Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Let's Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

I won’t say I was the biggest fan of the first film. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying it was bad there were just a number of things that I felt were dragging it down from being a great film. So when I found out that a sequel was coming out, I was actually a bit surprised. I had thought that the general opinion of the first film agreed with my own and that it really wasn’t worth a sequel.
The thing is this film is half a sequel. Some of the events from the first film occurred, but I’m not entirely sure if all of them occurred. I got the idea that they were trying to build a new franchise from some of their choices but then there were these glaring issues like why would they hire Nic Cage back, if they were going to try and ignore the first film? The reason I’m explaining this now is because I don’t want to confuse you when I’m comparing the two films. So before I continue spouting off more negative thoughts, let’s review Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
The Negative
A big problem with this film is how they represented the Rider.  The way he acted and moved about was more akin to recent demon possession horror flicks. The Rider was more like an animal reacting to instincts and impulses rather than a competent character that was in full control of their actions. At one point I actually thought that the editors were just playing with their CGI model when Ghost Rider gets hit with a grenade and just spins in midair in the same spot for a few seconds. Surprisingly this rather bizarre performance becomes the benefit of the story when at the end he fully gains control of the Spirit of Vengeance and starts operating like a real person showing the progression of his character in the film. Unfortunately it’s these really disjointed moments that take away from every scene with the Rider and ruin the first two thirds of the film. Maybe if Johnny was shown to have even the slightest control over his powers at the start of the film it wouldn’t be as bad, but unfortunately that is not the direction they took it in.
Let’s talk briefly about one of the main antagonists, Blackout. This was an absolute complete waste of a good villain. I think it almost made me cry how pathetic they made his character. In the comics, Blackout was the arch nemesis of the 2nd Ghost Rider. Blackout was a demonic vampire who had the ability to control perpetual darkness, which allowed him to avoid the sun which was his weakness. Ghost Rider and Blackout had many battles over the course of the book series, which even resulted in Blackout killing some of the Rider’s friends and family. No matter what the Rider did, he couldn’t find a way to finish off Blackout. So the Rider finally figures out a plan of attack. After an epic battle, the Rider chains Blackout to the top of the World Trade Center and then tortured him until dawn so that he was so weak he couldn’t stop the Sun from roasting him alive. This is probably one of the most epic villain deaths of all time in comics. In the film, he is a human thug for hire who is working for the devil to kidnap a kid, he gets killed early on and the devil grants him the powers in the hopes that he will be a match for the Rider. Unfortunately he still acts like a bum loser and gets killed when the Rider burns him and then runs him over with a car.    ……………………………absolutely one of the biggest wastes of a super villain I have ever seen.
Now tying back into the first film, Johnny makes a deal with Mephistopheles in order to save his father’s life. The new film plays out the deal making process differently, but essentially it is the same scene with the same characters. So my problem is…..why did they change Mephistopheles name to Roarke in the new film? Now this is such a minor thing and hardly worth complaining about, but it was a change that stuck with me throughout the entire film, questioning it every time it came up. Why did they change Mephistopheles’ name to Roarke? Did they lose the rights to Mephistopheles’ name? Did Roarke roll of the tongue better? I know this is such a minor complaint, but I really want to know. Why did they ever change his name to Roarke?
The Positive
One of the problems I had with the first film was how much the CGI for the Rider stood out. They did a really good job with the model…most of the time, but some of the time it was really glaringly obvious that what I was looking at was CGI and it looked awful. The character model for the Rider in this film was amazing. I was absolutely astonished at how real he looked. From the way the flames smoked and sputtered, to the way all of his clothing had a burning look to them, this rider was amazingly well put together. I honestly looked forward to seeing it despite the weird acting.
The truth is, that is exactly how the Rider should have looked in the first film. The Rider’s appearance and the use of his powers were exactly how they appear in the comics. I loved getting to see the Rider possessing new vehicles in order to dominate the battlefields and watching him use his chain to disintegrate the criminals into a ball of flame was like getting to watch the comic unfolding in real life. If only there wasn’t the insane acting, this could have made the entire film.
In Conclusion
This darker depiction of the Ghost Rider could have made this film amazing. Unfortunately, like the Rider, this film suffers from being too disjointed and over the top. The success of the film is that we have a really beautiful CGI model of the Rider which clearly they put a lot of work into, but the problem is that the model is put to completely waste by the bizarre mannerisms.  This really is a shame because the story and the characters really aren’t that bad, they’re just all over the place. If this film had just been a little more focused in its goals and had the Rider acting like a competent character, we could have seen another great Marvel movie. 2 out of 5.