For every successful Marvel comic adaptation there’s one which should be buried in a deep pit. Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance is the latter, a nonsensical, campy and worst of all, boring second instalment to the series which even the manic gesticulations of Nicolas Cage cannot save.
Former stunt biker Johnny Blaze (Cage) is still struggling with the vengeful demon that lives inside him and he’s decided the best way to deal with that is to lock himself in a shed in the middle of nowhere. His meditations are interrupted by a mysterious French monk Moreau (Idris Elba) who offers to rid him of the demon if he can save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the clutches of the Devil (Ciáran Hinds).
Meanwhile, an unscrupulous gang led by Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth) is also on the hunt for the child who is being fiercely protected by his pouty mother Nadya (Violante Placido).
After a much publicised trailer which promised a “darker” version of Ghost Rider for the sequel, hopes were high that it could offer the gritty thrills that the Roy Thomas & Gary Freidrich-penned comic does. Sadly that’s not the case, as it’s both cartoonishly unreal and laughably corny.
Cage is an actor whose loony facial expressions and neurotic twitching polarise audiences at the best of times but at least usually provides a modicum of entertainment. Here he’s not nearly crazy enough and he’s surrounded by actors who look either as if they’ve been carved out of wood (Violante Placido, Fergus Riordan) or are hamming it up so much they’ve begun to sprout curly tails.
Prime offender is Johnny Whitworth as Corrigan. Transformed into an avatar of Pestilence and caked in white makeup, he looks and acts like an out-of-work Scooby Doo villain who fell into a bakery rather than a credible antagonist.
Christopher Lambert is no stranger to barrel-scraping rubbish (Mortal Kombat, various ill-advised Highlander sequels), but Idris Elba is a superbly nuanced actor who should have stayed well clear and Ciáran Hinds (recently good in The Woman In Black and Tinker Tailor Solider Spy) looks like he’s doing an impersonation of Rog from 1980s classic claymation Trapdoor.
In addition, its 12A certificate means that “the world’s darkest hero” is diluted down to a thin, watery mulch – it’s more Xena: Warrior Princess than Spartacus: Blood & Sand. Those expecting anything darker than a prepubescent notion of maturity will go away sorely disappointed: it’s not even crunchy, much less gritty.
And for a film so utterly drenched in CGI, only one scene stands out visually – a set piece where Ghosty sets a crane on fire in a construction yard. The rest is the usual superficial mix of gunfire, explosions and flames and with no characters to care about, they’re quickly rendered predictable and dull, the 3D doing nothing but adding “headaches” to the laundry list of deficiencies.