While the Marvel machine is thrilled to turn out good, sometimes great, movies about their Avenger-related characters (that'd be Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, etc.), a few of their peripheral heroes are still locked up in the vaults of other studios. Fox, for example, still holds the rights to Fantastic Four, and of course Sony does pretty good business on that Spider-Man guy ... but they also own the movie rights to Ghost Rider, and they're seemingly intent on driving this one-note cult character directly into the ground. Good news for Sony, which gets to keep this meager revenue stream on line, and to Marvel, for getting a piece of the pie, and Nicolas Cage, who clearly (ahem) loves to work -- but bad news for fans of the original character, admirers of quality filmmaking, and anyone who forgot to bring some Tylenol to the screening.
All you really need to know about Ghost Rider 2 is that, yes, Nicolas Cage returns, only instead of director Mark Johnson (Daredevil), he's now working with the two-headed team of Neveldine & Taylor, the ultra-wacky dual-auteur who graced us with Crank, Gamer, AND Crank 2. Surely this should be a match made in B-movie heaven, but the wheels come off of Ghost Rider 2 almost immediately after the (admittedly pretty cool) animated sequence that opens the film. Our flame-headed anti-hero Johnny Blaze is now saddled with a sequel script straight out of Terminator 2 territory: he has to protect a kid from Satan. On hand to try and withstand (or outdo) Mr. Cage's voluminous presence are Idris Elba as an ass-kicking mercenary for the lord (yes, really) and Ciaran Hinds as, well, the devil. Christopher Lambert, one of the planet's reigning lords of bad action films, pops up halfway through and does very little to alleviate the boredom.
Aside from a handful of isolated sections of a couple of action sequences, in which the directors show a clear and admirable affection for visual, well, lunacy, Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance is a true slog. The action scenes are cheap-looking, plus there simply aren't enough of them to make the 95-minute expenditure worthwhile. In an effort to provide a bunch of blather with which to string the set-pieces together, the numerous screenwriters resort to flashbacks, melodramatic ramblings, stupidly ineffective "hard-boiled" banter, and just a whole lot of mindless wheel-spinning. For all its alleged sound and fury, Ghost Rider 2 is pretty damn boring until it reaches Act III, which, to be completely fair, finally delivers a parcel of the sustained, energetic mayhem that we expect from our better "popcorn" movies. Yes, even the really stupid ones that star Nicolas Cage.