Graphically Speaking: “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” review

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Directed by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language.

I like Nicolas Cage. I do. He’s become a bit of a punchline in recent years, no thanks to poor choices (in films and haircuts alike), but he’s always had a manic energy that’s propelled him into a cult movie icon. Plus, you have to love a Coppola who eschews his famous surname for a that of a comic book character. Here he steps back into the role of Johnny Blaze, which nobody really expected after 2007’s “meh” Ghost Rider. Nobody was clamoring for a sequel, but the creative team behind the Crank films have brought us an over-the-top supernatural chase film that should be seen, if only to be believed.

Johnny Blaze (Cage), the tortured host of the Ghost Rider has hidden away in Eastern Europe because, well, he’s so darn tortured. His seclusion is interrupted by Moreau (Elba), an alcoholic French priest who makes a deal with him: protect a little boy from some mercenaries and he’ll make sure the curse of the Ghost Rider is lifted. Oh, and the devil (Ciaran Hinds) is after the boy, too. What is it with Satan and kids, anyway?

Yes, the sequel is better than the original. Though some would agree that doesn’t take much, there are some inspired moments. For example, when Blaze, uh…blazes into the rider, you can see Cage’s mannerisms and inflections (tics?) in the flaming skull. You know you’re not dealing with a random stuntman. Cage still gets plenty of face-time, though I giggled during a scene where Blaze loses his cool as parts of his face turn into parts of a skull, then back again. And did I mention the violence? It never goes past PG-13, but it’s incredibly kinetic and absurd. Apparently you can avoid the R rating if your movie’s body count is mostly comprised of lighting people on fire.

As fun as it is to watch, it feels like Neveldine and Taylor are holding back. They’re used to the insanity of Crank, but seem to have trouble shoe-horning it into a PG-13 rating. I’d love to see an unrated Blu-Ray in the near future, though I’m not excited for the 3-D. The film was post-converted. I saw it in 2-D and never once wished for the third dimension.

Kudos to Marvel for bringing Cage back when they could have rebooted the whole franchise altogether. The film is a decent middle-of-the-road Marvel movie. It’s no Iron Man or Spider-Man 2, but it sure as hell isn’t Elektra or Fantastic Four. Definitely check it out.

Nevendine and Taylor are known for acting as cameramen themselves, sometimes rollerblading, while holding the camera. There are several scenes in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance when it’s evident, which adds to the thrill. And look out for an early cameo by Giles, himself, Mr. Anthony Stewart Head.

Posted on March 5, 2012 at 16:54 by Lowell Greenblatt · Permalink
In: Uncategorized