February 19, 2012 -- I would not have bothered to go see this except for the fact that I liked the first “Ghost Rider” movie, starring Nicholas Cage. Nobody does bad movies better than Cage, and he was in a doozy of a sleazy action movie not too long ago called “Drive Angry.” That kinky, wacky, warped little jaunt was entertaining and had a similar theme to this one: a guy comes back from the dead to save the life of a young child. He's got the same job in this film: Save the child. What could go wrong? Plenty, that's what.
It is a combination of things that sinks this sequel. The acting by Cage and others, notably Johnny Whitworth as the villain Ray Carrigan, was up to the mark, but there was a lack of chemistry, and the absence of Eva Mendez as the love interest from the first film was severely felt in this sequel. Without his old flame (sorry for the pun) Johnny Blaze (played by Cage) seems to have lost the spark of humanity in this film. Blaze, who made a deal with the devil to save the life of his father in the first film, seems to be possessed by a demon when he turns into a powerful flaming skeleton on a motorcycle.
In this film, there is an attempt to tweak the back story with a slightly different explanation for the spirit that inhabits Blaze when he undergoes this transformation into a mighty avenger. The spirit that takes hold of him is not a demon, but a fallen angel who went mad. He is the spirit of vengeance and justice. There is nothing wrong with this, but it doesn't solve the problem of Blaze's lack of humanity when he undergoes this transformation.
Blaze seems oddly detached, both in his human form, and in his Ghost Rider form. The special effects used in this film to illustrate the Ghost Rider are part of the problem. They make the Ghost Rider look even less human than he looked in the first film. The Ghost Rider also talks less, which doesn't help. It looks like more was spent on special effects in this film than in the first, but they did not advance the story as well. I particularly missed the effect used to illustrate the Ghost Rider's greatest power, his ability to extract the memories of evil deeds from the men who did them and use this force against them. The net effect of all this is to throw an anesthetic blanket over the whole film and to rob Johnny Blaze of his humanity.
There are also problems with the script. The internal logic falls apart, including the theology, involving the spawn of Satan as a vessel for Satan himself. The son of Satan, with the powers of Satan, doesn't really seem like an innocent child who needs saving, but that's what we're asked to believe here. Johnny Blaze also has to ask himself the question, is it wise to save the life of a person who could easily become the devil himself, or the Antichrist? It is also a big leap for us to believe that the Ghost Rider has the power to banish Satan himself to Hell forever, when it was a lesser demon, Mephistopheles, who created the Ghost Rider in the first place.
Sure, it is silly to try to analyze a silly movie like this in this way, but the way this film is presented raises these kinds of questions. Unlike the first film, this one fails to strike that delicate balance of drama and comedy. It takes itself too seriously. In the first film, the Ghost Rider had a certain wicked sense of humor. In this film, he just sort of plods along without giving much thought to anything. This is a real disappointment. Mark Steven Johnson, who wrote and directed the first film, was not brought back for this sequel. Too bad. He's got considerable talent, having written and directed the superb “Simon Birch” and the superior action film “Daredevil.” This film rates a D+.
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