GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE & The Duality Of Guilty Pleasures

Halloween has come to an end, but some scary things follow us all year. One of them is our guilty pleasures. No matter how critical a film enthusiast can be, there will always be that bad film that is difficult not to love. These guilty pleasures come in many different forms, such as Troll 2, The Room, or Birdemic.

Guilty pleasures vary depending on the person, and everyone has that one that they fear to confess to. In my personal case, it is 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. This film managed to inject steroids into a ridiculous concept created by Marvel. Even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is introducing a new incarnation of the character, so it seems like the perfect time to confess.

Crank Rider With Issues

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance builds upon a rather shaky foundation. 2007’s Ghost Rider suffers from being quite boring. Taking Marvel’s flashiest characters, it somehow never manages to do something interesting with it. Shortly after, Columbia Pictures announced a sequel, with Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor directing. This announcement piqued my interest. Crank: High Voltage proved they could go all out with the film, so it almost seemed like the perfect combination at the time. No matter how dumb the film would be, it could turn into a roller coaster of a ride. In the end, it was exactly what we got, though I would not call it a good film.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE & The Duality Of Guilty Pleasures
source: Columbia Pictures

In some aspects, I am unsure if Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is better than the first. Ghost Rider played it safe, but had a coherent structure. Its biggest problem was that it was too safe and boring. The sequel tried to inject life into the franchise, but ended up overdoing it. Action is disorienting, as the camera never lets the viewer rest. Everything is moving at an intense pace to keep people on their toes.

Ghost Rider is famous for riding a motorcycle, so the driving action sequences do fit with the more fluid camera movement. Yet, most of the action sequences are him fighting goons with a chain on ground. Add a lot of quick cuts to constant camera movement, and the film becomes disorienting. No matter the action, it never gives viewers any time to understand what is happening on screen.

There is quite a lot of exposition on magical reasoning for events in the sequel. The demon Mephistopheles, or Roarke (Ciarán Hinds) in this film, uses a human host to walk the Earth. He has found a stronger vessel in a young boy to gain strength. Magic is never an easy topic to get across well in stories of any kind. But this constant exposition, along with Ghost Rider’s origin story and more backstory, complicates the narrative, which is unnecessary.

A Joy In The Bizarre

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has its issues. No matter how often I consider them, though, I cannot stop myself from enjoying it. There is a duality at work with guilty pleasures. Sometimes we love the imperfections that make them unique, or we see a glimmer of hope within the chaos. Ironically, both elements are the reason why I enjoy this film as much as I do.

The perfect summary lies in the main character Johnny Blaze, played by Nicolas Cage. This actor made his reputation with over-the-top acting, and here he does exactly that. His transformation scene into Ghost Rider is hilarious, because he just goes completely nuts. The scene goes on for way too long, but it is difficult to not laugh at how ridiculous it is. Even subtle actions are completely overdone, and overall add to the ridiculousness.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE & The Duality Of Guilty Pleasures
source: Columbia Pictures

Nicolas Cage goes completely overboard in the best possible way. This even shines through his performance as the Ghost Rider. Seeing the skull shout at someone, or laugh while taking out various enemies, is a blast. Moreover, he is not the only one giving it his all. Idris Elba plays a French character named Moreau, and he looks like he is having a lot of fun as well.

Moreau gets some of the best moments in the film, though he is absent for way too long. Even the villain Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth) gets some great scenes. He turns into the human form of decay, which is an interesting power. Of course, there is a joke involving a Twinkie. Yet the villain’s powers seem to change depending on how the plot needs it, which does take a bit away from the film.

I confess that I love some of the action sequences in this film. My personal favorite is when Ghost Rider takes control over a mining machine. I turn into a teenager when that machine catches fire. Does it add anything to the film? No, but it is just so thrilling to see this gigantic machine catch fire and attack people. Even the last action sequence is just great fun.

It does take an entire film, but we actually get to see him in a car chase. The biggest complaint I can muster is that it is rather short lived. I also love the small touches that were added, such as showing that his flaming skull leads to the leather jacket melting. Somehow it is fine again when he regains control, but it is such a nice little touch. The CGI is not always consistent, but seeing his jacket bubble due to heat is beautiful.

A Marvelous Disaster

There are small glimmers of a much greater film buried beneath some bizarre decisions. Still, I cannot help but enjoy every ridiculous moment of it. It fits for me, as most of my guilty pleasures seem to follow a pattern of mindless popcorn fodder. Sometimes I enjoy a terrible action movie for being terrible. I quite enjoy Crank: High Voltage for that exact reason.

The thing about guilty pleasures lies in their duality. We know they are bad, but we cannot help but love them because of the same reason. At the same time, those few golden moments that work make them stick out even more beneath the rubble.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE & The Duality Of Guilty Pleasures
source: Columbia Pictures

The issue is that it is difficult to come to an understanding why we have guilty pleasures. Everyone’s personal taste influences the way we look at bad films. While I enjoy Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, someone else will turn it off after a few minutes. There is some beauty within imperfections, but that beauty is always subjective. That fact makes it scary, as we cannot explain why we love these absurd films. We can throw out theories why, like I did, but they are just a paradox overall.

What is your personal biggest guilty pleasure? What do you think of mine? Do you have some film genre that you cannot help but enjoy?

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