GBU Review- Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
GHOST RIDER 2! The film we have all been hoping and praying for! Was it awesome? Did it re-invent the superhero film genre? Was it an epic masterpiece that combined superior acting skill and exquisite direction with a Lovecratian hero battling the literal demon with himself, or, did it suck?
First off, let me offer my greetings! I’ve never posted before but I figured, why pontificate and use my superior knowledge of pop culture only on my wife and close friends? Why not spread the wealth and disperse to the faceless multitudes!
So, faceless multitudes, let me now off my most sincere and heartfelt welcome. I’m Tazz. I’m sure we will get along famously! Before we move on, however, I have to say, that I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan and due to this I have decided to structure my reviews in the following manner: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (which may end up being named something different to better reflect the film being reviewed.)
Now, on to the review!
For my inaugural post, why not review the most recent comic book movie out. I speak of course; of the cinematic turd know as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. This movie is not good. It is overly serious, doesn’t cohesive direction, the editing is sloppy, there Is no semblance of a menacing villain, etc, etc. Despite all of this, however, I kind of enjoyed this orgy of amped up action.
The Good: The best part about this film was Idris Elba, who plays Moreau, a devout, often drunk, warrior of God. Elba gives the best performance and is the only one of the cast to find the right balance between over the top shenanigans (ala Nicolas Cage and Johnny Whitworth) and ultra serious (pretty much everyone else). He is also able to provide the best moment of comic relief, such as when he pulled out a 2,000 year old bottle of wine and stating “I’ve had my eye on this for a long time!”
Because of this, Elba comes off as relatable, and was really the only character I came to care about. You got that he was a worn out fighter, near the end of his rope, and that he just wanted to do what was right. Another plus were the scenes he had with Cage. During their screen time together, for whatever reason, Cage toned it down and came across almost sympathetic, and I almost cared about him. The Elba left and it all went to hell! The only scene that was at all sentimental and made me care was the final scene with Moreau where he faces off with Blackout.
The effects were also very well done. I had the good fortune (maybe?) to see this film in 3D. Even though the budget for the film was half that for the first, all the effects were will done. Seeing Ghost Rider transform that giant piece of construction equipment was cool, or stand in the back of a jeep cackling as he fires of rockets infused with hell juice. And all the action scenes were pretty well done, and one of the few places where the sequel surpassed the original.
Lastly, the unexpected cameos were great. In the first minutes, you get Buffy’s watcher himself, Anthony Stewart Head. It was a cool treat. And then, midway through the movie, I got a number of dirty looks for espousing “Hey! It’s the Highlander.” That’s right, Christopher Lambert himself graced the screen with his face full of tattoos and positively radiating awesomeness as only the erstwhile Rayden can. And yes, when he went toe to toe with Blackout I said in my best Sean Connery impression (which is pretty good, mind you) “There can only one!”
The Bad: Can we go ahead and just say everything else? All in all, this was a bad movie. I could probably write a solid twenty pages on what was wrong with this film, but let’s focus on the top 3.
1. Nicolas Cage
I will give him credit he went for it, even more so that in the first one. The biggest problem is the tone which Cage was going for. It is clear that Cage and everyone else wanted to portray Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider as the sympathetic, tortured hero. But, you just couldn’t sympathize with him because while he was going down the straight and narrow, playing up the seriousness, there would come a scene like the one where he was trying to “scare” information out of some gun runner. He was over the top, hammy, cartoonish, etc. He was shaking his head, pacing back and forth and sporadically cackling, basically doing everything short of begging the audience to see that he was losing it. It was all just too much. Seriously, I kept waiting for him to start screaming about bees.
Instead of having Cage carefully tread that line between stability and insanity, they had him bouncing back and forth like the ball in Pong. He also lost all the fun and quirkiness that was evident in the first film. There were no weird cartoons, occult fixations, or bad southern accents. Basically, everything that made Johnny Blaze relatable in the first movie was stripped away to try and craft this tortured hero teetering on the edge, and it just didn’t come across, because without those fun quirks, Johnny Blaze is just kind of a whiner, and who wants to watch a movie where the main character is all “woe is me” unless the lead is Woody Allen?
2. The direction/editing
Hired as directors for this go round were the masterminds behind Crank, Neveldine and Taylor, bring their trademark dub step action sequences and fixation on the immature and weird. As they were directing this film, I think they kept asking themselves “What would Chev Chelios do?”
Sure the action was fun, and in most places better than the original, but the gravity that was in place in the first movie was all lost. In that film, when Ghost Rider was there, you knew it was serious. Sure, a biker with a flaming skull for a head is weird, but the underlying message of what Ghost Ryder stands for was there. In Spirit, however, the Rider is now just hungry, all thoughts of justice seemingly out the window, and they just brought the weird. They clearly wanted a creepy Ghost Rider, but instead we get one who dances in place and pees fire.
Outside that, there is little pace in the film. It basically just staggers forward with no real sense of where it is going and with little care of how it gets there. The editing is typically frenetic and fast paced, the standard for Neveldine and Taylor, and at times, it will give you the appearance that things are moving forward at a normal, or even brisk pace. But they’re not. I looked at my cell phone 8 times, and each time I thought, “Really? How has it only been 10 minutes?” Somehow, they made a 95 minute movie last about 3 hours.
3. Where’s the villain?
For half the movie, the only villain is a regular old, human gun runner named Carrigan, who is kind of a douche. Then they throw Rourke at you, who we are told is the Devil, but due to the restrains of his physical form, he has basically no power.
So, we have Carrigan vs. Ghost Rider, round 1. Point goes to Carrigan, who busts a grenade launcher out of his pants and puts down the Rider.
Really, we know, that just pissed him off.
Carrigan vs. Ghost Rider, round 2. Point goes to the Spirit of Vengeance himself. Bonus points for morphing a giant crane into a weapon of devilish intent. Negative points to everyone for consistency. In the first fight, a grenade took him out. This time Ghost Rider gets hit with 3 super, heat seeking, oxygen murdering missiles.
Carrigan, after defeat, gets turned in to Blackout, a creepy villain who can decay anything he touches and had his douche factor turned up to 11. He went toe to toe with The Highlander to show his supernatural cred.
Everything from there, with the exception of the final showdown between Carrigan/Blackout and Ghost Rider, which took place during a pretty good chase scene, was lackluster at best. When Blaze finally caught up to Rourke, aka the freaking DEVIL, what happened? That’s right, you guessed it, the Devil ran away.
The problem comes down to this: Ghost Rider is an unstoppable force. This is clear. In order to create sufficient tension and danger, you need villains who can stand up to the hero, who can make you think that they will win. Not cowards and douches.
The Confusing: You can’t do a reboot and a sequel at the same time; it just doesn’t work that was. You have to pick. Huge problem here, they didn’t. They clearly didn’t want to follow up with the first film, which is shown with the shift in tone, lack of all previous characters (sans Cage) and new origin, sort of.
But then Cage is still there. Because of that, you can’t forget the first film. Cage's mere presence reminds you of that first (arguably better) film, and because of that, all the places where they change the lore and happenstances are glaringly evident.
For instance, in the first film, it was clearly stated that the Ghost Rider would only come out at night, or more specifically, when not in sunlight. With this movie, they through that out the window completely. Also, they basically rewrote the origin and threw a brand new Devil at us. Why? That was one of the few bits from the first film that kind of worked.
And then, at times, they made allusions to the first film. It was all just a hodge podge and they never really decided what direction they were going to take it. If you want to make a sequel, do that. If you want to reboot, it, well awesome! Do that! Under no circumstances are you to try and do both at once. It DOES NOT WORK.
Also, Idris Elba’s accent kept fluctuating between Jamaican and French. Not a huge thing, but I kept noticing it. Actually made things funnier, and didn’t really detract. If you listen however, you will notice.
All in all, while this is an unquestionable black stain on Marvel’s cinematic record, for all of the missteps and wrong decisions, it is fun in its ridiculousness. It is over the top, the action is cool, and it was funny to see Ghost Rider pee fire. If you saw this movie, admit it, you chuckled.
My Stance: I wouldn’t recommend watching this movie, you can find a better use of your time, I assure you. But if you do, you won't hate yourself for it… much. At the very least, Youtube the scene where Ghost Rider spits fire bullets at some random baddie, that was pretty awesome.
Rating: 2 out 5 Stars
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