Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Let me start by admitting that I am a comic book geek, so I might be a little biased when it comes to their movie adaptations. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always enjoyed the Marvel Universe, so I’m always psyched when new movies based on their characters come out. That’s why I eagerly anticipated Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Now I will admit that the film’s predecessor, 2007’s Ghost Rider, wasn’t a great film. I thought it was alright, but even as a comic fan, I admit there was plenty of room for improvement. With that said, I was surprised to hear there would be a second film, but I was also enthusiastic to see if they made the necessary corrections to right the Ghost Rider brand.

Even though Nicolas Cage reprised his role as Johnny Blaze, AKA Ghost Rider, I hesitate to call Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance a sequel, though it’s not exactly a reboot either, like the comic book movies Hulk and Incredible Hulk were. This new Ghost Rider film neither ignores the first installment, nor does it reference it; instead, it seems to suggest that the previous film laid the groundwork, but the new movie was going to move on and introduce a new stage in Ghost Rider’s evolution.

As it happens, the movie progression is reminiscent of Ghost Rider’s comic book transformations throughout the years, namely his change from a tame, controlled, and cartoonish figure in the early 90s to today’s dark, terrifying, and intimidating character. It was a change that needed to be made, and I'm glad they made it.

So was the new Ghost Rider a better film than the first? Absolutely. The story itself wasn’t that much better, but it was executed more successfully. As a whole, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was darker and gave the character an aura of terror, intimidation, and, as as it is to say it, vengeance. This was accomplished in a number of ways. First, the setting in Eastern Europe established an atmosphere of despair and desolation (it's not the most colorful or sparkling place) and second, the filmmakers paid attention to the little details; for example, in this film Ghost Rider’s skull was black and charred as if it was actually on fire, as opposed to the original’s version where the skull was white and simply surrounded by fire.

It was a small change, but if you make enough of them, it makes a big difference. Likewise, the new film featured an updated Ghost Rider wardrobe (I really loved the bubbling leather jacket), which perfectly complimented his new motorcycle. Not only was his bike sweet, the fact that the filmmakers highlighted the Ghost Rider’s ability to transform any vehicle he controls made for some of the more visually appealing scenes in the film.

Speaking of the filmmakers, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Gamer, Crank, Crank: High Voltage), who co-directed the film, did a good job of incorporating their high-octane, unique point-of-view style into Ghost Rider, and to be completely honest, I can’t think of a better comic character where their style would be more appropriate.

As far as the cast goes, I thought they did an excellent job. I know there are many different opinions on Cage, but I happen to like him, though I will admit he has put out a lot of crap lately like Season of the Witch. In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Cage wasn’t as innocent, censored, and absurd as he was in the first film and I thought he gave a satisfactory performance, even with some of his questionable one liners and the fact that he was only onscreen for about half (the CGI Ghost Rider starred in the other half).

While Cage did a decent job, Idris Elba stole the show as the drunken French monk Moreau. Even though he was a supporting character, Moreau was equal parts devote, humorous, and badass and it was entertaining just to watch him operate. Ever since I saw Elba play Charles Minor in The Office, I've thought he was a versatile actor, but I had my doubts with his latest role. Much to my surprise, he not only vanquished those doubts, he smashed them.

Likewise, I’ve long been a fan of Ciaran Hinds, who you may best know as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome. In my review on Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy, I chastised the director for not utilizing Hinds’ talents. I’m glad to say that wasn’t the case here, though I certainly wouldn’t have complained if he had gotten more screen time. In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Hinds plays the role of Roarke, who is the devil incarnate. There’s something ascetic and gallant about Hinds, but when he portrays a bad guy, he makes one hell of a convincing villain. If you see this film, take note of Hinds as I predict you’ll be seeing him in more and more films in the future.

I also think that Violante Placido, Fergus Riordan, and Johnny Whitworth did a fine job, though I wasn’t thrilled with the latter’s new look halfway through the film.

Don't get me wrong, there were a few things I didn’t like about this film like some of the exposition, cutaways, and camera shots, but I thought the visuals and special effects more than made up for it, especially if you see it in 3D like I did.

You’re probably not as big of a comic fan as I am, so I won’t be offended, nor surprised, if you don’t like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as much as I did; however, I imagine you’ll get a big enough kick from the special effects, comedic relief, and solid performances to warrant a screening.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 72%

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1 comment:

  1. Great review as always my friend.. looks like ill be giving this movie a chance.