Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Review : Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
As Johnny Blaze hides out in Eastern Europe, he is called upon to stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.
I have to be honest with you folks, I never gave a rats ass about the original GHOST RIDER adaptation, either way. I enjoyed it as a popcorn, intellect-free escapist jaunt, but it never left any great effect for good or ill in my ole' bonce.
Before seeing it, the closest I'd come to this iconic character was listening to, (and loving), the song GHOST RIDER by minimalist drone-rock pioneers, SUICIDE. He sounded like a cool cat in that song, man, and if the visuals of the first film were anything to go by, he most likely was a cool cat. The characters visage is just about as iconic and bad-ass as it gets, and I'm assuming that he's a character who lends himself to the more heavy-metal friendly comic-reading audience. His origin is pretty fuckin ace too, and I hope one day to look into the character more deeply; but for now, I'm gonna have to review this sequel to his first cinematic foray as a plain old-fashioned film-fan.
I've heard the complaints leveled at the original movie, and the certain timidity it displayed, even when in comparison to other super-hero movies. It did feel lacking, even as a clueless popcorn muncher, I have to admit. Good news, then. The sequel goes some way to rectifying this problem.
Its still no hardcore, gore-fest, (though it fucking should be), but it has a definite air of lunacy that makes the whole show feel just that little bit more palatable. The style of SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE will probably piss off a lot of fans, even as it aims to remedy the last films flaws, but to the grind-house connoisseur, and more importantly, the 80's action aficionado, this is an hour and a half of sheer nonsense that has some really refreshing kicks.
If the first film was static, this one is its polar opposite. Its directed by the two headcases who gave us CRANK and CRANK 2, and the manic energy of those films has crossed over here, and seems to me to be a far better fit. There's practically no plot here, there is fucking zero character building, the script is laughable at best and the performances could easily be construed as being an affront to God; but if you gaze upon this trash with the right goggles, (preferably ones drenched in alcohol), its a pretty good time.
See, I'm pretty sure they were actually aiming for full-tilt cheese with this damn movie. Theres no way you can look at an actor of Ciaran Hinds caliber, as he curls his bottom lip and sneers like he's channeling Jon Vouight in ANACONDA, and believe that this shit isn't intentional. These cats have obviously set out to make a cheap, ramshackle 80's muscle-flick, in the vein of DARK ANGEL, THE PUNISHER and THE RUNNING MAN, and have actually managed to pull it off. Now, that's not gonna be everyone's cup of piss, but its mine, so this one put a grin on my chin.
Nicolas Cage has been allowed of the hook here, which, love him or not, is always fascinating to watch. Its hard to tell if hes aware of just how bad an actor he often is, or if its all some elaborate, meta-fucking mind-game he's playing on us. He's been great, (see ADAPTATION), but hes far more fun when he's overacting his face off, (get it?), and giving all us drinkers a damn good laugh. Here, he's someplace between the his characterization in the original GHOST RIDER and his delirious turn in THE BAD LIEUTENANT. He looks like he's having a lot of fun, and I had fun right along with him. Sue me.
Visually, SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE is a strange one. Its clear the effects are top-notch, yet the whole thing somehow looks and feels dirt-cheap. I dug it a lot. The Rider himself looks far, far cooler than in the previous film, and feels like a much more demented, demonic force in this film, (more on that later), but the whole thing is shot in such a way that seems to drain the air of cinematic quality from the show. Often, it looks like the video game 'MARVEL VS CAPCOM', with its fast and furious beat-em-up style; and the camera is never static. In fact, the cameraman appears to have been ingesting just as much LSD as the directors and good ole' Cage were ingesting. As a card carrying spaceman-of-olde, I can honestly say I heartily enjoyed the drug-crazed visuals. Its MAD MAX tripping of its balls with FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, and its supremely cool.
There's a far more Horror flavored vibe to things this time too, with the Rider coming off as a being more akin to the accursed 'Wolfman' than a straight down the line hero. The film opens with Jonny Blaze, (the Riders alter-ego), hiding away from humanity as he cant control the demons hunger to damn some soul, and as the film progresses it becomes clear that the beast inside is less 'heroic' and more 'animalistic, anger-fueled psychotic'. The Rider is far less talkative, and far more physically emotive this time around, moving much like a serpent in many scenes.It gives the film a pleasingly old-school horror feel. There's very little by way of gore, (if anything), but there are some brilliantly macabre visuals, as when the Riders nemesis gains his power to rot. Yep, rot....he just rots folks, man. Its nasty! Also, we all know the bike gets to burning when Blaze is in demonic form, but if you ever wondered what happened when he boarded other vehicles with his hellfire going on, you'll find out here, and its extremely cool. There are some tip-top, wild action sequences here that really do look supremely sweet.
Musically, the films a huge step up from GHOST RIDER, with warped heavy-metal blending with traditional horror elements and industrial beats to great effect. It really adds to the films overall cheap and cheerful, grind-house vibe, and compliments the willful madness onscreen.
It may seem as though I'm being overly positive towards the film, but its hard to get your tits in a twist when watching a film that features a bad-ass with a blazing skull for a head, and for my sort of viewer, (those who grew up on shitty 80's direct-to-video trash), its many, many flaws actually feel like strengths.
I'm sure most will hate it, and I understand that. Also, I have no idea how faithful it is to the comics, but SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE was a ton of fun, in my book. Its shortcoming are many, and its just about as dimwitted as a comic adaptation is ever likely to get, but I cant compare it to the like of THE DARK KNIGHT or X-MEN : FIRST CLASS because that's like comparing a princess to a porn star. We all wanna be seen with the princess, and we know shes a class act, but the porn-star has a great ass and lets us drink tequila from her tits. Why cant we have both?
I dug GHOST RIDER : SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, and while that fact most likely will make me a fucking pariah among my peers; I have to be honest about these things. Turn your brain off, spark one up and get ready to head back to the 80's.
Characters? Plot? Depth? Intellect? Fuck off, IT'S THE 80's!!!!!
6 Rotten Twinkies out of 10
Lesson learned - Sometimes bad is better.