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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (review)

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

Satan Wept

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is so bad that the projector attempted suicide multiple times during the opening-day public showing I attended.*

This is very nearly the literal truth. No more than five minutes into the film, the digital projector overheated and blew out, leaving us few souls in the audience to wait 10 minutes while the projectionist/hacker rebooted the thing and did whatever server voodoo he needed to do to get us back up and running. Twenty minutes later, it happened again. And again and again, every 20 minutes or so, for a total of six interruptions. All in all, the 95-minute flick took two and a half hours to unspool.
It made an already painful experience all the more torturous.

Oh, and of course this came after I was specifically and personally disinvited from the London press screening of the film. Which is why I had to haul ass to a Cineworld to catch it at a first public showing in the first place.

Someone really didn’t want me to see this movie. I’m guessing it’s probably Satan: he’s probably furious at how he’s depicted as an inept, toothless whiner. (Ciaran Hinds [The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy], who plays Satan here, deserves a better shot at the part than this provides.) It’s a very unflattering portrait of the Prince of Darkness. He’s more like a Prince of Beigeness.

I mean, Satan isn’t even very good at creating minions. Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage [Drive Angry, Season of the Witch], giggling and squealing his way through this in a sort of embarrassing caricature of a Victorian mental patient) made a deal with the Devil in the previous movie, and now every once in a while he becomes the Rider, a dude in leather with a flaming skull who rides around on a flaming motorcycle and kills people… but only people who’ve done bad things. (The Rider will come for you if you illegally download something. It’s true. He says so here.) It’s not exactly the epitome of total evil. Even all the flaming stuff is more like a 1980s heavy-metal-album-cover’s idea of “Satanic” than anything else.

Johnny rode his motorcyle all the way across the Atlantic — seriously — and he’s now in Europe. Where he’s hired to protect the son of an Eastern European gypsy, Nadya (Violante Placido: The American), who is also the son of Satan. Long story short: she made a deal with the Devil, getting saved from certain death and in return renting out her womb to Satan. Now, Satan is coming for the kid (Fergus Riordan), who, for some bizarre reason, is called Danny and speaks with an American accent. Satan needs to take over Danny’s body so he can rule the world and stuff. Whatev.

In return for saving the kid, Johnny will be freed of his flaming curse, or so says the weird priest, Moreau (Idris Elba: Thor, Takers), who enlists Johnny. I don’t want to spoil how it ends, but the prospect that by the time this is over, Johnny might no longer be the Rider and hence there could not be another sequel is the only appealing thing about this movie.

Many things explode along the way. There are many attempts at quippy humor that fall so flat they’re all but invisible, and are also very weirdly at odds with the would-be dark nature of the story. Perhaps directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Gamer, Crank: High Voltage) thought they were doing themselves a favor, then, by virtually eliminating all the darkness and just revving up the flames and the quipping. Who needs a sense of menace or of threat? It’s only Satan about to take over the world. No biggie.

*Stolen from @Overflight1, who followed on Twitter my travails in watching this movie. No, of course I’m not one of those horrible people who text during a movie. I was texting during the reboot breaks.

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watch at home

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
US/Can release: Feb 17 2012
UK/Ire release: Feb 17 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated TotD: akin to the tortures of the damned
MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language
BBFC: rated 12A (contains one use of strong language, moderate fantasy violence and horror)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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