"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" Movie Review
Hey everybody! So to kick off my new fansite, I thought I would post some of my old movie reviews that I wrote for my Facebook page. Here's my review of "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" which I orginally wrote on Sunday, February 26, 2012. Hope you enjoy it!
In 2007, arguably the worst year of the decade for Marvel movies, Mark Steven Johnson, the director of two Marvel movies that already had lived in infamy for most comic book fans "Daredevil" and "Elektra", made a film adaption for the Marvel comics character of Ghost Rider, once a motorcycle stuntman named Johnny Blaze who sold his soul to the Devil himself to save his father's life, and in return, became the Ghost Rider, an anti-hero now iconic for his unique look: a flaming skeleton in a leather jacket riding a motorcycle straight from hell, in the presence of evil people or spirits. As the Devil's personal bounty hunter, it became Johnny's job to not only fight against evil people or spirits, but become part in an internal struggle against the Rider, a creature longing only for death and destruction.
Sounds like a great idea for a movie right? Well Mr. Steven Johnson managed to add the third link in his trinity of horrible Marvel movies, as Ghost Rider, while being financially successful enough to merit a sequel of which is the subject of this review, was a critical and commercial failure, with just a few of the film's problems being its silly tone, poor treatment of the source material, laughable special effects, and exceptionally bad performances from its principal actors, especially Nicholas Cage.
And yet, five years later, Marvel decided to kick off what is shaping up to be one of the best years ever for comic book films, what with "The Avengers", "The Amazing Spider-Man", and "The Dark Knight Rises" on the way, by coming out with a sequel, entitled "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance", under new direction, acknowledging its predecessor very little, and only bringing back Cage from the first movie, reprising his role as Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider. So is this sequel / reboot to arguably one of the worst comic book movies a great start to the 2012 comic book movie season? Or is it just as bad, if not worse, then it's predecessor? Let's dive in together and find out!
So the setup for this movie goes something like this: Johnny Blaze, still struggling with the curse of being the Ghost Rider, is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when a secret sect of the church asks him to save a boy from the devil. At first Johnny is reluctant to use his power, but it's the only way to save the boy and possibly rid himself of this curse forever.
So firstly, lets see if the direction is any better this time around. It would seem that its very love it or hate it directing from Neveldine and Taylor here. If you liked their work with "Crank", "Crank II", or "Gamer", no surprises here, but newcomers and everyday filmgoers will mostly be quick to dislike. The whole thing from start to finish makes you feel like you're under the influence, which I'm indifferent about really. It's annoying in concept, and the movie's editing is a little off here and there, and some instances will leave audiences scratching their heads confused, but I, already used to the directors' style from their previous works, never thought it made the dialogue scenes too distracting, and made the action scenes feel really cool.
The story in the first "Ghost Rider" was plodding, overtly complicated, and filled with inconsistencies. Is it any better here? Now obviously in a movie about a guy with a flaming skull for a head, story takes a back seat to action, but the story here is still serviceable. Written by David S. Goyer, who wrote Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the movie's plot has a very Terminator 2-esque plot about it. It's meant to be about the relationship between fathers and sons, and how said relationships affect many of the film's primary characters. The relationship between Johnny and Danny is explored deeply and sensibly, if a little predictably, themes of the first film are touched upon (as well as fixed up) without going too much into pure, outright sequel territory, and smart ideas are developed just enough, as well as a few that are derived from the comics. All around, a serviceable plot with just a few story elements that are touches of cleverness.
And now, we'll look at each of the principle actors of this movie and we'll see how they did. Following in the tradition of many of his previous roles, Nicholas Cage brings a strong element of over-the-top craziness to both Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider this time around. Most people have mixed feelings over Cage's style of acting, and if you are less inclined to like him the sillier he gets, then this really isn't the movie for you. Various scenes where Cage is dealing with transformations into the Ghost Rider, the directors obviously allowed him to go as cheesy and insane as he wanted, and it really shows. Oh, and the man claims to have based his portrayal of Ghost Rider off of his pet cobra. Take that as you will, but if you love or hate Cage's performance here, it can at least be agreed upon that he's considerably less like a goofy and stupid man-child here than he was in the first movie, and is actually...dare I say, humorous? Only occasionally so, however...
As far as child actors go, Fergus Riordan as Danny Ketch doesn't give the absolute worst performance I've ever seen, but nothing too special, and he does act a little cheesily from time to time. But for a character that all of accounted to a walking plot twist, Riordan gave considerably more effort to his acting then Noomi Rapace did in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows".
Cirian Hinds' performance as the Devil, operating as a human on Earth under the alias of Roarke, is considerably better than that of Peter Fonda's from the first movie, with the far more experienced actor bringing a lot more of the gravitas and screen presence that a character such as this should have. He really felt like an aging, decrepit source of ultimate evil, in need of a new form.
There's really nothing to say about Violante Placido's performance as Nadya, Danny's mother. She was just kind of there, gave some cheesy line readings, and that was that. She made herself virtually non-existent in the grand scheme of the movie, we didn't end up caring about her at all, and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor was far more interesting in Terminator 2 then Placido is here.
But by far the best performance in the movie comes from Idris Elba as gun-totting, wine-drinking, motorcycle-riding French super monk Moreau. Elba legitimately tries to act more than any other actor in this movie and it shows. He's both funny and cool throughout the movie, and is the veritable Colin Farrell as Bullseye from "Daredevil" of this movie, and although his performance doesn't reach that level of hilarity and awesome, it still brings a good presence to the screen that isn't Cage's craziness, and leaves us sad when he reaches his untimely demise.
And finally, the considerably less interesting of the pair of villains is Johnny Whitworth, who doubles as both sociopathic criminal Ray Carrigan and super-powered zombie Blackout. Whitworth starts out with providing us with an only just serviceable villain in Cartigan, almost sort of giving off a Jack Napier from 1989 "Batman" kind of vibe, all of which is completely lost when the Devil transforms him into Blackout, a completely pathetic and utterly idiotic waste of an adversary, on the same level of Wes Bentley's Blackheart from the first movie. The character just really is too underdeveloped and nothing special, with exceedingly lame powers and a dispatching that commences so quickly, you almost wonder what the point of having him transform at all was.
Now for a look at the film's musical score. David Hardy's score is truly excellent and a massive improvement over Christopher Young's very guitar-ridden western-esque score from the previous movie. We've got a lot of fun and hardcore guitars this time around, deep and heavy drum beats, and a very rock and role kind of feel to it all. It's great and much more true to the character. A+ work!!
However, one of the most prominent shining lights of this movie is its visual effects. Like I said earlier, the action scenes have got Neveldine and Taylor's personal directing style all over it. They're all very gritty and realistic while at the same time being ludicrously over the top, it's a great deal of fun! Ghost Rider himself is the best looking thing about this movie, with his blackened skull and tarnished leather jacket. He looks real and scary, unlike the Ghost Rider from the first movie that just looked like an overblown cartoon. Another major improvement here.
So in conclusion, if you walk in to "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" expecting Oscar-level writing, acting, and directing, like it would seem most critics that saw this movie did, you of course are going to be sorely disappointed. Like I said, it's all about expectations. I walked in to this movie expecting anything that would make it better than the god-awful first one, and what I got was a high-octane flick with good, trashy action, a story that did NOT make me want to puke, and an exceptionally hilariously crazy performance from Nicholas Cage, possibly Hollywood's craziest actor working today. Sure this movie is flawed, but like my views are on films based on characters such like this, I don't think it's ever going to be possible to make a perfect movie about Ghost Rider that will make everyone happy. So, haters can and will hate, but I personally had a helluva good time with this one.
This movie currently holds a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes.com
My rating for "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance": 3.75/5
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