Call it strike two for Sony trying to launch a Ghost Rider franchise. The PG-13 might be constraining for the directors but even with an R-rating, I can’t see it being that much better. Nicolas Cage continues his downward slide with his Rock and Leaving Las Vegas days looking like a distant memory, albeit once in a while he can surprise. Even so, I can’t really muster the energy to hate Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. To me, indifference is worse than hating a movie
Genre(s): Action, Fantasy, Horror
Sony | R – 95 min. – $35.99 | June 12, 2012
Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Writer(s): David S. Goyer (story), Scott M. Gimple & Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer (screenplay)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lampert, Idris Elba
Theatrical Release Date: February 17, 2012
Features: Video Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 46.1 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B
THE MOVIE – 2.0/5
“I will eat your stinking soul!”
Those immortal words were spoken by Johnny Blaze, but while the character might’ve talking to a bad guy, I think it was a warning to audience members because the sequel to the much maligned original, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance could be considered a soul-sucking experience.
The story this time around involves a demon child NOT named Damien, instead Danny, who is the product of the Devil, aka Rourke (CIARAN HINDS), and hottie Nadya (VIOLANTE PLACIDO). Nadya had made a deal with the devil to save her life after an attack and, well, we all know how those things go… But at the age of 12, Rourke needs Danny to transfer his soul before his current human vessel expires (or some BS like that).
After an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt, a rogue and bad ass priest named Moreau (IDRIS ELBA) recruits Johnny Blaze (NICOLAS CAGE), now residing in Eastern Europe where the Hollywood budget can be stretched, to stop Rourke and help this boy using his alter-evil, the Rider: a flaming skull. Blaze is reluctant but in exchange for his help, Moreau promises to get rid of the curse so Johnny rides off on his bike into the night leaving a trail of fire in its wake.
It’s fortunate because a man named Ray Carrigan (JOHNNY WHITWORTH) has been hired by Rourke to hunt down Danny and his mom and just as the pair is surrounded by Carrigan and his minions, the Rider comes in utilizing some audio effects from the Transformers movies before attacking. So the flaming skull drops in, swings his fire chain taking out a couple minions, looks into the black hearts of others before being blasted away with some big weapons (not before also attempting to kill Danny, sensing the evil within the boy’s heart).
The mercenaries escape with Danny in tow while Johnny wakes up in a hospital where he formally meets Nadya who is also there. Meanwhile, Carrigan contacts Rourke who, over a cell phone, installs a “firewall” of sorts to block the Johnny/Rider from tracking Danny. So, unable to track the boy, he and Nadya join forces going on the road to confront one of Carrigan’s contacts who, after some persuasion, reveals Carrigan is at an old quarry to buy some heavy duty weapons to use against the Rider. What ensues is what some might consider insane, others inane, sequence where the Rider climbs aboard a Bagger 38 excavator transforming it into, what else, a flaming excavator, making short work of Carrigan and his dispensable henchmen. Carrigan dies but Rourke arrives to bring him back to life, gives him the decay curse – anything he touches turns to dust – and sends Carrigan, now known as Blackout, off once again to kill the Rider and retrieve Danny before it’s too late.
On the road, Johnny, Nadya and Danny meet up with Moreau (remember him?) as they journey to a secret church, called the Sanctuary, to hide Danny until the time passes when Rourke cannot transfer his soul into the boy. With the job apparently done, Moreau fulfills his promise to rid the curse from Johnny, which involves a ceremony and some excruciating pain (a.k.a. the chance for more hammy acting by Cage). But wouldn’t you know it, after the ceremony is complete, he exits a cave to discover they’ve been double-crossed as the Sanctuary’s priest is set to execute Danny before the Devil can take over the boy’s body. So, Johnny, Moreau and Nadya are imprisoned but before the execution, Blackout arrives, dispatches the priest and monks, to take Danny back to Rourke for the ritual. The other three manage to escape but take with them an arsenal and despite no longer having his powers, Johnny makes the choice to rescue Danny before it’s too late. The third act includes a decent chase sequence, albeit nothing that hasn’t been done before…
First, I have to be honest in saying, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance wasn’t as awful as the first film, but that’s like saying one virus is better than the next… Still, this is not a very good movie and often gets bogged down with poor acting, primarily from Cage and action that has a been there, done that feel. It also doesn’t help that the visual effects were substandard, although not surprising given the limited budget.
The movie was directed by the dynamic duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, whose previous efforts included the two Crank movies and Gamer. Now, I know its sacrilege to say this on the Internet, but I wasn’t wild about the Crank films and Gamer wasn’t a very good movie either. What I will say is Neveldine and Taylor at the very least present hard core flicks but they’re unconstrained with R-ratings while Spirit of Vengeance gets bogged down with a PG-13. This isn’t to say that an R-rating would’ve helped, but it couldn’t have hurt.
I can’t quite say I hated this movie because I couldn’t have cared less about any of it to evoke any kind of emotion. It’s a mess but worse yet, it’s a forgettable mess of a film. Nicolas Cage is a fine actor but only under constraints because if it’s let loose as he was here, and in the previous Ghost Rider, it’s just so laughable. If there’s one bright spot, it would be Idris Elba’s all too brief appearance as every scene he was in kicked ass and brought it to a new level. Not saying it would’ve made for a better movie had he starred, but it sure as hell would’ve been better.
In any case, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a bad film, period. I think the only way Marvel can make a good GR flick is to get a talented filmmaker, a well crafted script and no constraints in the MPAA rating. Unless Sony allows a PG-13 rating, I doubt a good film can be made, although now with two strikes, I can’t see the studio going for a third movie given criticism from the audience not to mention poor box office results (despite receiving a boost from 3D ticket sales).
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.0/5
Directors’ Expanded Video Commentary (1:43:41; HD) – This commentary is similar to Warner’s Maximum Movie Mode which features picture-in-picture footage and every so often, the directors pauses the movie to expand more on a scene. The extra stuff is approximately 8-minutes longer. The two directors are absolutely a hoot to listen to mainly because they balance a fun track with providing some actual insights into the film. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Deleted Scenes (11:20; HD) – Six scenes which on their own are OK but probably were rightly cut down or removed to keep the movie chugging, or clunking, along. As a side, it is funny to see the raw footage of Cage in make-up for The Rider…
The Path to Vengeance: Making Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (1:29:58; HD) is a massive 6-part featurette which delves into every aspect of making the movie, far more than many movies get and more than it deserves. Still, it’s a fascinating look at how the movie got made, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew, coverage on the release, etc. One thing I learned: this is a reboot rather than a sequel… Go figure. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Previews – 21 Jump Street, Lockdown, Starship Troopers: Invasion
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance looks great in 1080p high-definition. The flick is helped by being bolstered and shot for 3D with sharp looking detail levels and a nice color palette which range from bright colors during the day to darker elements at night which show no signs of artifacting or other flaws which tend to be noticeable in such shots; plus, the orange and yellows from the flaming skull especially have a nice “pop” during those scenes.
AUDIO – 3.5/5
Surprisingly, and unfortunately, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is quite underwhelming. If there’s one thing a movie like this, directed by Neveldine/Taylor, should provide is an insane aural experience but instead it a tad soft in many places, especially during the action sequences. Dialogue levels do sound fine but when we get to other elements like the Rider on his bike or his chain dispensing of bad guys, it’s not quite as energetic as I had hoped. The track on the whole is OK but I expected better.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, call it strike two for Sony trying to launch a Ghost Rider franchise. The PG-13 might be constraining for the directors but even with an R-rating, I can’t see it being that much better. Nicolas Cage continues his downward slide with his Rock and Leaving Las Vegas days looking like a distant memory, albeit once in a while he can surprise. Even so, I can’t really muster the energy to hate Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. To me, indifference is worse than hating a movie and I can see this being, thankfully, lost amongst so many other forgettable films.