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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Writers: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Ciarán Hinds, Johnny Whitworth, Fergus Riordan, Spencer Wilding, Sorin Tofan, Jacek Koman, Anthony Head, Cristian Iacob, Christopher Lambert, Jai Stefan, Vincent Regan, Ionut Cristian Lefter
Synopsis: As Johnny Blaze hides out in Eastern Europe, he is called upon to stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language
Is it a reboot, or a sequel? Or perhaps it's more known to be a sequeboot!!!
Since the last film got mixed reactions from audiences, Sony has decided to make this newest "Ghost Rider" movie a quasi-sequel reboot in ilk of such films like "Superman Returns" and "The Incredible Hulk." Meaning that it's kind of a continuation from the previous movie, but at the same time, it's ignoring certain continuity aspects to make it a stand alone film from the previous one. Confused? Well, you don't know the half of it. Although, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have been quite adamant during interviews that even though story of this movie is something of a continuation of Johnny Blaze's journey, but it's also supposed to serve as a reboot to the franchise as well. It's even more confusing considering that they recast the same freaking actor from the last movie to play Johnny Blaze again, as one would think if this film was a true reboot, then you'd recast the lead role.
Unfortunately, when judging this film as either a reboot or a sequel, it still fails to entertain it's audiences. For "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance", I've decided to do something special here, as it seems the directors and writers themselves didn't know what they wanted this movie to be. Therefore, I'm going to divide this review into three different categories. One category is where I review this film solely as a sequel, while the second category I'll review why this fails as a reboot. And finally, I'll put together my final thoughts from there. As many of my readers know, I've never done anything like this before, but I figure since Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are trying to pass this movie off as a reboot/sequel, then I might as well treat it as such.
Reviewing this movie as a sequel: At the beginning of the movie, Johnny Blaze narrates his entire origin story in a brief flash back, and there's several narrations by Johnny where he explains who he is. Granted, this was done also in "The Incredible Hulk", to establish itself as a quasi-sequel reboot to the franchise. However, unlike "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance", the "Incredible Hulk" knew that it was playing itself off as a quasi-sequel reboot, so it never constantly referenced Hulk's origin throughout the movie, nor was there ever a need to constantly explain who the Hulk was. No, it took advantage of the fact that people knew who the Hulk and Bruce Banner were, and they went on to create an action packed adventure from there. Granted, the story did go over a few things that Ang Lee's "Hulk" already went over, but it wasn't to the point that they had to hammer Hulk's new origin into our heads. In "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" it almost seems like the lessons, and his tragic origin story are constantly brought up for no other reason than to remind us who he's supposed to. However, if this is supposed to be any kind of sequel, then constantly reminding us is completely unnecessary.
If I'm going to judge this movie solely as a sequel for a moment, then I'm going to need to be brutally honest here. Some of this portion will contain spoilers to the first "Ghost Rider" film back in 2007, so if you've never seen that movie and want to see it, then I'd probably skip this paragraph and the next two. In the first movie, Johnny Blaze was offered a chance to give up his powers after defeating Black Heart. However, like any cliche superhero ending, he boldly says out of nowhere, "I'm going to take this curse, and use it against you!" He says this while talking to the Devil himself too, and the first movie ends there. Why am I bringing this up? Well, I'm about to make a very good point.
In "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance", the story takes place ten years later, and Johnny Blaze regrets making the deal with the Devil to save his father's life; which ultimately got him turned into Ghost Rider to begin with. One day though, he meets a mysterious stranger named Moreau (Idris Elba), who's in need of Johnny's services to save a small boy, who is believed to be the Devil's son. Johnny refuses at first, but he quickly changes his mind when Moreau claims he would lift Johnny's curse. How Moreau does have the power to do this you may ask? We're never fully told, but we're supposed to buy into it anyway. Although one would have to ask if Johnny didn't want to be Ghost Rider, then why didn't he accept Memphisto's offer at the end of the first movie? Hell, all he had to do was say "Yes", and problem solved.
I know some people will say that he might have realized how much of a burden it was over ten years, as that's a lot of time for a guy to change. I'll give you that. However, if that's the case, then why couldn't we get a flashback to where Johnny admits and regrets telling the Devil off at the end of the first movie? After all, he wanted to stay "Ghost Rider" at the end of the first movie, so in the end, it's ultimately his own damn fault why he's still cursed; hence shouldn't his main motivation be to stick it to the Devil rather than lifting his own curse. After all, Johnny's exact words were at the end of the first movie, "I'm going to take this curse, and use it against you!" Therefore, he really has nobody to blame but himself for the curse. However, it's never brought up in this movie; hence it fails as a sequel, as the lessons he learns in the first movie are completely ignored.
Reviewing this movie as a reboot: Although Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor said in various interviews that this would be a quasi-sequel reboot to "Ghost Rider", they never made it clear enough in marketing for this movie. For starters, you recast the same actor from the first movie, which only makes it that much more confusing. Then, you make a story that takes place ten years after the events of the first movie; where you tell comic con fans that it's a continuation of Ghost Rider's journey, but it's really more along the lines of a reboot.
Again, this is where this film fails as a reboot. Not only did the directors do a horrible job making clear what this movie was supposed to be, but they seem to fail to understand what a reboot is. Granted, "The Incredible Hulk" was also a quasi-reboot, but at least Marvel Studios had the decency to recast lead roles, and change the story in terms of tone. Meaning that unlike the "Hulk" that relied on more of a psychological dark tone, "The Incredible Hulk" had a tone that matched along the lines of the original TV series; which helped make it stand out more as a reboot than an actual sequel to "Hulk."
In "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance", they never make it clear in the film with the tone, or story wise, to let the audience know what they're watching is some kind of reboot; unless you're one of the few that read through thousands of interviews with the directors on this movie; hence it fails as a reboot. Sure, if you listen to Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, they promised this movie would be darker in tone along the lines of "The Dark Knight." I beg to differ. If anything, the tone of "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" was not only as light as the first movie, but the only real difference is the soundtrack sounds edgier. Granted, I will admit that I did like the soundtrack to this new movie better than the first one, but an edgier soundtrack doesn't always make a movie immediately darker. No, the script, directing and tone have to be darker in order to make that happen, but it never does.
Closing Arguments and Final Rating: Not only is the dialogue horrendously bad in this movie, but Nicolas Cage tends to over act a lot, when it's not even necessary. In fact, I know I'm in the minority here when I say this, but I honestly thought Nicolas Cage did a great job in the first movie because he portrayed the internally conflicted bad a** quite well. However, in this movie, he often goes from internally conflicted bad a** to insane nutcase throughout the movie that it becomes hard to take him that seriously. Plus, the transformation sequences in this movie are a damn joke, and come off as cartoonishly comical, yet this is supposed to be a darker take on "Ghost Rider?"
Look, the only problems I had with the first movie was that not only did it rip off every superhero cliche in the book, but I didn't like the tone of it at all, as I felt it was way too light to represent the character properly. Plus, the villains were portrayed rather weak. In "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance", I see that not much has really improved. Not only are the villains too obliviously weak in comparison to Ghost Rider, but the script is riddled with various superhero cliches, while offering nothing to suggest this is supposed to be a dark film.
In the end, I will say that although I was disappointed with the first movie, I at least thought it was okay for a rental. Whereas this movie, I'm not even sure if I'd recommend it to anyone. As I said before, "Ghost Rider" is supposed to be a dark superhero that invokes elements of horror into it's mythology, but it's sad that both movies have thus far failed to capture the essence of the character. Overall, I'm going to give this movie a one out of four. The special effects were good, and I liked Idris Elba in this movie, so I'll spare "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" the dishonor of getting a zero this time.....