It’s been over a week and I’m still reeling, reaching for the bottle to wash away the horrible memories of that night. Those wild bug-eyed stares, the flames, and the screaming. Oh God, the screaming.
I’m referring, of course, to Nicholas Cage’s acting methods.
Let us be clear: I am no stranger to the evils of bad acting. I watched National Treasure 2 with a wistful smile, and chortled at the antics of his allergic protagonist in Wicker Man. I even cheered for Cage in Kickass because he finally got to do what he’s always wanted to in his heart: just play Nicholas Cage.
But outside that one movie, Nicholas Cage playing Nicholas Cage does not work. It is anathema to the happy stupid feeling that you should get when watching an action movie. It is the “Oh god Daddy’s got the belt again” squeal of terror from your lizard brain that happens when a slightly chubby man (with no chin)starts screaming, flailing and threatening to hurt people.
Oh, and his eyeballs periodically suck back into his head for some reason whenever he yells. Just put that image in your head. Alright, you’ve just envisioned half of Cage’s screentime antics.
Personally, I have nothing against Mr. Cage. He seems like he would be a fun guy to hang out with, maybe have a beer or two. In that “class clown” sort of way, he embodies the puckish imp of Shakespearian yesteryear. But when he gets in front of a camera, something terrible happens. Some Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde shit goes down in a serious fashion, and before you know, it the audience is squirming uncomfortably. They’re not having fun. They’re wondering if they can grind up the lenses of their 3D glasses and sell the dust to coke whores, just so they can somehow be compensated for what they are now paying to watch.
I would compare Cage’s bizarre on-screen breakdown’s to Mel Gibson’s behavior last year, but I feel like there’s a significant difference. First of all, Mel Gibson is clearly becoming the Antichrist. There’s no conflict. It’s a cut-and-dry, rise-of-evil scenario. With Nic, it’s more of a wacky spiritual journey, playing out over a dozen films as our limpid-eyed hero travels through the dark corners of his own soul. Everyone goes through mid-life and identity crises, so this on its own is pretty understandable.
What I don’t understand is why this has to happen in front of millions of confused and ultimately embittered moviegoers.
The real travesty in this shaboingo of a clustermug, of course, is that Spirit of Vengeace is not actually an awful movie. In fact, every scene Cage isn’t involved in, even the ones with his flaming alter ego, are a lot of fun and the kind of ridiculous high-octane (what the fuck does that even mean anyway, how can you inject fuel enhancers into a two-dimensional medium) thrills that you expect from a dark action movie.
The villain (Satan, for those of you who don’t follow the Marvel comic) is fairly compelling, the love interest is bland but objectifiable enough to hold our shallow interests for a bit, the kid actor is as plucky as can be and the drunken French dude is just plain awesome. Nic even has plenty of chemistry with his fellow actors, but he insists on acting out periodically and totally schtoinking the entire scene that was just about to go down perfectly. It’s like he insists on playing characters that his style can’t possibly enhance.
In summary, you might want to skip this one. I don’t care if the director was drunk for every take, or if Cage shifted to maximum troll mode while making this movie. There’s just no excuse for liking comic books as much as Cage does (apparently his house has panels from them embossed into the walls) and yet somehow producing something this difficult to watch. Admittedly, there is something vaguely therapeutic about watching a scrawny balding man lose his shit and kill people for two hours. After all, everyone loves a good train wreck, even in the theater.
But all the same, you can add my name to the list of vaguely annoyed white nerds who were forced to drink away their sadness after watching a “superhero” movie with no real reason to exist.