Saturday, February 18, 2012

'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' Review - An Unfortunate Misstep For the Marvel Character

It's been five years since Marvel comics Ghost Rider last graced, or crashed and burned in some eyes, in Mark Steven Johnson's movie 'Ghost Rider'. The movie starred Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a man who makes a deal with the Devil to save his father, only to become cursed as a flaming skull vigilante known as Ghost Rider. The movie did well at the box office, but was considered by many to be a wasted opportunity to bring  the character to the big screen. Now Sony has gone back to the character to try again, with the duo behind the 'Crank' series, a new take on the character, and Nicholas Cage back as the anti-hero. But unfortunately, the movie falters out the gate and never quite recovers during it's short running time, making 'Spirit of Vengeance' a very disappointing return to the character.

'Spirit of Vengeance' is a little hard to describe. It picks up years after the original, but in a way, pretends the original didn't happen. So essentially, this a reboot, but with Cage returning as Johnny Blaze. None of this really makes any ounce of sense, which isn't surprising because the narrative of the film follows the same trend. The movie follows Blaze trying to stop a child of a gypsy becoming the anti-Christ, while trying to get rid of the Rider. And that's about all the structure of the film is. The next ninety minutes is a string of bad dialogue, weak and badly directed action scenes, and over acting from all involved. And there in lies many of the films problems.

In order for any story to work, you have to get to know the characters and get to know their motivations. But in this movie, there isn't any of that. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the duo behind the 'Crank' series, have no idea what these characters should be doing. They're more focused on their chaotic and frantic filming styles and being extreme than the dynamics of the characters and the story of the film. They admittedly didn't know much about the character, and even chose the villain because they thought he looked cool in the comics. That should explain quite a bit of why the film feels so disjointed and doesn't really work.

The acting is subpar at best, with Cage being over the top as usual. His phoned in performances are becoming tiresome, and I can tell that Neveldine and Taylor tried pushing Cage to his utmost insane. It just didn't work in this movie. The supporting cast, including great actors such as Idris Elba, are given close to nothing to do and sleep walk through the movie. The only good thing I can say about the cast is that Cage and Fergus Riordan, who plays the young boy Danny, do have great on screen chemistry and look like they had fun working together on the film. Oh, and if you look closely towards the end, you may recognize Christopher Lambert, of 'Highlander' fame as a tattooed monk towards the end of the film who is giving nothing to do.

What really bothers me more than anything, is this could have been a fun, grindhouse style, B action film in the hands of these directors, and the movie doesn't even reach that potential. The directing duo's style just doesn't work with this character. The action scenes are all over the place and you don't really get a great idea of what's going on. The Rider shows up, wrecks havoc, pees fire, and vomits bullets on people, but his presence is so minuscule throughout the movie. So the fact that the few scenes that the titular character shows up in aren't that fun is really disheartening. And I want to know why every time they're any place, it looks like the middle of no where. The movie feels incredibly cheap. If Sony wasn't really willing to put the time and money into the film, they should have just let the rights lapse back to Marvel and let them do it correctly.

'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' is a missed opportunity on so many levels that makes the first movie look like an Academy Awards nominee. The acting is over the top, and not in a good way, the story is non existent, and the action is chaotic and terribly staged. By the time the movie was over, I couldn't wait to leave. The ninety minutes dragged for what felt like three hours, which is an even worse sign. It's hard for me to remember the last time I looked at my phone so many times while seeing a movie, hoping it would be over soon. At this point, I pray that Marvel gets the rights back from Sony and can reboot the character properly. I highly doubt we'll be seeing a third film with Cage as the anti-hero. I'm very, very disappointed in this movie and wish I could say it was better than it turned out and really wish I could say this is the take on the character I had been hoping for.

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