Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance [2012]

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review

I found Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance (directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, story and screenplay cowritten by David S. Goyer along with Scott M. Gimble and Seth Hoffman based on the to be a monumental disappointment on almost every level.

A sequel to IMHO the much better film Ghost Rider [2007] based on the Marvel Comic Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), it was clear to me that the makers of the current film made a decision to "go darker" with Johnny Blaze (played in both films by Nicholas Cage) who in the first film was arguably sympathetic.  Johnny had made a deal with the Devil (played by Peter Fonda in the first film) only to save his father from cancer.  (Shortly after signing his own immortal soul over to the Devil to save his father from cancer, the Devil turns around and kills the father in a motorcycle accident ... YOU GOTTA FEEL SORRY FOR JOHNNY THEN ...).

In this film, Johnny Blaze comes to enjoy way too much the Ghost Rider "job" that the Devil has condemned him to: Periodically, Johnny, a stunt motorcyclist (a "dare devil"...) would become possessed, turn into a flaming skeleton in a smoking leather jacket on a really, really hot, indeed FLAMING bike ... and speed-off to capture some really, really bad-guy (some true Evil Doer [TM]) -- usually by bringing him down with a HUGE red-hot metal chain that he'd throw at him, knocking him down and tangling him in it.  Then Johnny Blaze (aka The Ghost Rider) would step off the bike, bring the Evil Doer close, look square in his terror stricken eyes, declare the charge and sentence "YOU PREYED ON / CHEATED / KILLED THE INNOCENT..." suck the Soul out of said terrified Evil Doer and send said convicted Soul straight down to Hell [TM].  Since the people that Johnny Blaze / the Ghost Rider sent down to Hell this way were generally truly awful people and Johnny was doing all this as "a cursed biker," one could feel sorry for the guy in the first film.  However, in this film once possessed he seemed to enjoy this work way too much.

Then the plot of this film is far more confused.  It's set not in the United States anymore but "in Eastern Europe somewhere" (where Johnny Blaze has apparently run-off to in hopes of somehow escaping the Devil there).  There he finds himself trying to save a child named Danny (played by Fergus Riordan) of a young Gypsy woman named Nadya (played by Violante Placido) who the Devil named Roarke (played by Ciaran Hinds) wished to enter in order to do more damage on the Earth.  This battle between Good and Evil comes to involve a strange Evil-looking traditionalist "Catholic-looking" religious Order (less DaVinci Code [2006] evil than Name of the Rose [1986] evil...) that wants to kill the boy before the Devil could enter him and a "hip" and very heavily armed "rouge Priest" named Moreau (played by Idris Elba).  Fr. Moreau reconciles Johnny Blaze back to the fold of the living (or at least the non-cursed) by a Rite that looks vaguely like Confession, only to find to the horror of both, that he "reconciled him too soon" to be able to protect the boy.  Guess what Johnny does then to save the boy ...

I think I've had my fill of gun-wielding priests over the past year.  I was relatively kind to the sci-fi thriller Priest [2011] (based on a South Korean comic book series), then chose to ignore the film Machine Gun Preacher [2011], but because I liked the first Ghost Rider [2007] made it a point to see this film.  But I think I'm done.

Finally, I actually did see this film in 3D, and have to report that THE 3D WAS AWFUL.  It added virtually NOTHING to the film.  The vast majority of the flaming CGI special effects that perhaps could have been really really cool in 2D looked absolutely ridiculous in 3D.  Yes, Ghost Rider originated as a comic book.  But even in the comic book genre, if the comics are poorly drawn, they don't sell...

So this Ghost Rider sequel (1) turned an arguably sympathetic (if cursed) character into a much less sympathetic one, (2) featured gun-wielding priests and vaguely Evil and certainly misguided Medieval-looking "Catholic-looking" religious monks, trying to kill a kid "in order to save him," and (3) did this utilizing hyper-expensive 3D technology to produce a monumentally disappointing (even visually, even buying into the 3D technology) product.  If there is a Ghost Rider 3, I do hope that it will be done better than this.

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