Josh Wilding Reviews: GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE
Did manage to exceed expectations and surpass the miserable 2007 effort or is it even worse? Well, the answer is a little of both and you can read my spoiler-free review right here.
I wanted to like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, I really did. The trailers and TV spots were surprisingly good, and while I was well aware that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor aren't exactly the best filmmakers out there, their past work was enough to surely guarantee a watchable action flick. Apparently not. In fact, the directing duo of Neveldine/Taylor can now sit comfortably alongside the likes of Uwe Boll as the worst of the worst. Simply put, the film is a mess, and while it at least delivers on some of the promise of what we've so far seen, the sequel (which is arguably more of a reboot) ends up being nearly as bad as Ghost Rider's cinematic debut back in 2007. The latest "Marvel Knights" movie isn't so bad that you shouldn't at least give some thought to checking it out this weekend, but you WILL feel every single minute of the 1hr 36m running time. It admittedly has its moments, but they are few and far between.
The script is horrendous. No real plot exists, and what does is incredibly weak and predictable. The dialogue is so bad that you'll find yourself laughing in all the wrong places, while the characters are as paper thin as the pages from the comic books that the movie is so loosely based upon. Spirit of Vengeance is a mixture of reboot and sequel, but it's hard to imagine anyone who hasn't seen either the first movie or read a comic book starring the character being anything other than incredibly confused. We get some back story, but the choppy way that it's presented results in Blaze's motivations becoming less clear rather than more. Scenes are edited together jarringly and the insertion of strange little montages and cartoon-like sequences give the film the distinct feel of the sort of fan made rubbish you can find with a simple Google search. Oh, and that ending really is quite something. Shockingly abrupt and utterly baffling.
Nicolas Cage portrays Johnny Blaze in a camp and downright ridiculous fashion. While this may have worked for Big Daddy in Kick-Ass, his performance here is more akin to his ridiculed appearance in the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. One moment in particular (in which he interrogates a thug while laughing hysterically as he tries not to transform into the Ghost Rider) will more than likely end up ranking alongside the infamous, "Not the bees, my eyes, my eyes!" scene on YouTube in the near future. In fairness, it can't be denied that his decision to also play the Ghost Rider adds at least something to that half of the character, but the fact his movements are so bizarre and often cringe worthy that they end up making him more laughable than anything else. It looks creepy for all the wrong reasons. Meanwhile, Ciaran Hinds' Rourke/The Devil is not in the least bit threatening and his performance comes across as a mixture of pantomime villain and a stroke victim. Johnny Whitworth is no better as Carrigan, a one dimensional thug for the first half of the movie and equally uninteresting as Blackout in the second. Neither his appearance or powers make up for just how bland a villain he is. Violante Placido puts in a good performance as Nadya, while Idris Elba is perhaps the films only real saving grace as Moreau. However, with little screentime, poor characterisation and and mostly awful dialogue, it's hard to really praise anyone. Neither Elba or Placido have a lot to work with, and Fergus Riordan's forgettable take on a young Danny (Ketch?) is barely worth mentioning.
The special effects are impressive and Ghost Rider really does look fantastic. While Blaze is in his fiery form, the leather on his jacket bubbles and steams, and the way in which the flaming skull slowly dies out as he becomes weaker is an impressive and visually pleasing touch. However, the decision to have the Ghost Rider move towards his foes so fast is an odd one, with it ultimately appearing as if he's a silly stop motion creation of some sort. The practical effects also impress, although the various pursuits and action sequences don't really get much more exciting than what we've already seen in the trailer. Unfortunately, the 3D effects are nowhere near as effective, serving only as a reminder of why seeing any film that wasn't shot in the format or at least converted properly is a waste of time and money. In fact, there isn't a single moment where the 3D helps improve the, ahem, "story" or action sequences. If you really must watch Spirit of Vengeance , do so in 2D.
Even fans of the comic books will find it hard to like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. As the first comic book movie of 2012, it's hard to imagine that it will end up being anything other than the worst. At least things can only get better from here...
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