I know this picture signifies something…

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the perfect sort of movie to explain how I regard which bad movies are worth hating and which ones should simply be ignored. Basically, the difference between the sort of movies that end up on my year end Worst 10 list vs. the handful of bad movies I see but don’t even bother to review.

Make no mistake, Ghost Rider 2 is shitty and I expected it to be shitty. I thought it would be excrementally entertaining though! It isn’t very entertaining at all. I mean, conceptually this is a remake of Terminator 2 with demonic possession and fire piss. At the least, that’s an entertaining sentence to write let alone think about. So what the fuck happened?

The Rider effects are waaaay better this time around. The character design is actually effective, though some of the appeal is lost when he’s featured in full daylight as is often the case in this movie.

For all that Ghost Rider 2 is likely to be one of the worst movies of the year, there are redeeming qualities. That’s what makes the difference. I didn’t expect there to be any cinematic flair, but there is. I didn’t expect the action sequences to be interesting or dynamic, but they are. It’s everything else that falls completely fucking flat. Cage isn’t crazy enough to carry this, though he gets one or two scenes to unleash and they don’t disappoint (the scene at the end where he accesses the angelic inner core of the demon possessing him is the highlight: “I can feel him, heeheehee!!!). The supporting cast is whatever, though Idris Elba does his level best to have fun in a forced role as a drunken French monk named Moreau. Even Christopher Lambert turns up looking allageless and French.

The plot, mostly ignoring the first movie, is that Johnny Blaze is hiding out in Eastern Europe and trying to contain the evil demon inside. Moreau finds him and convinces him to help protect a kid who’s the devil’s son (the devil is constantly referred to as Rourke for some reason) in exchange for an exorcism. The movie then loses Elba right up until the last 20 or so minutes, wasting an opportunity to make Ghost Rider 2 the gonzo buddy movie it should have been. I don’t hold that against it though, since it’s probably to the movie’s credit that I wanted to see more of these two characters hanging out being all bewildered, drunk, and alarmed.

Anyways. Instead, we get too many scenes of the kid and his mom (who is no Sarah Connor by the way). The kid’s name is Daniel. He has an American accent for no discernible reason other than that Ciaran Hinds, slumming it ineffectually as Rourke, does. The kid is bland and terrible and his mom is shrill and apparently a gypsy with connections to arms dealers. One of those arms dealers, Carrigan, is chasing them around. He gets turned into a pasty white demoniac like The Rider after he dies. His lame powers are to decay everything around him but there’s at least one halfway decent gag involving this so whatever. So Daniel is the son of Rourke and his new vessel on Earth because the devil keeps burning out his vessels as we learned was a thing in Season Five of Supernatural.

If there’s one thing obscure French monks like, it’s guns.

It’s pretty run of the mill bullshit, really. The plot just isn’t all that interesting or new; it’s cobbled together from every possession/satanic/secret religious order source you’ve ever seen on a Gawker list. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem if the other elements were the draw but there’s just nothing much here beyond the few redeeming qualities I already mentioned.

These come from Neveldine and Taylor, the directorial team responsible for the most bonkers mainstream movies of our generation. For me, they were four for four with Crank, Crank 2, Pathology (underseen), and Gamer (underrated). Now they’ve got a true fail on their hands, but what is interesting in Ghost Rider 2 definitely comes from the manic energy they infuse their films with. Who else would let Nic Cage run around on set in Baron Samedi make-up and using serpents as a reference point for how his demonic character moves (a detail which is really creepy and effective in the film, actually).

When I talk about the redemptive camerawork and action, I’m talking about articles like this shot above. It’s a great shot and the movie has many of them so you’re not bored watching any scene that allows for this kind of flair.

What they’ve failed to do is create a coherent movie where everything gels. The characters don’t really work as they’re mostly ciphers with bad to middling actors doing shitty jobs. The plot is overly complex, too much of the background being made foreground when the Terminator 2 formula should have been easy to follow and remix as needed. The humor seems constrained by the rating (PG-13 for what was intended as an R rated movie) and so Ghost Rider 2 fails to be the crazy German Deathmetal version of the character that I seem to recall was intended.

Though, again, there are a few nuggets of undigested goodness in this overall turd, they are enjoyable only when removed from context. No one cares why the Rider must fight so and so on the Moroccan highway or wherever and looking cool just isn’t enough. See every other genre movie that’s failed spectacularly; this is a fucking truism by now and there’s no excuse for it even if you are Neveldine and Taylor. Do better next time, guys. Or don’t pick projects where someone’s gonna come along and fuck it up by order of committee.

Ghost Rider 2 is the kind of movie that idiots “enjoy for what it is”. There’s even less excuse for giving this a pass than there is for the assholes who let it (or mandated it to) be made this way in the first place.

I wish I’d been able to summon as much interest in writing this review as Cage seems to have in his demon-hand here.