Who would have thought that Ed Wood ((With sincere apologies to the late Ed. You were never this dull and, at least, everything you did was stamped with your quirky personality and offered some fun by way of camp value.)) was:
1. Alive and Well?
2.Working for Marvel Comics?
3. Making a 3-D movie with a mega-budget?
Only Ed himself could have produced such trailer trash cinema out of the pages of a comic book character; he seems to be doing just that in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012).
Forget the period nostalgia of Captain America (2011) or Robert Downey’s inimitable personality underneath the armor of Iron Man (2008); the future of superhero movies may well just degenerate into the guttural hodgepodge found in this un-stylish, witless follow up to 2007’s Ghost Rider.
It is little wonder that the indie movie scene, more often than not, offers nothing more than the most execrable rubbish that would make anyone either throw up or roll onto the floor laughing. Because it is Hollywood’s taste, class, and professional entertainment standards that offer them their role model.
The directing/writing team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have a resume straight from the Jerry Springer school of film (or, more aptly, music videos with bad music). Crank (2006), Gamer (2009), and Jonah Hex (2010) should have been warning enough. But, it does to go to show that with the right background and connections, together with the right deal, the most talentless, juvenile hacks can shmooze and ink their way into the latest Hollywood fads.
The Ghost Rider character, for those who care, is a sort of the Exorcist meets Evel Knieval. He’s a bottom-of-the-barrel superhero from Marvel Comics. The superhero tag is somewhat questionable—from what I recall of the 70’s comic, he was merely a leather clad flaming skull who rode a chopper from hell and hung out with Spiderman and the X-Men. Apart from his appearance, he fit right in with the rest of the tight-wearing crowd and battled super-villains. That’s not exactly fodder for a unique character, but a matter-of-fact demon as superhero, teaming up with Spiderman and company, has far more peculiar potential than what is served up in this death metal magazine residue that comes complete with slip-shod camerawork, alarmingly bad writing (from three writers!), Nicolas Cage‘s uncanny ability to make even a train wreck look boring, and an amateurish score that sounds like it belongs in cheap porn.
Hollywood, having long been bankrupt in the imagination department, has turned to comic books for ideas. Unfortunately, Tinseltown already seems to be scraping the leftover bins. Taking nothing away from the comic books, I am certain there had to be some halfway decent (or at least better) issues of Ghost Rider comics for the filmmakers to adapt.
Alas, this compares to the Green Lantern (2011) fiasco. That film was clearly made by committee and deservedly sank. By consensus, there are far better Green Lantern stories that could have easily been utilized. (The main one I remember was an “On the Road”saga with Green Arrow). Green Lantern himself was a bit self-righteous and bland, kind of like John Boy Walton or Luke Skywalker. He desperately needed a more colorful, rougher Errol Flynn/Han Solo type, which he got in Green Arrow. Later, Green Lantern went solo and the stories went from being earth-bound to overtly complicated sci-fi mumbo jumbo. The Martin Campbell helmed adaptation unwisely followed that later route.
John Semper, the producer of the 1990s animated Spiderman, once said: “It does not matter who Spiderman is fighting. What matters is that Peter Parker cannot pay the rent and has girlfriend problems.” That’s called narrative character development, along with an identification point, which is always needed, and most especially in a comic book character. Pretty simple, except that the basic 101 concept seems to elude studio executives.
Since the comic books already exist, it would seem blatantly obvious that filmmakers could and should tap the classic stories of their sources. Hell, they would already have the film pre-storyboarded and, I would imagine, save considerable money to boot.
Instead, we get Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance! Where you can see Nicolas Cage piss fire in 3D! Ghost Rider begins with endless, and pointless, exposition. From there, incredulously, it gets worse, and by the time the credits roll, both the film and Cage have taken on the persona of a drooling idiot, badly in need of a bib.
To quote Bogart: ” So many lousy movies! It’s like GM deliberately putting out a bad car.”