*1/2 (out of four)
Just before “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” ends, Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) tells us in voiceover, “My name is Johnny Blaze. I am the Ghost Rider.” After two movies in a Marvel Comics franchise, the filmmakers probably shouldn’t have to worry that no one remembers the most basic detail about the main character.
Or maybe they should. This unnecessary sequel to the long-forgotten 2007 action flick again succeeds only in draining all fun out of total nonsense. That’s despite Cage, who flares his nostrils and bares his teeth like an angry horse just before Blaze’s head transforms into a skull on fire, maintaining his reign as Hollywood’s Captain of Crazy with a performance that sometimes feels like an impression of Andy Samberg’s impression of him.
This time Blaze aims to protect the devil’s pre-teen son Danny (Fergus Riordan) from having his body overtaken by the boy’s dad (Ciaran Hinds), whose henchmen possess so much brainpower they try to kill a demon on fire … by setting it on fire.
For some reason, directors Neveldine/Taylor (the far superior “Crank: High Voltage”) generalize most of the movie as being set in Eastern Europe, but specifically tell us when characters arrive in Uzak Gokten, Turkey. Excuse me if I couldn’t pinpoint that particular location on a map, though I can see that the over-stylized yet ugly “Vengeance” looks only slightly less clear with the 3-D glasses off.
As for religious men’s desire to kill the boy and avert (or fulfill? Who knows?) a prophecy, it’s not hard to understand why they don’t want the devil’s child to become all-powerful. No, the movie says, Danny’s not evil, thanks to the resilient guidance of his mom (Violante Placido), whom Blaze calls “the devil’s baby momma.” And that’s just what people want from a Nicolas Cage movie, in which his head is usually either literally or figuratively on fire: Inspirational parenting messages.
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