Monday, 14 May 2012

Film Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (2012)

Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Writer: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba and Ciarán Hinds

I must start this review by saying I’m a fan of the 2007 Ghost Rider. It was big budget, had great effects, was both dark and humorous, and saw Nicolas Cage take on the role he clearly loved. Sure, the story was hampered by a lack of a good villain and perhaps too much backstory before the Rider is unleashed, but for a second-tier comic book movie, it hit the mark. And by second-tier, I refer to the film never hitting the heights of Superman: The Movie, Batman, The Dark Knight, or X-2 but far superior to such disasters as Iron Man 2, Thor, Fantastic 4, or Green Lantern.

The first movie took a healthy $45m on its opening weekend in the US and went on to a decent final tally of $228m worldwide, so a sequel was inevitable and for me as huge Nic Cage fan, very welcome. However, five years have passed and Cage’s career has taken a nosedive in terms of quality with only 2009’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Know1ng worthy of his supreme acting talent and A-list status. Can a Ghost Rider follow up put him back up where he belongs?

The answer is… not really. The problems with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance are the same as the first film; no decent villain, a storyline that doesn’t grip, and no huge set-pieces to put the film in the audience’s memory after the credits have rolled. What the first film had, however, was a lot of fun and a solid (if workman like) direction and style. This latest film suffers terribly from the non-stop and incessant jumps and cuts and upside down camera movements that would make Michael Bay proud; why the directors feel the need to speed up 2 seconds of footage of a crowd of people walking or a car moving at 30mph, only to resume normal speed again is beyond me. It makes no sense in terms of the story, characters, or action. In other words it is ‘style’ for style’s sake and it is not welcome for it not only adds nothing to the experience and brings too much attention to itself; all the hallmarks of filmmakers who have no idea about what an audience wants to see. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor were behind the utter trash that was Crank and Gamer; films which should never have been made and whose audience are not those who want to watch a Marvel adaptation. Sadly, the story is so pointless I forgot what was happening or why half way through, so not even a Spielberg/Scorsese combo could have saved it.

And as for the 3D… The definition of pointless. I’m not one to want things flying towards the screen for the sake of the 3D ‘experience’, but there was nothing in this film which warrants the 3D upgrade you’ll be forced to pay for. If you think the Ghost Rider’s chain is going to hit you in the face, think again.

The elements which are out of the directors’ hands are the ones which make the film work and are the saving graces. Firstly, the CGI is excellent and the new design of the Ghost Rider is an improvement on the first film as he looks meaner and more menacing and his clothes are now also burnt which I thought was a nice visual touch. Also, we get to see Nic Cage as Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider in human form) trying to contain the Rider from coming out, like Bruce Banner does before he turns into The Hulk; the effects show his eye sockets turning black and his skull breaking through his skin, which again is a nice visual change from the original. In turn, this also give Cage a chance to let loose his crazy side, which has been kept under wraps for too many films and this is what he does better than anyone else. Also, the lack of Eva Mendes means the film isn’t weighed down with romance which is a major plus.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: Ultimately, by the film’s end you wonder what the point was and if this was really the best use of the Ghost Rider character that they could have come up with. I highly doubt it.

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