Friday, February 17, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Review

Hello again, Internet!  In preparation for my viewing of Ghost Rider 2, I sat down and finally watched the original.  You can view my thoughts here.  I enjoyed the first one for what it was.  That made me quite excited for its sequel.  Well, that and the awesome trailers and commercials that were released.  I need to get one thing out there first: I've never seen any films by the duo of Neveldine/Taylor.  That said, I am well aware of their gritty shooting style from what I've seen of the Crank films.  And I kinda dig it.

I really enjoyed GRSV.  One of the weakest aspects of the original was the amateurish nature of the cinematography and editing.  Too many cheesy, hackneyed camera angles and shots; odds close-ups of Blaze's eyes or jump-cuts.  This sequel improves on these imperfections in every way, shape, and form.  Nev/Taylor's style is very raw and in-your-face.  Rarely is a shot perfectly still; they wield the cameras themselves to get crazy-ass angles other directors wouldn't dare attempt.  I couldn't help but feel that the nature of the shooting style complimented the raw, kinetic energy with which The Rider fights; he destroys whats in his path with little rhyme or reason.  Same can be said about the cinematography.

If you've seen either of the trailers then you'll know what I'm talking about.  I'm a sucker for low-angle shots, especially during car chases.  And this film has a ton of them.  I recently watched a featurette in which they show that the directors were tied to the cars/motorcycles while on rollerblades just to get an awesome angle.  That kind of stuff blows my mind.  And it made GRSV that much better.

The visual effects were a big step up from the original.  The Rider's leather jacket now bubbles as if it was literally on fire.  His skull is now blackened and charred...and the actual flame effects are highly impressive.  As seen in the original, any machinery The Rider touches transforms, and there are myriad examples of this baddassery present throughout Vengeance.  And they were all quite impressive to behold.

The dialogue is much improved over Ghost Rider.  There are still plenty of cheesy one-liners and roll-your-eyes-worthy delivery but it all fit much better this time around.  This film has a much darker, edgier tone to it and these short, witty comments balanced things out nicely.  The plot itself is a nice compliment to the original film; however, they do very little to acknowledge certain events that played out before.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I dig Nic Cage.  And he makes this film for me.  This Johnny Blaze is a little different than before - he's been through some crazy stuff.  Long gone are the ramp-jumping-Blaze-days.  He's out for himself and no one else.  And yes, we get some very awesome "Nic Cage" moments.  And I think you all know what I'm talking about.  I don't wish to spoil much, but there is one particular scene in which he's fighting back The Rider and its insanely awesome.  Idris Elba is a nice addition, although I wish they would've let him keep his awesome English accent rather than the at-times-difficult-to-understand-French one.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is not for everyone.  If you mildly enjoyed the original I recommend you give this sequel a chance.  I understand that the frenetic way in which Neveldine/Taylor shoot their films will deter some as well.  I say give it a shot.  I just hope you can appreciate the insanity of this film as much as I did.

A quick note about the 3D - I saw Vengeance with the third dimension and I thought it was fairly serviceable.  Nothing too fancy or impressive, just fairly solid.  There was more 3D in the first five minutes of this film than in the entirety of Episode 1.  You might want to save those extra dollars on popcorn, but if you can spare the dough I say go for it.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a frenetic, in-your-face anti-hero film that gets quite a lot right.

The Bullet is out.

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