A film review by Craig J. Koban February, 23, 2012
GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE
2012, R, 95 mins.
2012, R, 95 mins.
Nicolas Cage: Johnny Blaze / Ciaran Hinds: The Devil/Roarke / Johnny Whitworth: Carrigan/Blackout / Idris Elba: Moreau / Violante Placido: Nadya
Directed by Neveldine and Taylor / Written by Scott Gimble, Seth Hoffman, and David S. Goyer, based on the Marvel Comics character
RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE is crummy sequel to the mediocre-at-best 2007
original film that, in turn, adapted Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich,
Mike Ploog’s 1970’s Marvel Comics creation that seemed far better
suited to the pages than in a live action silver screen treatment.
Certainly, Ghost Rider is undeniably cool looking – with his
flaming human skull attached to a leather-garbed body that rides a
motorcycle that sets ablaze with the fires of hell that pollutes the airs
to the point of making environmentalists cringe – but he's ultimately a
weak character that lacks intrigue. When
compared to the great recent pantheon of comic book films, the first GHOST
RIDER entry felt as second-tier and forgettable as its original comic book
OF VENGEANCE is not quite a sequel, per se, and not quite a reboot, but
more of a mindlessly and hastily cobbled together homogenization of the
two options. The new film has
a scaled-down budget (apparently done for half of the original) and has
opted for a darker and decidedly gritty vibe, which, to be fair, is
arguably the right aesthetic choice.
The new film absconds away from being a big, glossy, and
audience-friendly super hero action film and has secured the creators of
the CRANK franchise, Neveldine and Taylor,
to take some of their feverous artistic lunacy and twitchy and freakish
visual flair from those films and transplant them to a new story of the
cursed Johnny Blaze. The new
filmmakers at the helm certainly breathe new stylized life into the
franchise, but they ultimate are not enough to erode SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE's
ham-invested and pedestrian scripting and absurdly terrible performances.
yet again that he seems to care very little as of late regarding his career
image, Nicolas Cage returns yet
again to play the role of Blaze, whom we learned in the first film was a
hotshot/daredevil motorcycle stunt driver that struck a deal with Satan
that had the nightmarish side effect of turning him into his flame and
smoke churning alter ego. Five
years have passed and Blaze has decided to hide out in Eastern Europe to
avoid triggering his wretched Ghost Rider curse, although it's never made
explicitly clear why Europe would be a location that would trigger less
transformations. While in
exile there Blaze meets Moreau (the too-good-for-this-movie Idris Elba)
who claims to be a member of a sect of mysterious monks who have the
powers of exorcising the Ghost Rider curse from Blaze once and for all.
course, Blaze’s payment for such a lucrative reward requires him to
locate and escort a young adolescent boy, Danny (Fergus Riordan) and his
mother, Nadya (THE AMERICAN’s smoky-eyed beauty Violante Placido) to a monastery. It seems that Blaze’s old nemesis, Satan - a.k.a. Mr. Roarke
(Ciaran Hinds, never so pathetically misused as he is here) is hot on the
trail of the boy, seeing as he may actually be the son of the devil.
Mr. Roarke wants to use Danny in a demonic ceremony that will –
correct me if I’m wrong – make him even more powerful on Earth
(again, the script is a bit hazy on details). With the devil himself and his henchmen, Carrigan (Johnny
Whitworth) in hot pursuit of Danny and his mother, it’s up to Blaze to
release the Rider once again to ensure the safety of all and ensure that
Satan is sent back to where he came from.
the very least, Neveldine and Taylor infuse this GHOST RIDER outing with a
more gnarly and a propulsive heavy metal vigor.
The actual CGI effects work this go around, despite the lower budget,
are indeed superior to the first film in terms of realizing such a
bizarre-looking hero and grounding him in the reality of a live
action film. The possessed character only makes a few appearances here and there in the new film, but
when he does the directors amp up the turbulent and explosive intensity in
ways that made the CRANK films such brazenly hyperactive visual
experiences. There are some
goofy moments of intrigue to be had here as well, such as the sight of the
Rider literally eating a storm of machine gun bullets shot at him, to
which he monstrously spits them back out at his incredulous enemy.
There is also a sly visual non-sequitur moment of sorts that has
fun showing what it's like for Blaze – as Ghost Rider –
to…uh…urinate, although I’m not quite sure why a creature made of
fire would ever have to; what's in his bladder anyway? Fire, I
Neveldine and Taylor’s outlandish and brazen spirit is not enough to
hide the film’s laundry list of faults.
Considering the filmmakers’ reputation for harboring a jittery style, post-converting the film to 3D seems like – and is – a horrid
artistic choice. Their animated and always-moving camera, quick cuts, and
overall instable method does not lend itself very well at all to a 3D,
which has the negative effect of making the whole film feel that much more
of an eye-punishing endurance test than it should have been.
Then there’s the film’s tedious and undisciplined scripting,
which takes so many narrative and tonal detours that it becomes unmanageably messy. At one
point Whitworth’s Carrigan is turned into a creature that can reduce
organic forms to ash (even food, which makes eating tricky) without much of a reason and later Christopher
Lambert appears as the leader of the monks that promises Danny’s
protection that’s introduced and then leaves the film before we can
almost blink. SPIRIT OF
VENGEANCE was unfathomably co-written by BATMAN
BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT
scribe David S. Goyer, an unpardonable sin if there ever was one.
of the individual performers also seem to have very little idea that they
populate such an utterly awful movie.
Placido is a luscious beauty to behold, but she is a totally vacant
vessel here as the mother protecting her potential Anti-Christ son. Hinds
is an actor of such low key and piercing intensity that it’s really
painful to see him reduce himself to the dubious level of a sniveling,
snarling, and raspy-voiced villain that’s cartoonishly all over the map.
Whitworth’s attempts at scene-stealing mugging and would-be sly
quips as his supernatural villain are hopelessly dead on arrival.
And then, of course, there’s Cage himself, whose appearance here
is essentially motivated by money over any other impulse.
will say this, though: there is something kind of perversely empowering to see an
actor of Cage’s past stature and acclaim thrust himself into one
mournfully bad performance after another without the slightest worry in
the world to negative feedback. Nic…Nic…Nic…I
sincerely understand that your recent economic woes have forced you to take one mournful paycheck role after another.
I get it. I do. Yet, here’s the problem: you've done so many of them lately
that viewers are starting to forget your more lauded performances,
which are unavoidably becoming distant relics of the past.
For every LEAVING LAS VEGAS, ADAPTATION, MATCHSTICK MEN and LORD
OF WAR there seems to be a festering pile of Cage-ian
stinkers that are overriding them, like the NATIONAL
TREASURE films, THE WICKER MAN, BANGKOK
DANGEROUS, SEASON OF THE
and…yup…GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE.
undistinguished and disposable crapfests like this, Nic, and all of the
good will that fans and critics have bestowed upon you for years will go
– pardon the pun – straight to hell.