Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Ghostrider: Spirit of Vengeance" thoughts.

“Ghostrider: Spirit of Vengeance”

I did not dislike the first Ghostrider film. I thought it was a nifty little popcorn action flick with an interesting performance from Nicholas Cage, though not quite the stellar adaptation of the comic that so many people were looking for. In point of fact, the comic series has never been one of the major publications from Marvel and rarely maintained a great deal of consistency. Whether riding as Johnny Blaze or Danny… whatever… Ghostrider always seemed like a series looking for a back story. The nature of the Rider would change from one writer to the next, the powers would come and go, with the only major constant being the iconic imagery of a flaming skull and motorcycle. So I wasn’t really concerned with the major changes when the character was adapted to the big screen.

Eva Mendez was horrible, though.

For the second installment, Cage returns to the role and we get a quick run down of revisionist history on the character. Partially rebooting the series, Marvel seemed to want to take back about half of what the fans did not like from the first film but couldn’t quite focus on which parts were actually bad. He still sold his soul, but Mephisto is replaced with a generic “Rourke” (AKA: The devil) and Blaze has been on the run from his curse for a fairly long while. He gets thrown into a new story when a woman and her son are being chased by some mercenaries. He’s recruited to help the boy by a French Monk who spends the majority of the movie getting laughs with bad wine jokes as he guzzles one bottle after another. And, big spoiler, the boy has a connection to Rourke and the Monk can free Johnny from his curse. *yawn*

The bare bones of the story actually works with some interesting moments and cool CGI effects, but the rest felt scattered and we were thrown into moments that seemed entirely unnecessary. Blaze starts off being able to “sense” the boy so he easily tracks them down just in time to step into a failed battle with the mercenaries. Rourke somehow blocks the Riders’ ability to track the boy and we get an entirely pointless scene that did little more than tack on a few minutes to the run time and give Cage a chance to rant, rave, and act a little loony. Our two antagonist characters are bland at best, with the mercenary having a contrived connection to the boys’ mother and Rourke being the most dull and painfully boring character to be saddled with the dark powers of hell. He never comes off as intimidating despite some interesting make-up choices, and seems more like a middle-manager out of his depth throughout most of the film. But when it comes to moments with the Rider and in coping with Johnny’s curse, the film actually does a fairly impressive job of explaining how dangerous the Spirit of Vengeance can be. We also have some decent interaction between Blaze and his young charge, so the films narrative shows some potential if you really want to be forgiving. When you whittle away the pointless moments you’re left with some decent action sequences and a few decent story points.

But I expected something better from Neveldine/Taylor. The duo behind the impressive “Crank” series got another base hit with “Gamer”, but failed to get anything more than a bunt out of this comic book franchise.

2 ½ out of 5 ... And I'd still see a third film.

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