Ghost Rider

| February 20, 2007

Barton Blaze and Johnny Blaze are a father-and-son carnival motorcyclist stunt duo. Johnny’s father is dying from lung cancer, and in order to save him, Johnny foolishly is tricked into signing a deal with Mephistopheles, a form of the devil. Johnny exchanges his soul for his father’s health. Of course, he is backstabbed by Mephistopheles, his father dies in an accident and Johnny Blaze leaves the love of his life, Roxanne Simpson. Fast forward in time a decade or so. Johnny has become this strange loner with Evil Knievel-type fame and fortune. Johnny’s path finally crosses with Roxanne, now a reporter. At this time, he is called upon by Mephistopheles, who offers to release Johnny’s soul if Johnny becomes his new Ghost Rider, the spirit of vengeance and the devil’s bounty hunter. Mephistopheles commands Johnny to confront and destroy Blackheart, Mephistopheles’s nemesis and son, who plans to overtake his father as the ruler of hell.
I was a big fan of the second Ghost Rider comic book series from the late ’80s and 1990’s, so I’m pretty familiar with the character. This is Mark Steven Johnson’s second time out as the writer and director of a major Marvel Comics franchise character. He also wrote and directed Daredevil, which was my favorite superhero comic growing up. I was one of the filmgoers that actually thought his Daredevil wasn’t that bad, and actually the director’s cut was better. Dardevil‘s major problem wasn’t the direction but the writing. Mainly, it lacked character development. Ghost Rider has similar problems. Solve the problem by getting other writers that don’t rush the story and development of the character relationships.
First, let me say that the first 10-15 minutes of this movie are garbage and beneath Mark Steven Johnson as a director. A commonplace trend now is attempting to give you a rushed version of the main character’s history by slapping together a bunch of contrived scenes with cheesy music in an attempt to make you feel something for the main character. It feels forced and amateurish. Take the time and let us get to know the characters. There’s some soap-opera-looking actor playing young Johnny Blaze, and it just feels so uninspired. The good news is, it goes by quickly, and we get to the only really promising features of the film–Nic Cage’s strange performance as Johnny Blaze and Eva Mendes’ fantastic cleavage. Addressing the cleavage first, it’s apparent in nearly every scene that she just refuses to button the top two buttons. It was almost distracting. I’m not complaining, though. People might think I’m crazy, but I liked Nic Cage in this movie. It’s a strange performance of a loner who’s sometimes funny, sometimes crazy, and sometimes on fire. His mannerisms are strange, like he’s on drugs, but I found the performance to be fun and likeable.
Most comic book films will have an element of cheese. Whenever you put a fantastical circumstance in what is supposed to be a normal world, it can make for some regrettably laughable moments. The tone of this film, similar to Daredevil, is just off. It’s PG-13, because it’s kind of dark and the Ghost Rider transformation is violent. I think if they would have approached this film like they did Blade, it would have been amazing. It’s a story about the devil battling with his son over souls. It’s a story for a horror movie and should have been approached like a horror movie. I wasn’t buying Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles, even with the Easy Rider motorcycle connection, and the dialogue is so bad in this movie. Occasionally, Nic Cage delivers a cool one-liner and you can tell he wants the performance to be fun but the writing just isn’t there.
Ghost Rider has some entertaining moments, some great stunts and tons of old west and biker homage. I wasn’t miserable but I certainly wasn’t blown away. Ghost Rider should make some decent money because fire and motorcycles are cool. The movie is probably too scary for really small children and not scary enough for teens and horror geeks like me. Of the new breed, Ghost Rider is much better than Electra and The Punisher (2004), but not in the same league as Spider-Man 2 or Batman Begins. It’s comparable in enjoyment to Hellboy and Daredevil. See you at Spider-Man 3.

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