Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) Theatrical Release

Rating: 4 out 5 redeemed anti-Christ’s

Plot Synopsis:  Johnny Blaze is trying to escape the Rider.  He runs away into Eastern Europe where he is found by a drunken priest and asked to protect a kid who will become the new vessel for the devil on Earth and if it’s not stopped the world will fall into hell.  Since the world is where he keeps all his stuff he goes and saves himself a kid.

The Good:

-Nic Cage.  Nic Cage reprises his role as Johnny Blaze and takes a turn under the flaming skull to provide the base for animating the Ghost Rider as well.  As both he is awesome.  Johnny Blaze is so much darker and more disturbed, he’s over the top and at moments so painfully restrained that he appears constipated.  As the Rider he adds all these little movements and ticks that really add to character of the Ghost Rider.  I hate to use the words “vocabulary of movement” but that’s really what he creates for the Ghost Rider.  As the Rider he barely talks so if he was stalk straight and just going through the motions the character would become incredibly boring.  But Nic is awesome in every scene.

-The most encountered villain is Blackout, as a human he tracks downs the kid for the devil and then Ghost Rider whoops him and his whole team at which point he is made into Blackout by the devil.  The character is good as a human, who I guess is a gypsy, and as the sort of vampire.  The best scene is after he hijacks an ambulance and as he goes through his victim’s lunch box, marveling at his new power, and as all the foods rot in his hand he comes across a Twinkie which is mysteriously immune to his power of decay.  When it doesn’t rot he tears it open and furiously eats it.

-The acting in general is pretty good, nothing feels phoned in.  Everyone is competent at their roles, nothing spectacular but there isn’t anyone who’s clearly out of place or just collecting a paycheck.

-When Ghost Rider shows up and starts whooping ass things are awesome.  The action scenes are very well done and fun to watch.  The way the Rider moves and the way he uses his powers make for very entertaining sequences.

-The kid.  Danny is the potential anti-Christ in question.  Now I’m assuming that this is Danny Ketch, the second Ghost Rider, and they’re setting up for another movie (fingers crossed).  Danny is a half demon and it’s apparent he sort of struggles with it.  The way Danny and Johnny interact is pretty good as neither really knows what they’re roles are or what ‘normal’ in the context of life in a familial relationship is.  The best scene is when Danny rattles off a bunch of nerd-like power based questions at which point Johnny essentially just yells “I don’t know, it’s not important.” then he tells him what it’s like to pee as the Rider.

The Bad:

-Blackout goes out like a punk.  After a very promising round 1 Ghost Rider just tosses him aside and calls it a day

-It’s basically a reboot, which I don’t like.  They retcon the whole first movie and they make it clear that this movie has nothing to do with the previous one.  There are no references, no nods, no nothing, just an opening scene re-explaining Johnny Blaze’s origin.

-The devil, he’s no Peter Fonda.  He’s serviceable if the role was new or there hadn’t been a previous movie, but really you already had a great devil in Fonda.

-The run time.  While the movie certainly doesn’t overstay it’s welcome it moves at a brisk hour and a half-ish.  I could have stood for really, like, 15 minutes more.  More anything really, more story, more characterization, more action, more fighting.  I just wanted more but it feels coherent and solid at the current run time.  Here’s hoping we get some bonus scenes with the DVD or a director’s cut.

The Ugly:

-Really nothing ugly or hard to watch.  Some people might point to Cage’s acting but I think it really works for the role.  Some might point to the comic book illustrations used for the brief exposition dumps, but I liked those as well.  Some people might point to Ghost Rider peeing fire but I think that really worked in the context of the moment as well.

-The ending.  I amend the above for the ending and really just the very end of the ending, like the last 90 seconds of the film.  Thankfully it’s so short it doesn’t hurt the movie in the slightest and in a way is sort of campy and fun, but, eh, I don’t know.  Not my favorite moment.

Final Thoughts:  I really liked this movie.  I found myself having some real “Go get him” and “This is awesome” moments.  I thought this movie was better than the first one, the first one is good but it’s a very different movie with a very different tone.  The change of tone and the improvements in CGI technology and quality have allowed for a much cooler looking Ghost Rider.  This Ghost Rider is dark and scary with charred and bubbling clothing and black smoke pouring off the ends of his flames, his movements are jerky and spasmodic and he turns things into horrific hellfire kill machines.  I highly recommend seeing this in the theaters and I’ll definitely be buying this when it comes out on home video.

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