Thursday, February 16, 2012

The First Big Sequel Of 2012, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance Utterly Disappoints!

The Good: The character design is better.
The Bad: 3-D effect does nothing, Abysmal editing, No character development, Plot? What plot?!
The Basics: In one of the worst sequels ever, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance solidly disappoints anyone who likes a decent movie, much less a superhero flick.

There is some irony in my going to a sneak preview of Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance tonight. It’s ironic that I would see the new film after coming so late to the Ghost Rider phenomenon; I only saw Ghost Rider (reviewed here!) last weekend and the whole reason I sat through it was that I knew I was going to see Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance today! Between the two events, I saw only one preview for Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance and it annoyed me. In the preview, a character tells Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider) that he has an assignment that will lift the Devil’s curse from Blaze. This irked me because Blaze made a conscious choice in Ghost Rider to keep the curse and do what he could to work against the devil Mephistopheles. So, I figured that unless Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance somehow dealt with that change in Johnny Blaze’s attitude, I would be pretty solidly panning the new sequel.

Sadly, I need no argument so finessed to completely rip into Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance. Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance is a sloppy movie. The editing was done by, despite what the credits and IMDB claim, a monkey and the special effects for the 3-D elements are enough to make one swear off ever seeing a 3-D movie again. Seriously, they are that unsophisticated and add absolutely nothing to the film, even when there are giant machines put into play that could be the coolest 3-D things ever rendered on the bid screen.

Yes, Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance is bad. It's a terrible movie and a terrible sequel. Like The Whole Ten Yards bad sequel. In addition to having a simplified almost nonexistent plot, there is no character development and, in fact, Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance illustrates a real degradation of what development was made to the Johnny Blaze character in the first Ghost Rider. While Johnny Blaze finished the first Ghost Rider as mildly articulate - even in Rider form - in Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance the character is largely nonverbal and reacts more like an addict or a full demon than a human who has any sense of conflict or nuance to him. And for those who did not see Ghost Rider, there is a simplified bit of exposition at the beginning of the movie that brings viewers completely up to speed.

Set years after the events of Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze has come to believe that he made a terrible mistake by not relinquishing his curse. So, he hides out in Eastern Europe where he lives in seclusion and works to not hurt anyone or let the demon out. But, when Moreau comes to a fortress of monks to give them warnings about an impending evil come to take their visitor away, he accidentally draws that evil to the monks. While Benedict and his men give a good fight against Carrigan and his forces, the boy Danny flees with his mother, Nadya. Moreau visits Johnny Blaze and offers him a deal; recover Danny and keep him safe and he will get the curse lifted from Johnny.

So, Johnny begins hunting down Carrigan and his forces to get Danny. This becomes a problem when the devil Roarke intervenes and makes Danny disappear from the Rider's sixth sense for evil. But, Johnny hunts Carrigan's forces to an arm's deal in the middle of nowhere where a giant battle occurs and Johnny comes to learn just what the devil wants with Danny.

Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance is more a collection of chaotically assembled fight scenes and special effects shots than it is an actual movie. The characters do not grow, develop or change and none of the new characters are even remotely interesting. Roarke in Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance is not as compelling as Mephistopheles was in Ghost Rider and Moreau, Danny and Nadya barely rise to being types as opposed to actual individuals.

It is even hard to criticize the acting in Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance because the script is so bad. Nicholas Cage plays a parody of himself as Johnny Blaze and the result is that Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance lacks menace, charm or even interesting moments. There is not a single decent or memorable line in the film and watching Cage's Blaze made me recall Mr. Freeze in Batman And Robin and how virtually every line the character delivered was a catchphrase.

Violante Placido is not even remotely interesting as Nadya and the usually wonderful Ciaran Hinds falls flat as the listless Roarke. Less of a devil, Roarke is played by Hinds as more of a washed out gangster in a mellow, blase performance. Child actor Fergus Riordan is unfortunately stiff and too frequently dead-eyed as Danny. Even Idris Elba comes to Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance with a remarkable lack of his inherent charisma. Elba plays Moreau and he is a far cry from the strong, intriguing guardian that he played in Thor.

Ultimately, the only thing Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance has going for it consistently is that the new character design for the Ghost Rider is pretty cool. The four years between Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance were spent honing the CG effect process and Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance uses that well. Unfortunately, directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor forget the first rule of good (not even great) special effects: if you have great effects, you have to let people see them. The biggest, most impressive sequences of Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance are poorly cut, put together even worse and presented with an irksome shaking camera motion that is more nauseating than it is at all stylish.

In conclusion, whatever hopes anyone might have had that Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance would be the beginning of a great year of sequels can stow that rumor. Instead, Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance reaffirms that February is a dumping ground for movies that should never have been made in the first place.

For other movies based upon the Marvel comic books, please check out my reviews of:
The Avengers
Captain America: The First Avenger
X-Men: First Class
Iron Man 2
The Incredible Hulk
Spider-Man 3
Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer
Blade: Trinity


For other movie reviews, check out my Movie Review Index Page by clicking here!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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