Ghost Rider  Spirit Of Vengeance
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Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance




The other day my best friends noticed a fresh pile of DVDs and Blu-ray on my desk waiting to be reviewed. He asked his usual question inquiring if there was anything interesting in this batch. We both have similar eclectic tastes in movies so he usually sniffs around after the UPS man leaves the door step. I remarked there was a Nicolas Cage flick. He naturally enough inquired what it was about but then it occurred to both of us you don’t actually go to a Nick Cage movie for the plot. You go because you want to see things get exploded in an exceptionally loud, bright demonstration of the pyrotechnical arts. It’s a lot like Mythbusters, the science is enjoyable but like the hosts, you want a really big boom. Actually there were two Nick Cage flicks this cycle, ‘Seeking Justice’, a crime movie and the one under consideration here, ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance’. This one is a sequel to the 2007 original ‘Ghost Rider’. True to form for a sequel this second time out of the gate exhibits a diminution of quality concurrent to an increase in the use of special effects. This is reflected in the fiduciary concerns of both films. The original cost $110 mill and just scraped by in box office but added to the profit overseas and in DVD/Blu-ray. In contrast this flick had an estimated budget of $75 million but fell about a third short of domestic financial success. Under most circumstances this would be the death knell for a franchise but with Marvel comic based movies owning the theaters and the star a well known comic book fanatic Cage might just be able to arrange for financing for another run at the franchise. In any case it does add considerable credence to my previous statement; you don’t watch a Nick Cage movie for a tightly constructed story. Now with home theaters rivaling and even surpassing the quality of the local Cineplex many fans of films like this just wait to catch it on disc. I know a lot of people who prefer to wait to see some films at home rather than going out to see them. This might very well prove to be an example of this new audience paradigm as film collections expand on our bookshelves and the ‘cloud’.

For Jonny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), it seems like an eternity since he traveled the motorcycle stunt circuit with his late father. After his dad’s untimely death Jonny took over the family business rising to the highest echelon of the endeavor. Life was dangerous until Jonny made the proverbial dead with the devil. Now he is condemned to serve the devil as ‘The Rifer’, a fiery demonic figure hunted the damned. Jonny tried to break away from his contractual obligations by roaming the earth opposing his former master. When Johnny morphs into the rider his flaming form is in possession of incredible strength, agility and the use of a flaming chain that whips out to do his bidding. His most powerful weapon is the penance stare which forces the victim to relive all the pain they inflicted on the innocent. As the movie opens Jonny’s journey has brought him to Romania, a location not unknown to the damned. In an ancient castle home to a monastery order an alcoholic cleric, Moreau (Idris Elba), frantically tries to warm the monks in residence of a powerful evil force approaching. Right here fans of macabre horror will feel right at home with the looming terror, the atmospheric castle and drunken harbinger of doom whose pleas fall on disinterested ears. It is a classic set up but it persists so long because it works, it is also somewhat of a sequel tradition to relocate the action overseas. The impending spectra of horror comes in the form of the devil has vowed to retrieve a mother and son hiding in the monastery. The head of the order, Benedict (Anthony Head) is certain the pair is safe but if that was true the film would be shorter than its trailer. Rourke (Ciarán Hinds), the devil’s front man has engaged the services of demonic mercenaries, to retrieve the pair who manages to handily dispatch all of the holy men except Moreau. He gets to survive long enough to sacrifice his life to protect his hunted charges. The mother, Nadya (Violante Placido) and her son Danny (Fergus Riordan) escape and go on the run. Jonny had initial refused to help Moreau but now is drawn into the battle. Once again, we see a very familiar plot device, the reluctant hero. To add a bit more incentive to our hot headed Rider Moreau holds out the hope that his order can complexly free Jonny from the curse. Another necessary archetype is the clearly visible villain. The previously dispatched mercenaries were merely ‘solider villain’, cannon fodder for the protagonists whose deaths are the playthings of the special effects masters. The leader of this group is Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), who is sufficiently imaginative and resilient to hold his own against the power of the ‘Rider’.

As promised the effects are bigger and more elaborate than in the first film. Since the budget was noticeably lower it might just be a more competitive marker for the effects teams. This time out the stakes are raised by the use of the new ‘Real 3D’ techniques. Filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have considerable experience in high octane action movies but like most directors they have to re-evaluate some aspects of their style to make the best use of the added dimension. There is a bit too much thrusting out of the plane rather than using depth as an integral part of telling a story. it does make for an enjoyable afternoon but falls short of its potential as a comic book film.

The Path to Vengeance: Making Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance
Patience Is Not a Virtue: Pre-Production
We Will Burn This City To Bitter Ashes
To Hell and Back: Production
Riding Into Another Dimension

Posted 05/30/12

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