I have been eagerly awaiting this movie, and for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. Nicolas Cage was his usual quirky self as Johnny Blaze, AKA Ghost Rider. The rest of the principal cast included Idris Elba (Heimdall in Thor), Ciran Hinds (Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II), Johnny Whitworth, Violante Placido, and Fergus Riordan. While the acting was good, beyond Cage (who is always brilliant) there were really no standout performances.
My one real complaint about this movie is the way Ghost Rider’s appearance has been altered. This is not uncommon in movies. (They completely changed the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from how they looked in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and not for the better I might add.) Where in the first movie he had a white skull surrounded by flames, his skull is now black, and while I understand that they may have been going for a burned look, it came off more like a black hole on fire. I loved the spiked leather jacket from the first movie, in this one his jacket looks almost like it’s melting. Again I get where they were going, but it just doesn’t look as good as the first movie.
To be honest, for the first half of the movie, I wasn’t really happy with it. At the end of the first movie, Johnny tells Mephistopheles that he is going to own the curse and use it to fight him. As this movie starts, he’s hiding out in a dark room in Eastern Europe having become completely unable to control the Ghost Rider, even to the point where he is afraid he’ll consume the souls of generally good people who may have done some bad things in their past.
Johnny is enlisted by Moreau (Alba) to help him rescue the devil’s son and get him to some monks who will keep him safe before the devil can take over his body and become all powerful on earth. In exchange, Moreau tells him that he can have his curse removed.
They rescue the boy with lots of awesome fight scenes and go to the monks. Moreau helps lift the curse, but before he does, he explains the true origin of the Ghost Rider. The way they explain it seems to be simplified from the comic book history. In the comics, Zarathos was a Spirit of Vengeance who gained too much power and went insane (as I understand it). In the movie they say that Zarathos was an angel who was trick into becoming a demon. To me, that is essentially true, but simplified in a way that takes far less explanation. Maybe I missed something or don’t completely understand the original comic (I’ve never read Ghost Rider) story, but that’s what I walked away from.
Johnny is freed of Zarathos and then we learn the monks plan to kill the boy to prevent the devil from becoming human. Before they can, the monks are killed by Decay (whose is essentially Blackout, but I don’t think they ever say his name in the movie). Johnny (without any powers), Moreau, and the boy’s mother go off to rescue him.
The Devil’s son gives Johnny back his powers after Moreau is killed, and another great fight and car chase ensues. The boy is killed, but Johnny tries to bring out the angel who Zarathos was, and does. He brings the boy back to life, and the final scene has a now blue flamed and presumably Johnny controlled Ghost Rider riding along the highway.
I really liked it, but I hope there will be one more. I would very much like a movie where Johnny is in control and using his powers for good, which is what I was expecting out of this one. Since Cage has only ever done two sequels, this one and National Treasure: Book of Secrets, I don’t know how likely another one is, but I’m hoping.
One more note. Mephistopheles was played in the first movie by Peter Fonda. In this movie, he is going by the alias Roarke and being played by Ciran Hinds. My only problem with the name change is that they don’t make it obvious enough early in the movie. While I understand that the devil has aliases, it would have been nice if that were made clear early on, for example, someone could have called him Mephistopheles and he reminds them to call him by his alias. Simple enough, but they never did it.
Over all, I really did enjoy it, and hope there will be a third Ghost Rider movie.
Update: After a little research and talking to a couple of my friends, it seems that the Ghost Rider origin discussed in this movie is actually a combinaton of several different Ghost Rider origins from the comic books. Not hugely important, but accurate.
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Although you were disappointed, I’m glad that you still liked Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I too have never read any of the comic books, but one of my co-workers at DISH, who is also a self-proclaimed comic nerd, recommended that I check out Ghost Rider’s origin to help me understand the films better. I found Ghost Rider’s origin on DISHonline.com by simply searching “Superhero origins.” There were a ton of video clips of several comic book characters’ origins, and they’re all helpful in understanding how sometimes movies sway from the original comic books. I’m looking forward to checking out Ghost Rider in 3D this weekend since I now have a better understanding of Johnny Blaze.