*** (out of 5)
February 16, 2007
Nicolas Cage as JOHNNY BLAZE
Eva Mendes as ROXANNE SIMPSON
Peter Fonda as MEPHISTOPHELES
Donal Logue as MACK
Wes Bentley as BLACKHEART
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
BY KEVIN CARR
The last time Hollywood made such a flurry of comic book movies was in the late 80s and early 90s when Tim Burton’s “Batman” struck gold. Now, since “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” lead the way, we’ve seen so many more comic book heroes’ get their shot at the big screen. And it’s not just the big guys like Spidey and The Hulk. The second-tier characters – like Daredevil, the Punisher and now Ghost Rider – are getting their shot.
Compared to the sludge from the “Batman” wave fifteen years ago, these movies have been pretty decent overall. Even the worst of the bunch is better than slop like “Captain America” and TV’s “The Flash.”
Ghost Rider is a minor character in the Marvel universe, and not everyone has read his comics. This bodes well for the film because there’s really nothing to ruin in terms of mainstream accepted mythology. Just put a flaming skull on a bike, and you’ve got your one-sheet already.
Having never read the Ghost Rider series, I found this to be pretty well done. It’s better than director Mark Steven Johnson’s previous comic book effort, “Daredevil.” This is probably because Nicolas Cage is a better actor than Ben Affleck, and Eva Mendes doesn’t grind my gears the way Jennifer Garner did.
The film tells the story of Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcycle driver who sells his soul to the Devil (Peter Fonda) to save his father from cancer. Of course, the Devil screws him by healing the cancer but making his dad die in an accident. Now, the Devil still owns Blaze’s tortured soul.
Years later, after Blaze becomes this generation’s Evil Knievel, the Devil returns to make him a Ghost Rider. Blaze’s skull bursts into flames, and he gets a seriously pimped out bike from hell, which he uses to track down some demons trying to bring forth hell on earth. Blaze fights with his “boss” while trying to rekindle a relationship with Roxanne (Eva Mendes), the girl he left after his father died.
To watch this movie, you need to prepare yourself – not in a religious way John the Baptists telling the Israelites to prepare the way for Jesus, but rather in a much more rustic way. It’s like drinking tequila. You wouldn’t want to slam back shots of tequila without licking the salt and sucking the lime. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to see “Ghost Rider” without being ready for some comic book cheese.
Still, with all the corny dialogue, bad acting, overblown special effects and contrived shots that might look good as production stills but are incredibly forced in the flow of the film, “Ghost Rider” is surprisingly pretty good.
This is a movie that couldn’t have been made fifteen years ago. However, now with computer effects the way they are, it really clicks into place. The flaming skull effects manage to not be cheesy, although the same can’t be said for the demonic action.
The actors do phone in their lines, with Nicolas Cage being one of the worst culprits of this. But Wes Bentley overacts enough to make up for everyone else, I guess.
The casting of Peter Fonda as Satan (or who some might say is the Easy Ghost Rider) was a stroke of genius. And with the western spin on the history of the character, Sam Elliot never hurts. Of course, the guys will enjoy seeing Eva Mendes in the film, not for her acting ability, but rather for the fact that her cleavage is prominently featured in every scene she’s in.
There’s quite a bit of camp to the film, which a typical comic book reader can stomach. Otherwise, it makes a good stab at the market that is seriously lacking a dumb action film right now.