Monday, February 20, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Review

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, isn't a horror movie. We know that. We bent the rules however, because there wasn't a lot  coming out to review and it has to do with a demon from hell, so that's kind of horror related, right?

And I'll be honest, I had some high hopes for this movie. I'm one of those people who root for Nicholas Cage, I really do. I know the man is terrible with his money and has to take really shitty roles to make ends meet, but I also know he's a hardcore comic book fan, and I always feel that he is getting to live his dream playing as Ghost Rider. 

Which hurts my heart to say, but I'm just going to come out and say it--the following Youtube clip I'm about to post is more entertaining to me that the entirety of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  Go on, watch. Tell me that you don't smile, laugh, and then replay it.

That felt good didn't it? You know why? Because you just got to see an entire video clip of the Nick Cage's signature "freak-out." He's particularly good at it and it's always very enjoyable to watch. It's what people who "admire" Nick Cage, wait for in his films. Hell, my cohort Chrissie gets excited for his films solely for the anticipation of the freak-outs.  In fact, I'm not even sure he really acts anymore in films, rather he prepares for a role drinking a little absinthe, talking to himself in a mirror, and then lets the cameras start rolling.

That said, there are a few good moments in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance where Cage gets let off his leash to go nuts. In fact, the first time this happens is an agonizing 25 minutes into the film where the preceding events and story the film is trying to set in place are so boring, I couldn't stop checking the time every few minutes. The scene in particular comes when Johnny Blaze (Cage) is interrogating a man and puts a cell-phone in his mouth to shut him up. You'll know it when you see it and it's easily the most memorable scene in this otherwise pointless movie.

It's not quite this crazy, but it's close.
And mind you, I didn't have high expectations for this film and I tend to like the "he's so bad he's good" Nick Cage. Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant in particular have great Cage moments, but this film just wasn't doing it for me.

I have a lot to dislike about this movie, so lets get cracking. First, Marvel has been kind of riding high on their franchises as of late. Captain America, Thor, X-Men: First Class and the Iron Man movies has all been received well by critics and fans over the last few years and the upcoming Avengers move is riding on a cloud-9 level of hype. I would have hoped that some of that quality control would have carried over, but sadly, it does not. Spirit of Vengeance is directed by  Crank 1 and 2 directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, which those movies are known for their absurdity. Again, I wished some of that would have carried over as well, but sadly it doesn't. What we are left with is a movie that has a very inconsequential story that I personally couldn't have cared less about with a few moments of Cage sparkle.

The first half of the film however,  has a rather lifeless Cage, who mumbles and slurs through  his dialogue of this particularly lame Satanic story. Breaking it down as best a can; a Satanic prophecy is brewing, in which Satan must capture a young boy who is his son of sorts, and born by a human woman played by Violante Placidom. When the boy turns 13 and on the dawn prior to the Winter Solstice, Satan wishes to perfom a ritual on the boy so that he may transfer his essence into the boy's body, and rule Earth. In order to achieve this, Satan hires goons to kidnap the boy (because he can't do it himself due to his "frail, human form") and a priest, aware of the upcoming doom, convinces "the rider" to stop all of this from happening.

For a movie that has Satan in it and a vengeful soul-eating hellspawn with chains that burn people to ash on impact, you'd think a lot would happen or some big showdowns, but never once does it feel like any of the villains are a threat to Cage's "rider" character. Instead, you are left with an entire movie where the boy gets kidnapped, retrieved, kidnapped again, retrieved again and kidnapped once more. And the latter half of the movie has no climax either. No big comic-book fights, no huge set pieces worth remembering. Nothing... just stuff that happens for stuffs sake to progress the plot to the credits. That's really it, and nothing to invest yourself into.

That's essentially my problem with the movie. There are no interesting characters at all in this movie. Satan played by Ciaran Hinds, is goofy and never really imposes any threat. The side characters Moreau played by Idris Elba as a drunken, fun-loving French priest, never really add anything except to show up when he is needed, a brief role by Christopher Lambert as monk is rather pointless, and side-villain Johnny Whitworth as the contractor the devil hires to find the boy/gains super villain powers to decay things--is given little to do except show up at the right/wrong times in order to keep the dreadful story going.

The entire movie is one long drag waiting for Cage to show up either as Johnny Blaze or the Rider and do something, anything to bring this movie to life. Even when he does show up, he only goes off the rails in a few scenes that turn into hilarity, and honestly, sitting in a crowded theater I felt embarrassed to be watching this movie and the lady sitting in front of me who covered her face with her hands because she too, laughed at the absurdity of the film and seemed to be covering her shame, felt as I did; that we've been ripped-off. To give it a metaphor, this movie is like eating a sandwich with no meat and few pieces of chocolate. The chocolate is good but the rest is filler and doesn't go with the chocolate. That makes sense right? Sure it does.
Not to be confused with chocolate sandwiches,
those are delicious.
While the special effects are good, and Cage is particularly entertaining here and there, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is an utter waste of time. There are better Cage movies to see him go nuts, and there are better superhero movies, especially ones dealing with hell, aka Hellboy franchise. As the movie was coming towards it's end, I felt myself dosing off during it and it was 2:30 in the afternoon when I saw the film.  Save your money, and see a better film, unless you need something to help you go to sleep.

Review: 1 out of 5

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