The artist formerly known as Nicole Timmons claims a spot as one of my favorite students. Nicole was in the first Freshman Writing class that I taught at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and the level of her work impressed me right away. As I got to know Nicole, I found out that she was wickedly deadpan funny on top of being markedly intelligent. She was among the first of several of my students that would write or work for Shotgun in some capacity, typically commenting on film. These days she's married (Hey, Cody) and works in signage (great word). Today, she's here . . .
I approached the second Ghost Rider movie with the same trepidations that I had when the first one came out. But after watching the original film—and deciding that it wasn’t all that bad, really, when you thought about it—I figured “Spirit of Vengeance” would be about the same. Nothing that raises your spirit or challenges your cerebral cortex, but a decent way to kill a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, I cannot give Ghost Rider 2 even that much credit. It was difficult enough the first time around to digest the idea of Nicholas Cage as a demonic superhero badass, but I had accepted the illusion and the character construct. Then someone decided that the Crazy Nicholas character that has surfaced in several of Cage’s more recent films was more important than the essence of the Ghost Rider. I was repeated jerked out of the movie action because I was too busy thinking, “This guy’s nuts!” It was funny in “Matchstick Men,” but this movie reminded me a little too much of “Drive Angry.”
I feel like the devil/demon-child cliché mixed with the classic “bad guy working against the forces of darkness” plot is a deadly boring mix. Both can be creatively used; they weren’t here. Moreau was a cool character, and Blackout’s powers were artfully produced, but these were a momentary respite from everything else.
The softening of Johnny Blaze that we see as he becomes attached to the Anti-Christ and his mother is another distracting element. I will admit that I have not read the comics, but even if the Ghost Rider is getting in touch with his angelic side, I’m not sure why he’s almost crying about it.
What you really want here is the special effects. And this is one thing that the movie did deliver on. I saw “Spirit of Vengeance” in 3D, and I thought it made great use of the medium. You had the flames and chains wheeling around the theater, and explosions coming at your face and rumbling your chair – I mean, what’s cooler than a flaming bucket-wheel excavator? And when it comes down to it, that is the only reason you’re going to go see “Spirit of Vengeance” – just make sure you go see it in the theater, where you can get the most visual bang for your buck.