Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


   I do not get why people were so hard on this movie. For comic fans, it's easy to see that the directorial duo Nevaldine/Taylor genuinely get the appeal of Ghost Rider, as a character and as a property. The movie is full of insane imagery and wild action scenes. For the casual movie fan, what's not to love about a movie that's 90% nothing but Nicolas Cage absolutely losing his shit? That's entertainment. The Ghost Rider comics were never high art or deep genre defining works of fiction. They're just lurid fun, like this movie is. So what's the deal?

   The first movie was saddled with an extraneous and obligatory romance subplot. It also had extremely one-note action scenes which usually boiled down to Ghost Rider whipping his chain at the main bad guys and just like that, they were done for. Wow. This one may not have Sam Elliot classing up the joint, but it has Idris Elba and Christopher Lambert. So hey, not a bad trade all things considered. Did I mention that Idris Elba plays a motorcycling, gun-toting, alcoholic priest? Yeah. Also as if anyone better could've been hired to direct, Nevaldine/Taylor were the guys behind the Crank movies. So imagine that unfiltered insanity applied directly to this supernatural anti-hero flick.

   The action scenes are far more elaborate and satisfying this time around. There's a distinct style to the whole movie but it really shines when things are in motion, and on fire. In direct contrast to the clean burning look of the rider in the first flick, he literally seems to be on fire in this one. His skull is charred, his leather outfit is burning, melting. Visually, it's fantastic. It also makes for a more interesting look any way you slice it. Sure, none of these details bolster the plot or strengthen the story, but they don't need to.

   The story is simple and direct. Satan made a deal with a woman to save her life from certain death in exchange for a son. A son who would one day be the vessel for Satan himself, allowing him to walk among mortals without all the hassle of an ill-equipped meatsuit that rots as you wear it. Of course, if this happens, the devil will be nigh unstoppable, so the good guys can't let that happen. They've got to protect the boy until the devil's window of opportunity to possess him passes. Why are these things always married to absurd timetables? Who knows. Why did Satan only make this deal with one woman instead of many? Who knows. Why isn't the default course of action to just kill the boy? Because, obviously good guys don't do that.

   That's the kind of movie Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is. It functions because it needs to. It runs on silly comic book logic. Which is the same kind of logic that audiences are faulting it for. The same critics who've bashed this movie, gave a hall pass to other tripe of the same stripe for "being fun". If that's not exactly what this movie is, you can smack my ass and call me Beelzebub.

    You're not going to find anything overly special in this movie, but when it matters the gorgeous chaos on screen looks like the cover to an 80's metal album brought to life. And, honestly, there's only two movies in all of cinematic existence where the hero is a motorcycling guy with a flaming skull for a head. Neither of them are exactly 'good' movies, but one is way more fun, and that's this one. Ignore anyone who says otherwise. The action scenes are fantastic, the visuals are top shelf stuff, and the humor and sight gags are genuinely funny, you can't go wrong with Spirit of Vengeance.

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