Movie Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011, Dir. Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)

I am one of a small handful of people who actually liked the first Ghost Rider film. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about it was the unimpressive ending, where Blaze’s demonic nemesis Blackheart absorbed all those evil souls to augment his power. Seen it before. Deacon Frost did the same thing at the end of the first Blade movie to become the all-powerful Blood God. Aside from that, I enjoyed the FX, the story, the cinematography, and Cage’s performance.

With the lackluster performance it did in theaters back in 2007, I never expected a sequel. I hoped there would be, but didn’t really think it would happen. Well, here we are in the year 2012, and here I am penning a review of not a sequel but a remake. Which isn’t all that surprising nowadays, seeing the way Hollywood has a penchant for remaking movies, and in some cases to ones that have only been out a few years.

As I understand it, this new Ghost Rider movie came to be due to the studio not wanting to relinquish the rights back to Marvel, and to do that they needed to be actively pursuing future movies for the possessed Blaze. What we got was a movie that is on one level better than the first, and on another much worse.

Like the first flick, the plot here revolves around the Devil and his plans for world domination. However, this time he has sired a son with a human female, and through some ritual that needs to be performed, that human side of the son will be consumed and replaced with evil incarnate and the world will begin its downfall into Hell. Johnny’s (Nic Cage) job is to simply take the kid from point A to point B, a monastery where he will be protected. Why does Johnny care about doing all this? Because he’s been told if he does it these monks will rid his body of the Rider.

Incidentally, the monk in charge is none other than Highlander Connor Macleod himself. That’s right, Christopher Lambert has a cameo. For a second I didn’t recognize him; his face is covered in weird, hieroglyphic symbols. It was only when he spoke that I realized who it was. And Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Watcher has a cameo too. Anthony Stewart Head  shows up as a monk at the very beginning of the movie.

The setting of this movie has been moved to Eastern Europe, which is one of the reasons why this movie didn’t quite click with me. I will admit I don’t know the comic book history of this character, so it very well may be that he had some adventures that spanned the globe, and if that’s the reason for putting him overseas this time, that’s fine with me. Looking at the mythology just from the first movie, Johnny Blaze seems more suited to the American Mid-west setting, connecting his origins to the old west and all that.

Second problem working to derail this movie was the actor chosen to play the Devil, and the character’s role in the film. Peter Fonda’s Devil from the first film resonated; Ciarán Hinds sadly does not. And if you’re going to use the devil as a plot point, don’t portray him as weak and ineffectual, which is what most of the movie does to him. The Devil is a major force of Evil and needs to be treated as such.  Actually, most of the antagonists Blaze goes up against never made me think he was in any real danger.

The improvements made here that make this a better movie than the first are simple, and probably minor when weighed against the detriments I have already mentioned, but it was enough to make it a keeper in my book. The FX, specifically on the title character, save this film. His design is more of a charred corpse, and his mannerisms when he’s meting out justice get weird and creepy in some scenes. The rules for him have also been altered. In the first flick, it was only the sinners that had to fear him, but in the opening credits, Nicolas Cages’ voiceover explains that everyone has done something they don’t want the Rider to see, an illegal download, a white lie, which puts anyone at risk who encounters him. He also now has the ability to change anything he seats his bony ass upon into a vehicle straight out of Hell itself, which is mighty impressive when he commandeers a truck and a massive piece of construction machinery. The CGI overall is much better than what was created for his first adventure, and the action scenes are impressive too.

The last thing is Cage himself. Everyone knows he’s fun to watch when he’s playing a manic character, and he’s got some good scenes in this one, the best being a scene where he is interrogating one of the bad guys while trying to hold back the Rider. He bursts into hysterical laughter when the bad guy tells him he’s got something for those shakes he can’t control. I laughed right along with Cage, thinking what he was thinking, ‘Buddy, you got nothing for what I got.’ He even goes ahead and explains to the man why he’s trembling as he roughs him up.

Funny as hell to watch.

And you get to see the Rider taking a piss. It’s a brief shot, but I think it was a riot, and, yes, when he pisses it’s basically a flamethrower.

The DVD I’m reviewing is the standard one, but the transfer looks impeccable, and as usual we DVD owners always get the shaft when major studios release their movies, giving all the juicy extras to the blu-ray. The standard version only has eleven minutes of deleted scenes, all of which do not add anything to the movie and were wisely cut out. One, however, is a scene of Cage playing the flame-headed hero minus the CGI effects. It was interesting to see how they made his face up and put these odd glow lights around his neck.

Trailers are included of recent movies Sony has released: 21 JUMP STREET, LOCK OUT, MEN IN BLACK 3, STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

For those that get the blu-ray here’s the list of extras you will find:

  • Directors’ Expanded Video Commentary
  • The Path to Vengeance: Making Ghost Rider 2 Blazing a New Path
  • Patience Is Not a Virtue: Pre-Production
  • We Will Burn This City To Bitter Ashes
  • To Hell and Back: Production
  • The Path to Vengeance: Making Ghost Rider 2 Walking in Both Worlds: Moving into Post-Production
  • The Path to Vengeance: Making Ghost Rider 2 The Fires of Hell Will Purify You: Release

Stills:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

From Around The Web: