Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence (2012) movie review

Overall verdict: 5/10

The Good: Awesome special effects (at least better than the first), tongue-in-cheek tone, dynamic camera work, surprisingly well acted supporting roles.

The Bad: derivative story, no sense of peril in fight scenes, Nicholas Cage's unintentionally hilarious acting, little emotional anchor in the characters, anticlimatic climax.

Lesson of the day: If you are going to watch something from the creators of "Crank", do not expect a movie that takes itself seriously. Especially not a movie whose trailer shows Nicholas Cage pissing fire. This sequel to 2007's Ghost Rider is by no means a horrid film; it looks amazing thanks to the advances in special effects and the kinetic camera work of directors Neveldine and Tylor.

Ghost rider Spirit of Vengence looks a lot better than its predecessor despite only having half the budget. It is darker, grittier and a lot more fun. Special effects have also taken a huge leap. Just check out the sequel's Ghost rider look ......

And compare it to how it looked in the preceeding film

The charred skull, body caked in ash with hellfire and smoke billowing forth sure beats this pasty white CGI skull and a stove flame.
Neveldine and Tylor works the camera such that it is always in motion adding a heightened dynamic feel and energy to the whole show. Which is good since this movie needs all the energy it can muster.

Essentially, the story is a poor man's excuse for a copy of Terminator 2. A boy named Danny (perhaps a shout out to Danny Ketch from the comics) is prophesised to become the vessel for the devil himself. A rogue french monk seeks out Johnny Blaze in order to enlist the help of the Ghost Rider in finding and protecting the boy from the forces of darkness. All the while, Blaze must struggle with his inner demon which threatens to take over him body and soul.

Before you say "But its written by David S Goyer! The dark Knight, Batman Begins, and Dark City were awesome", do remember that he also wrote "Jumper" and Blade Trinity. And remember too that while writing Ghost Rider, he was most likely working on Dark Knight Rises. Something had to give and Dark Knight Rises, with its bigger budget, made the choice easy. Characterisations are thin, bordering purely on archetypes than trying to develop them at all. "Strong protective mother", "wayward kid", "unstoppable hunter". No attempt is made to develop any of them beyond archetypes. Yes there are the mandatory scenes of our dark hero earning the trust of his young companion and regaining some of his lose humanity but

The acting is mixed at best. Child actor Fergus Riordan shines as Danny. Same goes to Idris Elba as the french monk Moreau who despite his limited screentime, manages to make his character the most memorable in the film. Sadly a muddled screenplay, given the once over by 3 different writers, completely undermind their efforts. The only one who does not need his acting efforts underminded is Nicolas Cage himself. He hams his way through the role of Johnny Blaze, overacting and underacting at all the wrong times. Most hilarious is this scene where Johnny Blaze totally freaks out and goes crazy from trying to keep the Ghost Rider contained. Someone like Jim Carrey would have made it cool (he did in "The Mask") but seeing Nicholas Cage going batshit insane is just...........disturbing.

Perhaps The greatest sin this movie commits is never giving a conflict or opponent that puts Ghost Rider's full power to the test. Fights never have that sense of peril when you know Ghost rider can immolate anyone with a touch or a stare. Action sequences get really boring when you know your hero is going to win. He takes out his chain, swings it about, fight over. And every time he does not win is because he does something silly, like stand around looking cool instead of finishing off opponents. Sure there is this one guy who can decompose a live person into skeletons with a single touch but Ghost Rider is neither alive nor a person.

Maybe Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence is not a straight faced movie. How can it be? It never takes itself seriously. Maybe it might have worked as a disorienting satire of dark anti-heros and quasi religious "angel/devil" ramblings. Alas any intent at satire is lost among three different writers and directors who are known for satirical, high octane thrills for the ADD afflicted sensory deprived generation .

And they totally missed a good Highlander reference opportunity for Christopher Lambert.
*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if good special effects, hyper kinetic camerawork and unintentional dark humor is your thing. Also if you did not like the first film.
Avoid it: because the comics are better and because there is nothing much to this film beyond the special effects and camerwork

Entertainment: B-
Story: C-
Acting: B-
Characters: C-
Music: C
Replay value: C+
"Brains": C-

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