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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - Movie Review

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Ghost Rider - Movie Review

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3 stars

While better than its predecessor in antics, acting and special effects, the dynamic directing duo of Neveldine/Taylor doesn’t exactly crank the mayhem up to the levels one might expect.  It’s largely a performance piece directed by adrenaline junkies.  For those unaware of the meta-madness of Crank, Crank: High Voltage, and Gamer that’s really good news; they can actually concentrate on the on-screen shenanigans.  Fans of their style though should taper expectations a bit; there are no shotguns being stuck up assholes.

Yes, even the extreme violence of the Marvel Knights brand has to show restraint from time to time and serve their fanbase rather than take a huge ass risk and let these visually engaged dudes do their thing.  It’s a shame really, but that PG-13 rating and lack of actual production money aren’t too much of bummers.  Ultimately, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance doesn’t disappoint when it comes to vehicular carnage and soul-sucking stunts and overall enjoyment.

Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze except he’s a little bit nuttier.  It seems his attempts to block ‘the rider’ from coming out has rendered him a bit … sanity strained.  He’s punchier, edgier, and living on the outskirts of Eastern Europe (read: to save the studio money).  No, rural Turkey is not Harley Davidson territory and, as a result, the bike now a Yamaha V-Max – has also changed.  Approached by a zany drunk monk named Moreau (Idris Elba), Blaze is offered release from his riding duties if he’ll bring the devil’s child, Danny (Fergus Riordan) to a secret sect of the church so that they can save him from the devil (Ciarán Hinds).

Blaze agrees and, with the help of the child’s mother Nadya (Violante Placido), the three traverse Transylvania escaping thugs, devils, and themselves all in the spirit of vengeance.  Written by David S. Goyer, Scott Gimple and Seth Hoffman, the story is paper-thin and, because the character development is solely at the beginning of the film, a bit confusing at times.

Actor Johnny Whitworth turns in a bit of an uninspired performance in his portrayal of a bounty hunter turned into Blackout, a darkness-generating demon who has the ability to suck the light and life out of all natural objects.  When the hero of the story is as nasty as Ghost Rider, one has to turn to the villains to be heavier and more interesting.  They have yet to be and, as written in the comic, they are so much more…livelier.

People are going to think Neveldine/Taylor have sold out by making a Ghost Rider film.  They haven’t.  Here’s why: the location.  Turkey has no film infrastructure.  None.  This is guerilla filmmaking and it looks as gritty and as sparse as it sounds (which is weird for a 3D film).  Completely.  This is Drive Angry in Eastern Europe.  Shots are from the hip level (seriously, from the hip) and edits are quick to disguise the limitations of the roads.  Even the plot gets wound into a sort of otherworldly vibe with animation and black-soaked sets for some action.

Dialogue is sparse and, as the action unfolds, less punchy than in the beginning.  Still the weirdness in the characters Cage and Elba play creeps out and, when Ghost Rider lets a fire-stream of piss shower the screen, we get those bold visuals of Neveldine/Taylor.  One of the bold changes they made was in the way Ghost Rider moves.  He’s very zombie-like for awhile.  Odd, interesting, and twisted for the three action pieces we get of ‘the rider’.  Too bad we don’t get more.  I suspect there is a longer cut of the film waiting in the wings, but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is good as it is.  It just isn’t great.

One wouldn’t expect a Ghost Rider film to be so mellow, but a large part of Spirit of Vengeance is exactly that.  Slow.  It’s a zany take on the character and Cage gets to be bold (once again) in being so outrageous, but once ‘the rider’ is exorcised things get muted.  Then, Christopher Lambert makes an appearance and, well, the performance vehicle weirdness is back.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is more interesting than the first.  Its visuals are fresh and engaging and absolutely pop for its 3D price.  The performances are better, but the film is an odd mix for a team that is so bizarrely confident in their punch drunk visuals.  Sure, you are going to see things you can’t believe passed the standards of a studio-backed film, but they fall just a bit too short from the usual pieces of flair Neveldine/Taylor wear.

Even still, critics are going to accuse the movie of playing more like an extreme sports video…which tells me they weren’t actually watching Crank.  This is a tame Neveldine/Taylor.  Yes, the handheld moments are there.  The action junkie bits are incorporated into the mix and even Cage gets to rage in a hilariously uncomfortable scene.  Add it all up and you get an experiment in quasi obedience to studio-accepted behaviors from a directing duo that deserve a hell of a lot more credit than they’ve been given.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language.
Director
: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Writer
: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman
Cast:
Nicolas Cage; Violante Placido; Ciaran Hinds; Idris Elba; Johnny Whitworth
Genre
: Action | Fantasy | Thriller
Tagline:
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Memorable Movie Quote:
"What if you have to pee when you're on fire?"
Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Offical Site:
http://www.thespiritofvengeance.com
Release Date: February 17, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 12, 2012.

Synopsis: Former stuntman and bounty hunter of rogue demons Johnny Blaze has been living in self-imposed exile, believing that his powers are a curse. But when he is approached by a member of a monastic order who is looking for someone to protect a mother and her son, who are being pursued by the devil in the figure of a man named Roarke, the Ghost Rider takes the case.

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Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc

3 stars


4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 12, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Catalan: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy; Bonus View (PiP)
Playback: Locked to Regions A, B

Audiences might have cooled to the character of Ghost Rider but Sony’s 1080p transfer is on fire. Flames dance about in ethereal crisp colors. The foreign locations are full of fine detail and the clothing – burnt or otherwise – absolutely pops with color and rich fibers. The night shots are epic in their use of shadows and black-levels have depth. Skin tones are perfect and the pure clarity allows for an eye-popping experience in High Definition. You’ll notice the changes in the terrain – from sand to rocky to urban and back to highway roads – and the picture handles it all with beauty. The satisfaction of the release continues with the nicely spaced and immersive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that Sony provides the picture with. Sounds are full-throttle and dialogue is never compromised. Overall, a solid release that really packs a visual punch for your home theatre.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Sony provides the film with a picture-in-picture commentary recorded by the directors - Neveldine and Taylor – that is guaranteed to be an all access good time. While not comprehensive, the commentary is entertaining. It’s obvious Neveldine and Taylor are a bit on the defensive side about the film but they are also not completely blind to the film’s flaws. The commentary provides them with the time to explain and show how certain shots were made and talking about what fans didn’t notice. In detail the duo discuss moments in the movie relating to their shooting techniques, the locales, the plot structure, their style of stunt work and the film’s special effects.

Special Features:

If you are still kicking about after the picture-in-picture commentary, there are a whole slew of deleted scenes (The Church, Penance Stare, Rental Car Scene, Vasil's Fight Club, Wild Ride, and Roarke Talks Fatherly) that really don’t open the story up as I had hoped. I wanted proof that there was a better story here and there simply isn’t.  The six-part documentary is next and last.  With this documentary – running about 100 min – we get detailed looks at how the film came together. The sections are titled: Blazing a New Path, Patience Is Not A Virtue, We Will Burn This City To Bitter Ashes, To Hell And Back, Walking In Both Worlds, and The Fires Of Hell Will Purify You. Comprehensive and interesting, this documentary – for the film’s fans – does not disappoint.

  • Six Deleted Scenes (12 min)
  • The Path to Vengeance: The Making of ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ (93 min)

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