Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider has never interested me as a character.  Yes, his flaming skull looks pretty cool, but that's where the intrigue ends for me.  When Ghost Rider was released in theaters back in 2007, I thought it looked terrible, so I never watched it.  Despite some harsh reviews, the movie managed to make over $200 million worldwide.  You would think a sequel would be a no-brainer --- and it is, no matter how dumb the first film looked --- but Columbia Pictures was hesitant.  They ended up giving the go-ahead, but only after the budget had been cut to less than half of the first movie.  Normally, I would take that as a sign to stay the hell away from Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  But then I noticed that Neveldine/Taylor were directing.  The directors of Crank and Nic Cage, working together at last?  That is a recipe for some serious Lefty Gold.
...and the flamethrower urine scene clinched it.  Let's get Ghost Ridden!  Wait...that came out wrong...

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance does not, in fact, begin with the title character.  Instead, Moreau (Idris Elba) has arrived at a monastery to warn the monks of the dangers they face.  The monks are providing shelter to Danny Ketch (Fergus Riordan) and his mother, Nadya (Violante Placido --- a wonderful action movie name).  Well, they were.  Some bad dudes showed up and killed the monks; though Danny and Nadya escaped, Moreau knows that they will be caught before the solstice, unless something drastic is done.  Naturally, his first thoughts went to the Ghost Rider.
Ghost Rider: when "drastic" isn't drastic enough
Moreau tracks down Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) and offers to have his priest buddies remove the Ghost Rider curse from Blaze if he manages to keep Danny and Nadya safe.  What's the deal with them?  Well, the devil (Ciarán Hinds) wants Danny for some nefarious purpose.  Do you need more of a reason than that?  It really shouldn't matter, as long as it gives us an excuse to see Ghost Rider puking metal on a bad guy.
Flaming pee is great, but molten puke is almost as good

The acting in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is about what you should expect from the people behind this movie.  Nic Cage is predictably ridiculous, so your enjoyment will rely heavily on how much Crayzee Cage you can handle.  I thought he was actually fairly solid, balancing some lightweight angst with unintentionally funny scenes where he is fighting to keep the Rider from taking over his body.
I wish this shot made the final cut
Was he actually good?  God, no.  He was suitably silly enough for the script; there is a big difference.  Violante Placido doesn't really do much.  She whines about her son and wonders why bad things happen to characters who have the devil's baby.  In other words, her character is in the film to add a pair of boobs to the cast, and in that, she succeeded.
...AND booze?  Double success!
Idris Elba was okay.  He handled a French accent well enough, and his character's love of wine added some cute moments.  Little Fergus Riordan was decent as a child actor, which can be translated as "he wasn't irritating."  Ciarán Hinds was a solid choice to play the villain, but I would have liked to see him be more obviously bad.  His devil was a pretty sorry-ass lord of darkness.  His lead henchman wasn't any better, either.  Blackout (Johnny Whitworth) starts out as a none-too-terrifying thug, but he is transformed into this:
Johnny Winter?
He now had the power of decay and the ability to do some sort of thing where people can't see him and I guess he moves fast or something.  I didn't quite get that bit, but I caught enough to reconfirm my belief that albinos are too powerful and evil to not register as lethal weapons with the government.  Anthony Head appears at the beginning of the movie and almost immediately dies off-screen.  Rounding out the notable cast is the always peculiar Christopher Lambert, who allegedly underwent several months of sword training to prepare for his role as the guy who fell asleep at the frat party.
It was a very literate fraternity, apparently
Why would Lambert need months of sword training for only a few minutes of screen time?  That's a good question.  A better question, though, is "Why would Lambert need sword training after all those godawful Highlander movies?"

The direction of Neveldine/Taylor fit surprisingly well with the script for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  They kept the pace going pretty quickly, and most of the downtime was filled with unintentional humor:
Example: the devil smelling a fart
...or intentional humor, like Ghost Rider pissing flames or enjoying Kajagoogoo.  I don't always like the work of Neveldine/Taylor, but they did about as much as they could to make this movie entertaining, given the script.  Granted, making it "entertaining" doesn't negate the fact that this is a stupid, stupid movie, but at least it doesn't take itself seriously.  The script, though, is pretty wretched.  David S. Goyer wrote the story and co-wrote the script, but he didn't do either very well.  This screenplay is either littered with holes, or the editing process was wretched.  When you consider some of the odder moments in the script --- A punk rocker with a hippie van?  The devil can't get enough followers to fill more than a few rows in a stadium? --- I think it's pretty obvious that the writing is at fault.
Please tell me that the Rider will hunt Goyer down for his sins

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was never going to be a legitimately good movie.  Never.  It could have been close, if it had been rated R and let these crazy co-directors do whatever random stuff popped into their heads, but this is about as much fun as I can imagine having with a Ghost Rider movie.  They fixed some of the small things from the first movie -- Cage's hair looks real this time and there's a lot less self-pity --- and also had fun with some ridiculously over-the-top additions (like the Ghost Rider construction vehicle).  The special effects looked pretty good, and that's even more impressive, given their slashed budget.  Even when you consider all that, this is still on the lower end of comic movie adaptations, thanks to some uninspired campiness and poor writing.
 ...but that's only if you take this movie seriously.  If you want something to enjoy after a few drinks, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a solid choice.  It gets a Lefty Gold rating of

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