Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spirit of Disappointment

Nicholas Cage fizzles as Marvel's original hothead in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


ARTH VADER (AV): Well I must say, I might have been more excited for this film than I should have been. After the painfully poor performance of the first Ghost Rider film, I thought that perhaps things had changed since, you know, they went through the trouble of making a second movie. The first film made the viewer feel as though they were one of the condemned souls that the Ghost Rider banishes– doomed to a life of eternal suffering in the underworld. They certainly have done a good job of recreating that experience for us again. How say you, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Well Vader, the movie doesn’t follow any set continuity although I do see elements of many different story lines that have appeared in the books. Most notably is Danny Way’s run on the book wherein Johnny Blaze learns that the spirit within is really an angel that has been driven insane. With so much material available from the books, it just baffles me why they simply don’t pick one of the better story arcs...and ride with it.


AV: I feel as though Nicholas Cage is simply NOT Johnny Blaze. For the first movie, I thought he was…uh, believable. Johnny is the tortured, reluctant human vessel for the Ghost Rider. To me, Cage feels pre-occupied, smug and indifferent, like the stuff the Rider does is okay with him. The bad-girl-gone-good love interest–played by the stunning Italian singer/actress Violante Placido–is interesting, if not easy on the eyes. But she is vapid and vacant as a butt-kicking damsel-in-distress. Talent was NOT this movie's flaw–even the addition of one of favorite actors, Idris Alba as Moreau, couldn't save this movie from itself. 

TP: I’m not sure this movie had a direction... if it did, it wasn’t anywhere I wanted to go. I found the movie to be very segmented instead of a steady flow and the constant posturing and drawn out pseudo awe the Ghost Rider was trying to command was unnecessary and annoying. Speaking of annoying, Nicholas Cage reached a new record for that in this one. The only redeeming aspect of the film for me was Idris Elba and he didn’t have a large enough role to save this movie from itself. What are your thoughts about the acting Arth?
AV: The acting...? Well, what there was of it...was ok. The weird facial expressions of Cage were laughably forced and off-putting especially since it did NOT happen in the first film. I have a suspicion that the 2013 Oscars will be passing this one over. 


AV: Ah, finally, a ray of hope in this dismal foray into the heart of mediocrity! I thought this movie was visually stunning.*SPOILER ALERT!* The scene where three dozens bad guys square of against Ghost Rider in what appears to be an Eastern European mining camp complete with giant Earth Movers and mining machine the size of a small town. The cool flames and burning special effects, truly made me feel as though the Ghost Rider was a preferable character to Johnny. Also, though I didn't see this movie in 3D, I could tell it was created to be a 3D experience. The final Mad-Max-like chase scene puts me in the thick of the action; fast-paced and ferocious. A great eye-candy experience, Ponty!

TP: Hmmm... it’s hard to go wrong with the effects for a film like this... especially since it was already done well in the first film, but somehow, they found a way. Don’t get me wrong, the flaming bike, flaming crane, flaming truck... all good. The 3D was severely underused, which seems to be a staple of the current films touting it. The real loss here was in the transformation from Blaze to the Rider. It was just ridiculous looking, reminiscent of the anamorphic effects used in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” The cartoonish look didn’t work for this film, especially with the subject being a spirit of vengeance.


AV: While my first instinct would be 'what's the point?' this flick does offer us a flaming glimmer of hope for future installments. It's true, Ponty! Here's what I mean; as the special effects in the movie industry get better and better, we are treated to ever-more dazzling effects shots every year. Perfect for the super-hero/anti-hero genres! To me, it's as if the studio and the director completely wrote off the Johnny Blaze portion and made the story about the Ghost Rider. Can't say I loved it–or even liked it– but it was nowhere near the epic failure the first movie. At least the poster was cool. Pontificator?

TP: The deeper I look, the more I want to turn away. I don’t think I laughed once... so it failed in the comedy department. I didn’t feel a single tug of any emotion besides annoyance... so a failure in the drama department. The action made me groan, so although there was action... it too, failed. They took away almost all dialogue for the Ghost Rider reducing him to a flaming skull that just stares at you for what seems like an eternity before stealing your soul (I’m assuming). What happened to the Penance Stare? Where was his hollow and eerie voice as he metes out justice? What happened to the cool bike? It seems as though they took away all the good elements from the first film, left the bad ones in... and added worse ones for a complete mess that will only appeal to one percent of everybody that sees it.


AV: If nothing else, we are treated to the twist that Zarathos (the Ghost Rider's true name) is not a demon but a fallen angel. This was amplified by the effects of turning his flame from Red to Blue at the film's end. An interesting twist that could be a great story-telling vehicle in the future. For me this screams "trilogy" and could in fact be a better-than-ever third installment that could possibly even matter. A long-shot to be sure, but hey, who even knew this movie would have ever happened given the train wreck the first one was (check out our review of the dismal first Ghost Rider flick here).

TP: A trilogy...? Please, don’t. At this point, another sequel would make little sense, especially since I can see them signing Nicholas Cage on again...simply because they seem to have a knack for making bad decisions. Any future ideas flirting with the thought of another Ghost Rider film should be thinking serious reboot...with the emphasis on “serious.” The goofy, quirky, offbeat, silly feel applied to this character just doesn’t work.

ARTH VADER rates Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: Alright, so this one's a rather forgettable jaunt through mediocrity, but still quite an improvement over the first. The much-improved effects didn't make this movie much better but, after all, it's a Marvel movie–not a thespian indulgence. While I can't say I'll be busting at the seams for a third installment that I am sure is coming, I can say it busted four solid blocks–with a vengeance.
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: A very painful movie to sit through with the high points being my large popcorn and fruit punch Icee. I’m just flabbergasted at the inability to simply improve upon a product that just needed some tweaking to be a contender... and turn it, instead, into something to be reviled... with the ability to ignite only two blocks, out of ten.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: 3/10 Busted Blocks

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