Thursday, 23 February 2012



I'm not a comics aficionado. I could probably have a fairly confident guess as to which characters were DC and which were Marvel, but that's based more on whether they're in the upcoming Avengers movie than on reading the strips. Maybe I've never understood grown-ups reading comics about masked superheroes, though it's probably no different to me watching Pertwee-era Dr Who DVDs. But even allowing for my limited understanding of comicbooks, even I thought Ghost Rider was a silly idea for a movie. The concept is that Nicolas Cage is a stunt rider named Johnny Blaze who sells his soul to the Devil, and periodically transforms into a fiery vigilante skeleton on a motorbike. Or something: it was rubbish.

Still, people liked it enough for them to make another one, and happily Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance is a Hell of a lot better. It's still silly, but at least this time around it knows it. Blaze is now living as a recluse in a shack somewhere in Eastern Europe, called into action once more to protect a 12-year-old boy from the Devil who plans to use his earthly form to regain his powers and dominate the world (or whatever). The safest place is with a small brotherhood of monks (led by Christopher Lambert), who also have the power to lift the Ghost Rider curse from Blaze. But the Devil takes the boy back for the unholy ritual in the desert, an event attended by both murderers and international political figures....

It's nonsense, but it's calculated nonsense. There's a terrific car chase, a prime example of a Nic Cage freakout, the Rider image is much improved, and there's a splendidly malevolent performance from Ciaran Hinds as the Devil, and it's big, loud and fast enough to successfully distract you from the fact that it is ultimately a lot of old twaddle. This is probably because they've brought Neveldine and Taylor in to direct it - Crank was just about okay, but Crank 2 and Gamer were both awful, but they've managed to give Ghost Rider an injection of crazy within the constraints of a big studio release and a 12A (PG13 in the States) rating.

However, as much fun as the movie is, you're better off waiting for the DVD or Blu. Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance is a retrofitted 3D conversion job - it wasn't shot in 3D but put through the computer afterwards to try and add some artificial depth - and the 3D effect is quite literally worthless. There's not a single shot from start to finish - not one - whether there's the slightest enhancement. If you can find a cinema that's playing it in 2D then go for it - that's the way the film was shot - but neither Odeon nor Cineworld are showing it that way. Vue's website indicates just one site (Inverness) and Empire apparently have eight 2D prints for the whole country. That's not enough and the premium is a shabby and shameful ripoff for a pointless effect that doesn't work in a film that's more than enjoyable and entertaining enough to do without it. Distributors (in this instance Entertainment One) and cinema should either give us the choice or abandon the unwarranted and unjustified price hike.

(but it would be *** if they'd released it in 2D)

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