Crap We Actually Watched: Rewind Edition
Hello Evil Geeks! Or as Nightcrawler would say after appearing in cloud of fart-smelling smoke, “Gutten tag Evil Geeks!” It’s time for another Evil Geek review! This time we’re heading to the movies, our to more accurately put it: we’ve already headed to the movies. We’re trying to mix up our reviews a little by talking about old stuff as well as new stuff, so today we’re taking a short trip back in time to February 2012 (pardon me a second, I have to fire up The Brotherhoods Evil Time Machine. The engine and pull cord came from The Brotherhoods Evil Lawnmower, so it takes a while to warm up) Since we’re obviously comic geeks, were kind of bound by some weird combination of honor and shared shame to support the ever increasing amount of comic related stuff that’s released. So far in 2012 we’ve been pretty fortunate to get some great films tossed our way as far as comic movies go, especially with The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises delivering a kick-ass two hit knockout combo this summer. Spidey was good too, so we’ve been REALLY lucky. Putting that aside, this years geek movies haven’t all been winners. In fact, just like any other year, some stuff has been downright awful. That brings me to the reason I’ve gathered you all here today: Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance. What can I say about the absoulte pile of deviled crap this movie was. I actually had quite a bit to say about it, back when the pile was still steamingly fresh in my brain. The following review previously appeared in the blog of some friends of ours (Check out Tom and Colleen at http://tomcolleenmcwatters.blogspot.com/ Maybe we can even convince them to do a guest post one day, an EVIL GUEST POST!!!). I figured I’d rerun it here in case any of you evil geeks were thinking about checking it out. The movie might be good for a laugh or two at the expense of Nicholas Cage, but otherwise prepare to be traumatized.
Hope you enjoy it, and we will be back in the very near future to bring you some more Evil Geekery! As always, stay Evil and Geeky Brothers and Sisters!
I Made A Deal With the Devil,
and All I Got Was This Stupid Leather Jacket
The movie sequel that absolutely nobody was clamoring for has finally arrived in theaters. Future Razzie award winner Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance features Nicholas Cage resurrecting the character of Johnny Blaze and his anti-hero alter ego, Ghost Rider, in the follow-up to 2007’s Ghost Rider. After the first film’s release, it was universally agreed upon by both comic fan-boys and critics that it had unseated Daredevil as the worst comic book adaptation ever forced upon theater goers. Apparently Nic Cage wasn’t too happy with that dubious honor, so he set out to make Spirit of Vengeance to put things right. I can now report to you that he has without a doubt accomplished that goal; from now on, Ghost Rider will no longer be known as the bottom of the barrel of comic book movies. Spirit of Vengeance has arrived to take over the number one spot with…well, with a vengeance.
A quick back story for those unfamiliar with the lesser known Marvel Comics character: The character of Ghost Rider has been around in various incarnations for quite a long time. Originally conceived as a western character, Ghost Rider was a cowboy who had a flaming skull for a head riding atop a spectral horse (Fun fact about a not so fun movie: Sam Elliot played this character in the first Ghost Rider film and to this day remains the only enjoyable thing about the entire horrid affair). Back in the 70’s, Marvel updated the character to fit with the times. The new Ghost Rider was Johnny Blaze, an Evil Knievel type stunt showman who jumped motorcycles in a traveling show and was possibly the dumbest named fictional character ever (I’m willing to bet that his real name is like Mortimer Blazinokowski or something equally awkward sounding). When a loved one of Johnny’s becomes ill, he decides to strike a deal with the Devil to save their life, because clearly Johnny did his research and saw the infinitely long list of people who have done this and had everything work out perfectly, with no complications or shenanigans from the Devil what-so-ever. In return for the favor, Johnny agrees to become the Devil’s personal bounty hunter. The Devil screws Johnny over (shocking right? Never saw that coming.), by permanently bonding him with Zarathos, a demon who digs revenge. Whenever an innocent person is harmed and Johnny is nearby, he forcefully transforms into the flaming-skulled, leather clad, chain wielding S&M dominatrix…er, excuse me, I mean Ghost Rider, complete with a super cool accessory motorcycle with fiery wheels. Although one has to wonder why the Devil would want to help innocent people so badly, but whatever. It was the 70’s and I’m sure the artists and writers in the Marvel bullpen at the time were laying down lines of coke like Ghost Rider’s bike laying down fire on the highway, so plot was probably secondary to everything else. Later on in the 90’s, Marvel brought back Ghost Rider again, this time with NYPD office Dan Ketch taking over the mantle.
On to Spirit of Vengeance: After the events of the first film, Johnny is distraught over having to bear the curse of being the Devil’s bitch, so he runs away to Eastern Europe to be alone so he can whine and cry in peace (after all, he is played by Nic Cage, so there’s bound to be some somber emoting at some point). The very first scene of the movie is a short action set piece that I’m sure the writers and directors would refer to as an homage to the opening of a James Bond movie. In this scene we are introduced to Moreau, a bad-ass, gun-toting, wine swilling, French, biker, priest (I was so close to being able to type that sentence without laughing. Also, you know Moreau is French, because he speeeeks wiz zees OUUUTTTRRRAAAGGEOUS French accent.) Moreau is played by Idris Elba, who is better known as Charles Minor on the American version of The Office, or for the twelve comic geeks that actually saw it, Roque from the movie The Losers (yes, I am one of those twelve geeks). Moreau is meeting with some super mysterious and mystical monks, to discuss Danny, a boy that the monks have been guarding. Danny has some sort of extremely mysterious and mystical powers and because of that he is being sought by an enigmatically mysterious and mystical man named Rourke, who just also happens to be the Devil. Rourke is played by Ciaran Hinds, who gave a great performance as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome. Rourke needs Danny in order to complete a strangely mysterious and mystical dark ritual. Moreau is told by the monks that a deeply mysterious and mystical prophecy states that an immensely mysterious and mystical protector will guard the boy. Coincidentally, Johnny/Ghost Rider is that protector and Moreau must locate him. Unfortunately, Rourke had ordered some generic stock bad guys off of the internet and they end up getting delivered right in the middle of the meeting (Mention this blog post during checkout at http://www.stockgoons.com and get 50% off your first batch of henchmen!!! Offer not valid for purchases of Mole Men.). In the ensuing chaos, Sphinx Boy (because he’s terribly mysterious… and mystical!) and his mom grab a car and try to escape, causing the generic baddies to chase after them, thus causing Moreau to hop on his bike and chase after the bad guys. During the ensuing car chase, we find out that in addition to being a bad-ass, gun-toting, wine swilling, French, biker, priest, Moreau must be some kind of sharpshooter because right after he wrecks his chopper, while he’s still in mid-air mind you, hurtling towards certain death, instead of screaming “HELP, HELP, I’M GOING TO DIE!!!!” while simultaneously pissing and shitting himself, he manages to shoot out the tires of the bad guys ride. Danny and his mom get away, Moreau goes sailing off towards what is certain to be his doom and BAM! We’re hit with the opening credits. Half-assed James Bondery at it’s finest.
Surprise, surprise, it turns out Moreau doesn’t die and he eventually ends up locating Johnny. In a scene that in no way, absolutely proves that this movie is nothing more than a vanity project for Nic Cage, during Johnny and Moreau’s first meeting, 90lb emo teen girl Cage manages to slap around a much larger and far more physically intimidating Elba like Moe and Curly from the 3 Stooges. As far as the plot of the rest of the movie… there really isn’t one. Moreau gets Johnny to come with him by promising to bring him to someone who can rid him of Ghost Rider’s curse and then the movie devolves into a string of action set pieces and by the end of it all, you’re actually ready to make your own deal with the Devil just to make it stop. In I guess what you could call a sub-plot, our intrepid heroes actually spend a great deal of time trying to keep Ghost Rider away from Danny’s mom, because she is some sort of Gypsy pick pocket or something and Ghost Rider doesn’t care how bad of a criminal you are, he still wants to kill you. The prophetic, dreadfully mysterious and mystical hero that has been sworn to protect Danny is preoccupied with killing his mom; what a shitty prophecy! They actually make a point of saying he’d even kill someone for illegally downloading a movie, as if movie pirates worldwide would hear this and actually be scared for their life because they think Ghost Rider is going to nab them selling bootleg DVD’s out of the trunk of their car.
So how about the action sequences? I’m willing to admit that they look good for the most part. The special effects are good but not great, and there are some really cool looking shots. The directors, Mark Neveldine and Brain Taylor (best known for bringing us other screen gems as Jonah Hex and the series of Crank movies with Jason Statham) are known for using innovative ideas to capture unique shots. Several of the motorcycle scenes were filmed while the cameraman was being towed at a high speed while on roller blades. So while the action scenes look good, looks will only get you so far. The action scenes in the movie lack any depth or substance, they’re just a series of shots of Ghost Rider looking cool, but not really fighting anyone. In the awkwardly paced first major “fight” scene, Ghost Rider chases down the assemblage of generic thugs as they are closing in on Danny and his mom. Ghost Rider jumps his hell bike into the middle of the scene and just when you think you’re about to see some ass kicking, Ghost Rider hops off the motorcycle and he….. Ugh…… I swear to Christ, HE DANCES LIKE MICHAEL FUCKING JACKSON ON TOP OF A CAR OUTSIDE OF A COURTHOUSE!!!!! It’s not a full out Thriller routine, but he does a quick couple of moves that end up with a Tony Manero-like fist in the air. If you put a disco ball behind him, it would have looked like the cover of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album. It was at this point that a part of me died and I gave up hope on ever enjoying the rest of the movie. What the fuck did I just see??? What? Why??? I think I’m starting to miss Ben Affleck as Daredevil. He does something similar later on, but he ends up crossing his chest with his arms. I half expected him to turn his head and cough Three Amigos style.
When the “fight” actually starts, Ghost Rider grabs the nearest generic baddie and proceed to hit him with Ghost Rider’s signature move: the Penance Stare. This ability allows Ghost Rider to make his enemies feel all of the pain and suffering that they have caused in their lives all at once and basically reduces them to a soul-less catatonic, husk of a human being. This sounds WAAYYY cooler than it actually looks because it pretty much just amounts to him staring at this generic thug for a long time. A really long time. A really, really long time. I’m going to look away……Is he still doing it? He’s STILL doing it?!?! Is he….Is going to kiss him??? He’s still doing it. For some reason, this shot seemed uncomfortably long. Hell, for all I know, he’s still staring at this poor asshole somewhere right now as I’m writing this. Finally Ghost Rider drops what’s left of the thug and instead of fighting any of the rest of the villains, he pulls out his chain, whips it in a circle around his head and all the baddies disintegrate into a cloud of ash and brimstone. Every “fight” scene in the movie goes this way and it just seems like a cheap way to get around choreographing any fight sequences. Ghost Rider has mastered the art of fighting without fighting, but in a way that leaves the audience feeling unentertained and a little ripped off. We’re watching the birth of a new genre of film courtesy of the CGI age: The Inaction Movie.
With stars like Cage, Hinds and Elba, surely the acting has to be good, right? Not so much. Nicholas Cage is more Nicholas Cagey than ever. He’s completely aware that he’s playing a parody of himself and he just doesn’t give a shit about that. In the scenes where Cage is playing Johnny (Cage also played the CGI model of Ghost Rider ), he comes off strikingly similar to Ben Stiller’s character in Mystery Men, Mr. Furious. He keeps telling people about all the rage and fury that he’s holding in. In a few scenes where Johnny comically tries to surpress the transformation into Ghost Rider, it so reminded me of Mr. Furious rapidly squeezing a stress ball, while muttering “Rage…subsiding…pulse…slowing down…” that I laughed out loud. The fact that Cage is perma-clad in black leather really seals the deal on that comparison. As for Hinds, it’s not one of his best performances. Halfway through the “story”, Hinds uses his Devil mojo to transform the head of his generic goon squad, played by Johnny Whitworth (I have no freaking clue what this guy was in before this movie and quite frankly his INCREDIBLY ANNOYING screen presence is justification for me to not expend the energy to look him up on IMDB) into D level Marvel Comics villain Blackout. Blackout’s abilities are being an albino, having vampire fangs but possibly not being a vampire, turning off lights and making stuff rot (including this movie). After the transformation, the Devil is such a bad-ass that he apparently has a stroke, and Hinds spends the rest of the movie talking out of the corner of his mouth and slipping in and out of a Dick Clark impression. Showing up for an extended cameo, presumably because he had some bills to pay or wanted to earn some cash for a vacation to Hawaii or something, is Christopher Lambert of the Highlander series of movies. Lambert plays one of the monks (not the original mysterious and mystical monks, a completely separate set of monks, because apparently the monk budget on this movie was sky high) who will help Johnny ditch the Ghost Rider for good.
The movie tries to insert some comedy into the story a few times, but honestly, everything else about this movie is unintentionally funnier than these jokey attempts. A moment of hilarity ensues when Blackout tries to use his power to make a Twinkie rot. Another one of the movie’s knee slapping gags is a recurring joke about Ghost Rider being able to pee like a blow torch. Because of that gag, we’re treated to not one, but two cut-away scenes of Ghost Rider urinating fire.
At a few points in the movie, the story breaks away to animated asides which fill in various plot holes and back stories; because as I’m sure you know, all the best film makers have to stop their stories in order to spoon feed vital information to the audience instead of doing that naturally the progression of the story or character development, or bothering to make sure the story made sense in the first place. This sloppy story telling is the thing that bothered me the most about this movie. I love watching great action sequences, gunfights, stuff blowing up, and fight scenes; but without something tying all of that together in a sensical manner, no matter how good or polished it may look, it’s still going to be a crap movie.
Being as big a fan of comics and comic book movies as I am, it really pains me to be so negative about this movie. I really wanted to like it, but that just wasn’t going to happen. In my younger comic geek days (as opposed to the much older, much geekier ones I’m living now), I was a big fan of the grittier, less campy, 90’s Ghost Rider. Dan Ketch was the Ghost Rider I knew, and at that point Johnny Blaze had been relegated to side-kick status (yet still seemed cooler than he ever did as Ghost Rider), but it would have been nice to see Johnny’s story done well on the screen. About three months from now, if you have a dollar to burn at your local RedBox by seeing yet another kooky, over the top performance from Nicholas Cage or if you just want to Mystery Science Theater the living shit out of it and yell stuff at the screen, then pick up Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Sadly I was robbed of the MST3K experience, as despite the fact that I saw it during opening weekend, the theater was completely empty). Otherwise don’t bother. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever get to see Dan Ketch tearing through the streets of New York as Ghost Rider because I’m almost certain that this will be the final nail in the coffin of the Ghost Rider film franchise.