By: Addison Wylie
Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Can I see you in my office for a moment?
Hi, guys. Let me tell you, you two had quite the promising start. Your innovative Crank films have split audiences. But, even to those who think those two action films are crass and immature, they can’t deny that what you two insane directors are doing is something audiences haven’t seen in a mainstream flick.
You guys have taken an attitude made famous by the minds behind Troma movies and Grindhouse films of the like and managed to find a path to make these trashy and fun movies available to a wider audience.
This brings me to your latest effort, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and how letdown I feel.
Fellas, let’s call a spade a spade. You’ve made a sequel to a film no one wanted to see more of. The comic based on the fiery vigilante who has sold his soul to the devil may have life in those animated pages but Mark Steven Johnson’s 2007 Ghost Rider was an unfathomable mess filled to the nines with bad writing, uninspired direction, and dull performances. Even Nicholas Cage, who is reprising that same role in your film, looked like he wasn’t sold on the comic-to-film adaptation.
When it was announced Ghost Rider would be getting a sequel, most of the movie going public cringed. However, when it was announced that you two wingnuts would be helming it, that detail sold us doubters who happen to love your previous work; me included.
As I’ve said, you guys represent a modern day innovation among action films. You provide that punk rock middle finger towards unoriginal drivel. Imagine my surprise while watching this sequel when the character of Moreau (played by the underrated Idris Elba) explains to Johnny Blaze that in order to rescue his soul from the devil, Blaze must save a kid.
Save a kid? Really? Blaze doesn’t have to go toe-to-toe with the devil or travel to hell, but in order to salvage freedom, he has to protect someone who still has math homework? It’s a plot that is incredibly overdone.
Now, I’m aware you didn’t write the script. It was those three troublemakers Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, and David S. Goyer. Those three will be hearing stern words from me soon enough. I would love to hear how they justify the eye-rolling snappy quips the devil’s right-hand man has. As well as how they figured they could get away with using an image of Jerry Springer to get a laugh.
The problem I have with you two and your direction is that no matter how dry the screenplay is and how poorly written the exposition and the jokes are, the franticness you guys are known for does not fit here.
Right off the bat, you along with your cinematographer, Brandon Trost, are determined to give your paying audience a headache. The camera is constantly jittering and running with each baddie. In order to change things up, the camera juts frantically to another fast baddie. And so on and so forth.
This worked in Crank because the camera movements matched the dying lead and it threw the audiences into those inane situations. Here, it feels like that style only exists to cover up how uneventful and basic the action pieces are.
The rapid fire movements as well as the awkward angles where Trost’s camera is constantly looking up or down at an actor lasts throughout your film. So, not only are we unimpressed with the script, but we’re also distracted by how technically flawed and repetitive the movie is.
As I’ve mentioned, you have Cage returning to play the role of Johnny Blaze. After watching Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, I can at least say this about the first film: Cage may have been misdirected but at least his character was consistent.
Here, neither of you can decide whether Blaze should be this contained loner or a screeching maniac. We understand Blaze is suffering from a Mr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde syndrome because of his curse. However, you two knuckleheads never keep the character in check. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you had provoked Cage to go to an overacting point of no return. Cage is so out of control that audiences won’t help but think Blaze traded his soul for a gram of coke.
Mark Neveldine. Brian Taylor. You blew it. I know you’re capable to produce better work. Next time, please think about where and how you apply your trademark direction and, hopefully, you two will be working with a better script as well as stronger source material.
And, fellas? Just know that I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.