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Ghost Rider comes back with a Spirit of Vengeance
Okay, so, disclosure time: I did not actually hate Ghost Rider.
It was not a wonderful movie. That I freely admit. But it was exactly what I expected and that's something. It had lots of fun and did a passable job of telling its story. Cage got a little hammy, but he's playing a guy who frikkin' bursts into flames. I'll accept some ham with my movie.
That being said, I had similar expectations for the second of the Ghost Rider movies, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. In many ways, it's a far superior movie: it's got a more gritty, rounded feel to it; the effects are better; the story has more depth to it; it doesn't have the, honestly, rather useless Roxy in it.
But in many ways, it's the same: it's still mostly a good, fun, action flick; the main character is, yes, a flaming skeleton in a leather greaser jacket; and it has Nicolas Cage.
But first, the story.
Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is running from his past. He's now living in Europe and avoiding civilization. Because without civilization, there are no evil people, the presence of whom will force the change into the Rider. He's contacted by a man named Moreau (Idris Elba) who wants the Rider to find and rescue a boy—Danny (Fergus Riordan)—who was kidnapped by a bad man named Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth). He also tells Johnny that he has the means to remove the curse upon him that turns him into the Rider.
This is very enticing, and the Rider is called forth once more. Along the way, he teams up with Nadya (Violante Placido), Danny's mother. Turns out she too had entered into a pact with one Roarke (Ciarán Hinds) and must now dance to the devil's tune.
Cage is clearly having a lot of fun here, as he did in the last one. Probably more so. He plays the rider as rather crazy, very manic, and barely in control. And that fun makes it easier for me to simply relax and have fun myself. If you want a more serious depiction of the Rider, this one will not appeal to you.
In fact, there are many reasons this movie may not be for you. There are, for instance, several sequences with some rather trippy, very bizarre imagery. I just had fun with them and I had a blast. The second time Blaze heads out in search of the boy, for instance, has a long sequence where Blaze is fighting the transformation into the Rider. He keeps bouncing back and forth from human, to demon, to half and half, spitting flame from his mouth or nose and laughing like a maniac. Very fun stuff.
Personally, I like that the whole movie isn't dark and brooding. The subject matter has enough of that built in. We don't need it wall-to-wall.
However, there are a few action sequences that, while cool to look at, don't really make sense in the story. A shot of the Rider floating in the air, for instance, spinning in a twisted game of "spin the bottle" in the middle of the battle. It's really cool to see, but the nonsense can pull you out of the movie. Thankfully, though, most of the movie is simply cool, fun action that should make it a great guy flick.
One thing from the previous movie that wasn't a deal breaker per se, but that did stand out to me was the fact that the skeleton of the Rider was just a little to pristine white. They were trying to make it look like the comic strip, and that's not bad. But the effect is a bit different in a live-action movie. This time through, however, the Rider looks different. Meaner. Scarier. And it's largely because they now have remnants of charred flesh on the bones. It's a little thing, but texture and realism shouldn't be discounted.
They've also done some tinkering with the story. There are flashbacks and comments regarding the events from the first movie that lead up to Johnny making his deal with the devil. That deal is now a little different. It's not a terrible thing, but it does mean that watching the first one is not required to understand this one. However, it may help you to better appreciate what they've done here.
For me, this one gets an 8 / 10. But that only applies if you can watch it with the right expectations. If that's not possible for you—and it's no discredit to you if it's not—you might not get the same amount of fun as I did.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is rated PG-13 for intense action violence, some disturbing images, and language (including one "F" that is said *gasp* by the devil of all people.)
One last thing ... 3D
Oh, and this one is in 3D. It wasn't filmed in 3D, and I've made no bones about my distaste for post production 3D conversion. So I did not see this one in 3D. I refuse to pay more to be disappointed. Now, as for you, dear reader, you can choose to see it in 2D or 3D. As for my experience, there were like 2 to 3 times as many showings in 3D as there were in 2D, and that was just frustrating.
Until I hear something good about a specific 3D conversion, I've decided I'm just going to stay away.
And the frustrating thing is that I would absolutely love to have seen what this movie would have looked like had they actually filmed it in 3D. Conversion just doesn't do it for me.