It was one thing when Nicolas Cage was interested in playing Superman. That’s a classic, A-list superhero. However, grabbing onto a C-list figure like Ghost Rider doesn’t feel like it would be the best offer put in front of him. I kept hoping in the middle of the movie the Scooby Doo gang would come out, rip the mask off of Cage and reveal Ghost Rider really is crazy old man Ben Affleck! That would explain so much.
Cage stars as Johnny Blaze – a daredevil motorcycle stuntman who made a deal years ago with Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) to save his father’s life as the elder Blaze died of cancer. In return, Blaze has been made into the Ghost Rider – a mystical figure who collects on other contracts made by the devil with desperate souls (he kinda of sends them to hell or something, I didn’t quite get that part).
Now, Mephistopheles is collecting. It turns out the devil’s son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), wants to outdo dear old Dad by making his own hell on earth. He has come to collect on the biggest, most evil contract ever, but Mephistopheles has summoned the Ghost Rider to stop him at any cost.
Will Johnny Blaze be able to control himself when turned into Ghost Rider? Can he save the planet by defeating Blackheart and his trio of evil henchmen?
Ghost Rider is not the worst movie I have ever seen. It’s not even the worst movie I have seen the last few weeks (that would be the Muppet Baby version of Hannibal Lecter unleashed on the world last week). However, it’s a movie with inconsistent quality, too often bad and not often enough good.
Mark Steven Johnson seems to be trying too hard to serve too many
tastes. At times,
he provides campy
dialogue and action to prove how cool, self aware and hip Ghost Rider
be. Sometimes, it
is welcome comic
relief, especially in the hands of Cage (a tough guy stuntman who loves
Carpenters is a funny juxtaposition) and Donal Logue (the crew chief
with awe and one-liners at his boss’s spectacular luck and
some more serious moments, designed
to add depth for more traditional movie fans, lack the right tone to
the audience, and the dialogue is too weak to be thrilling even when
substantial and meaningful is supposed to be declared.
That’s not to say Ghost Rider is a complete waste of time. Johnson does a nice job as the director showing he can do more than focus on stuff blowing up, other things catching on fire, and some cool special effects (I like Blaze’s and his motorcycle’s transformations into Ghost Rider, plus the spirits look good and evil). He often frames many shots much like what you would expect from the actual comic books and graphic novels, like one person standing over another with the sun behind them, or looking down in the face of Blaze when he has been knocked to the ground. These visuals are a nice tip of the hat to fans and the genre.
However, other parts of Ghost Rider drag the whole film down, especially Fonda and Bentley, who are so wooden you would think Ghost Rider could just set them on fire and end the movie after twenty minutes. Each actor tries so hard to be ominous and stoically evil that the real challenge during their stare downs is to the audience – a challenge to keep from laughing so loud people think the crowd at the showing of Norbit in the next theater over are getting out of hand (and having a better time). Even Eva Mendes, playing Blaze’s long lost love, Roxanne, is too phony, rehearsed and kind of vacant to be taken seriously (and, her character apparently doesn’t own one single blouse that can button all the way to the top, which is her only true contribution to Ghost Rider).
Johnson never answers why a tool of the devil like Ghost Rider starts to act like a vigilante by breaking up other crimes, and Cage might want to throw some tabasco sauce on that scenery he is chewing as Blaze feels the pain of transforming into and out of the titular character, but Ghost Rider isn’t as bad as one might fear.
1 ½ Waffles (Out Of 4)
Ghost Rider is rated PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images.
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