Archive for March, 2007
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
I’d never been too much of a Ghost Rider fan growing up. He looked really cool and had interesting powers but the character didn’t have too much depth. After seeing the new film based on the comics, I can say pretty much the same thing: the special effects are good but everything else comes up short.
One of the most important things to remember when adapting a superher comic to the screen is not to lose sight of what the film is about: namely, the superhero. No matter who might be starring as the hero, whether it be an unknown or Nicolas Cage, the actor should never overshadow the character. In Ghost Rider, Cage has so much fun as Johnny Blaze that he forgets how to act. The result is a goofy, muddled performance in a poorly-written, mediocre film.
I get the feeling that Nicholas Cage was given free reign over his character. Cage as Johnny Blaze has various baffling extraneous character quirks (drinking candy from a glass, loving the music of the Carpenters, etc.) that make no sense to the narrative. Normally his off-beat performances make a character more interesting but in this case it only confuses the tone of the film. Cage isn’t the only acting offender, however. Eva Mendez spends most of the film acting like she’s in a network sitcom, with over-exaggerated speech and obvious body language. Wes Bentley as Blackheart looks fresh from a bad Dracula spoof. These are not bad actors, so I can only assume the fault lies with writer/director Johnson. I was greatly disappointed by his version of Daredevil from 2003 and had hoped he’d fare better with a darker character. Unfortunately, half of Ghost Rider comes off as a silly romp and the other half as over-wrought pop-horror.
The only element of Ghost Rider that saves it from being a complete waste of time is the special effects, the character of Ghost Rider in particular. He definitely looks cool, especially while riding his flaming motorcycle. There were only a few shots that didn’t look 100% convincing and those were mostly at the beginning of the film. That said, there weren’t enough sequences with Ghost Rider in it. You’d think that a film based on his comic would feature him more promimently. This is fairly understandable, however, as Cage was hired to act in this film and he’s essentially lost in the Ghost Rider visual effects. More sequences with the Rider would’ve been nice, though.
During my viewing of this film, I couldn’t help wonder what a more talented director would’ve done, or what difference a sharper script would make. Perhaps there will be a remake in 20 years and I can find out. As it currently stands, however, Ghost Rider is an interesting character, but Ghost Rider is not an interesting film.Colin Le Sueur
South Korea 2006
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Most monster movies have a lot of suspenseful buildup leading up to the first appearance of the creature, forcing you to sit through often tedious plot exposition and character development while waiting for the scares. Even when the monster does finally appear, it’s usually partially concealed or obscured, leading to even more anticipation. This technique often backfires, with the buildup to the creature letting down the creature itself. Not so in The Host: rather than beginning with character and plot development, this film drops the monster right into the action within the first five minutes and develops the story afterwards.
This substantial and innovative alteration changes the whole tone of the film, creating chaos and uncertainty in both the characters and audience. Since we don’t know any of the characters when the dying begins, we have no idea who will survive. Rather than losing dramatic effect, due to not identifying with any characters, The Host gains much in tension and fright. As the film progresses, however, the characters are fully-realised and the film is revealed as a touching family drama disguised as an exciting monster movie.
The emotional investment in the characters stems from the excellent performances, with all the actors able to switch instantly from grim melodrama to comedic farce. In a lesser film, with lesser actors, this change in tone could’ve been disastrous, but The Host manages to straddle the line between comedy, drama, and horror. All the actors are good, but the standout has to be Ko Ah-sung as the little girl. She manages to avoid all the moppetish tendencies that you so often see in very young characters and delivers a strong, memorable performance.
The creature itself is quite memorable as well, with impressive special effects helping to create a living, breathing character rather than just a plot device. The director is never afraid to show the creature in broad daylight or in close-up, something which speaks to the high level of proficiency in its creation.
The Host is intelligent, poignant, exciting and frightening. Who knew that the story of a family in crisis could be so interesting?