor because of the directions he goes in. He just plays characters the way other actors wouldn’t, and you’re never quite sure where he’s going to go with them. It’s his cadences, the words he chooses to emphasize. There were a couple of scenes in the movie where he said things in ways that was just laugh out loud funny. Is he being silly on purpose to get a laugh? Is that he really the way he feels the character would act? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely as operatic as he promised.

To read transcribed excerpts of the Ron and Fez interview with Nic Cage, please go to www.theinterrobang.com.

After the trailer for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, watch the Saturday Night Live video of Nicolas Cage confronting Nicolas Cage.

 

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Directors: Mark Neveldine  and Brian Taylor (Together: Crank, Crank: High Voltage, Gamer)
Writers: Scott M. Gimple (TV: FlashForward, The Walking Dead), Seth Hoffman (TV: Prison Break, FlashForward, House M.D.), and David S. Gover (Dark City, Blade I – III, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight).

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Nicolas Cage and Nicolas Cage on Saturday Night Live

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via Hulu
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