Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
In the successor to the worldwide hit Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter, is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy from the devil. At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy and possibly rid himself of the curse forever. Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage (1996, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Leaving Las Vegas) is back as Johnny Blaze, the world’s darkest hero takes on the ultimate bad guy: the devil, himself. The sequel is directed by action filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank series, Gamer), and co-stars CiarĂ¡n Hinds (John Carter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2), Violante Placido (The American), Johnny Whitworth (Limitless, 3:10 to Yuma), Christopher Lambert (Highlander, Mortal Kombat), and Idris Elba (Thor, Takers).

Film (2 out of 5 stars)

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) made a deal with the devil to save his father in the first ghost rider movie and ended up with some some unexpected consequences. After that, any time he's in the presence of evil, he changes into the Ghost Rider, a living skeleton with a flaming head to pass out some justice.  In this second movie, there's some bad people after a young boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan) and his mother who have been protected by a secret order of priests.  One of them, Moreau (Idris Elba) knows they can no longer protect him and he's right.  The priests's fortress is attacked and Moreau is able to keep the evil forces at bay long enough for Danny and his mother to escape.  Afterwards, the priests realize that the only person that can help Danny is the Ghost Rider and they ask his help and promise him that they will lift his curse of being the Ghost Rider if he can save and return the boy. 

When the bad guys catch up with the boy and his mother, the Ghost Rider arrives and intervenes just in time. Johnny will soon be forced to face his nemesis Roark (Ciaran Hinds) and a creature that was once bad guy but has now transformed into a white haired creature named Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth). Carrigan has been given the “power of decay” and now destroys anything he touches, including people  The bad guys have a simple agenda...keep the boy and his mother, and possibly eliminate the Ghost Rider. That literally is the plot of this paper thin movie.  The execution of  even this most basic of plots is poorly accomplished.  Much of the background information is not well developed and a there's no real connection with any of the characters.  

This film is purely style over substance, with all of the focus on creating cool special effects but with no effort whatsoever to develop a coherent plot or interesting characters.  The film tries to explain itself using comic book like graphics but that made even less sense to me. Clearly, these directors like fire. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance uses a lot of special effects and flames and the Ghost Rider is pretty freaky with his flaming head and the effects when Johnny Blaze turns into the Rider are also well done. The Rider disintegrates people with his flaming chains and basically vomits fire in their faces as well.

For action enthusiasts there are car chases, gun fire, rocket launchers, and a flaming motorcycle. As far as performances go, this is not one of Nicolas Cage's best. At times it’s almost like he's doing a bad Nicolas Cage impression. Everything that people and "Saturday Night Live" makes fun of him for (yelling or whispering his lines, crazy bug eyes, etc.) is exaggerated in this film and only bolsters that reputation..  I like bad movies and especially bad movies with tag lines. The difference here is that I like bad movies that know they are bad and they embrace it. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance doesn't know it’s a bad movie.. Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor – a movie with double directors doesn't equal double the enjoyment which isn't surprising since I wasn't a fan of their Crank movies either.  The film has a lot of great special effects but much like the first one, there isn't much of a story to justify it.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

What the film lacks in plot development, it makes up for in video quality. This is a very sharp transfer with a significant amount of detail. It looks great in the day time, and even better at night. The detail was a little too good at times, showing that Nicolas Cage's hair looks like straw. The 3D effects are often pretty cool and there's a few times where the images come at you.. 3-D fire is the best kind, after all. In general I don't think the 3-D made the movie any better and the picture is slightly darker than the 2D version.  There's some minor ghosting present but it's not too bad.  This 3D transfer isn't one of the better ones I've seen but it's decent..

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. It creates an impressive soundscape that does help draw the listener into the action. The dialogue could have been a little louder for my taste, but it was clear enough and consistent throughout.  The rear channels were active throughout the movie and delivered a powerful sonic experience.  The sound effects had some excellent directionality and there was a lot of nice atmosphere as well.  Other than the low dialogue sound level, this is a fantastic mix and helps justify the movie's cost.  

Special Features (4 out of 5 stars) 

While the movie disappointed me, the features did not – even though my usual favorite gag reel is missing. I even applaud the fact that the previews are able to be individually selected, when usually I think previews are just a waste of time. Having a 3-D featurette is also a unique change.
  • Deleted Scenes – Six deleted scenes, not of which would have saved this movie.
  • Directors' Expanded Video Commentary – A behind the scenes, making of featurette. Picture-in-a-picture video shows the behind the scenes footage while the completed film runs in the background. The Directors' commentary is both amusing and informative and I enjoyed watching it.
  • The Path to Vengeance – A six part documentary with an in depth look at making the feature. The featurettes discuss bringing the directors onto the project and Nicolas Cage's role. They cover pre-production, production, and post production highlights.
  • Previews – Theatrical trailers for 21 Jump Street, Lockout, Starship Troopers: Invasion, Men in Black 3, and The Amazing Spiderman.
  • 3-D Exclusive - Riding Into Another Dimension – A short featurette with the crew of the movie talking about converting films into 3D in post-production.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I don't know what exactly was going on with a majority of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I watched it twice just to make sure that I wasn't in a bad mood or being unreasonably harsh. The first Ghost Rider was not an amazing movie and a sequel was not warranted.  As implausible as it was, Ghost Rider at least made sense even if it was lacking a good script.   All the major plot points in this film were underdeveloped or just missed the mark completely.  The special features combined with the disc's audio and video quality are the only things that saved this film's overall rating and were the only things that made watching the movie worthwhile. Fans of Neveldine and Taylor will still probably enjoy this movie if they liked their other ones like Crank, but for most people there really isn't much to recommend here.

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