Monday, February 27, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Review

Every now and again a person's preferences of enjoyment will be tested. For example, a seafood connoisseure  may come down with a nasty stomach bug after downing a rotten oyster, or an avid outdoorsman may find themselves held up in a full body cast for awhile following a moment of carelessness on a mountain or very tall tree. In this way, "Ghostrider: Spirit of Vengeance" certainly challanged my love for comic book movies. With a plodding, predictable storyline, a host of bland forgettable characters, and a redundant slew of queasy action sequences that in my opinion, were the visual equivalent of enduring a spin and puke ride at a local fair, Ghostrider SOV is a movie that should probably be excised from all respectable cinemas as quickly as possible.
Like many fans I couldn't believe it when a learned that Ghost Rider of all movies was getting a sequal. The first movie had its moments but overall was a pretty cheesy affair and didn't do much to advance the genre it represented. However, my interest was peaked a little when I learned the movie would take place in Eastern Europe and offer a dark, less altruistic take on the character. And for the movie's many pitfall's, those are probably the two things that I thought worked best in it's favor. The Turkish setting, with it's wide, shrub ridden plain's and lonlely, sweeping vistas add a sense of scope and scale and descolation to the film while the rider himself, with his seared black leather biker gear and ugly charred death's head is definately more of the dreadful, grim reaper-like figure he really should have been all along as opposed to the the goofy quasi superhero he was in the first film.
Believe it or not, I thought the story the filmakers were trying, and I emphasize the word "TRYING" to tell was actually not half bad. Johnny Blaze, who is struggling with the ramifications of his curse as the devil's personal bounty hunter, has fled to Eastern Europe, were he is lives a hermetic, transient lifestyle in hopes of suppressing The Rider's hunger for blood. Meanwhile, a mother and her young son are on the run from your generic outfit of rough looking hardcases intent on capturing the boy as per the orders of there nefarious benefector who just so happens to be "GASP!" THE DEVIL! I know, just go with it. We later learn through exposition, that similar to Johnny Blaze, the boy, Danny's mother made a deal with the father of lies in a moment of desperation. That if he would spare her life, she would conceive for him an earthly son who would share all of his dark power. It seems that the devil has taken many human forms over time though his abilities on earth have always been limited due to the frail composition of human bodies. So the devil's objective is to inhabit Danny's body so he can have an avatar on earth that will never have to be scrapped for a newer model. An underground religious order recognizes how important the boy's safety is to the future of mankind so one of their emmisaries enlists a reluctant Johnny Blaze to protect the boy from the devil and his foot soldiers and bring them to the order's secret headquarters in the mountains with the added incentive that they will remove Blaze's curse if he suceeds in delivering them safely. Now this sounds like the premise to a pretty cool movie frought with a lot of thrills and high stakes "cat and mouse" suspense. Unfortunetly, what I got istead was a lame duck, almost wholly devoid of anything very entertaining beyond some iffy CGI and Nickolas Cage being his crazy Nicholas Cage self.
Crippling any inkling of tension or drama was the movie had absolutely no sense of pace or flow. The action scenes are terrible, with awkward, haulting pauses in them that absolutely kills any sense of momentum the film had going. The only exception being the climax of the film were Ghostrider dukes it out with former fall guy turned super villain Blackout on the hood of a car.  That action scene, which takes place in broad daylight to boot, is pretty decent, but the others? All garbage.
Not helping things any is that the supporting characters are as intolerably boring as the movie itself. Despite all its campiness, at least the first Ghost Rider boasted a pretty memorable supporting cast to back up Nicholas Cage. Peter Fonda was crafty and menacing as the devil, Sam Elliot was rugged and cool as the mentor figure/former Ghostrider. And Eva Mendes was smokin' hot as the requisite damoiselle in distress. Heck, even Cage's honky tonk road manager managed to be somewhat entertaining. But in Spirit of Vengeance all the characers are just soooo boring and uninteresting. Blackout, who has the power to make things rot decay with the merest touch has some cool, effects driven scenes but is others wise pretty much a "run of the mill" supervillain. Christopher Lambert of former Highlander fame has a small part as the head priest of the secret religious order but is not in the movie long enough to leave much of an impression. Really, the only ingredient that keeps the ship from sinking is Cage, who manages to come off as likeable and charismatic even while spouting cheeseball lines like, "so your the devil's baby mama?"
If you are a sucker for superhero movies like me, and feel compelled to see Ghostrider SOV despite the million and one red flags out there about how bad it is, then I suppose you should go ahead give it a try. Though I would suggest that you sneak a flask of hard liquor in the theater with you to make it at least interesting. Otherwise, I would strongly recommend you to send old flamehead on his way.


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