Ghost Rider

"OK"

Ghost Rider Review


It's gotten to the point where almost any movie with a narrated prologue is suspect. But the opening section of the comic-book adaptation Ghost Rider starts with a particularly troubling apocalyptic rumble of exposition. See, there was this guy a bunch of years ago who made a deal with the devil, to act as a bounty hunter for wayward souls. But in collecting souls from one dusty town, he saw things so horrifying that he defied the devil and absconded with the contract (I'm not being careful about spoilers; the movie really is that vague). The narration, which you may recognize in vocal tone if not wittiness from The Big Lebowski's Sam Elliott, says that this figure -- this first Ghost Rider -- "outran" the devil (Peter Fonda, by the way), but it looks more like Ghost Rider rode a horse into the sunset while the devil watched, perhaps as confused as those in the audience.

Now then: What does this have to do with Johnny Blaze, superstar motorcycle daredevil? Well, writer-director Mark Steven Johnson will tell you, in a second prologue, after the opening credits, showing Blaze, as a teenager, making one of those unfortunate and confusing satanic contracts in an attempt to save his father's life. Johnson is apparently under the impression that this 20-minute backstory technique worked so well in his Daredevil that he can't afford to, say, skip it and get right to Nicolas Cage, who eventually shows up as the adult Johnny, about to be confronted by the consequences of said contract. Young Johnny's deal is so inadvertent and, again, vague, that the situation lacks considerable drama, but the show must go on.

The devil shows up, as promised, and anoints Cage as the new Ghost Rider, ordering him to hunt down his son Blackheart (Wes Bentley), who appears to have returned to the land of the living to check out this Hot Topic thing all the kids are buzzing about. Oh, and he also kills indiscriminately. To stop him and other evildoers, Johnny will transform -- at night and/or in the presence of evil -- into a skeleton with a flaming head and even more flaming motorcycle.

Cage, it must be repeated, is one of our most game actors, almost physically incapable of an uninteresting performance; you never get the feeling that he's sleepwalking through genre trash purely for the money. He seems to genuinely enjoy playing Johnny Blaze, especially in the opening scenes (well, his opening scenes, after the interminable young-Johnny prologue), where he plays the cycle stuntman as an oddball rock star, swilling jellybeans from a wine glass and pumping Carpenters tunes to get pumped for his defiance of death.

In fact, his Johnny Blaze is so offbeat and funny that you might resent the movie's attempts to stir him into a gumbo of superhero movie tropes: a power that is both a gift and a curse; an unresolved father-son relationship wracked with guilt; the idea of making a choice to control your destiny; the somewhat conflicting idea of honorably accepting a predetermined destiny; and fighting a bunch of easily dispatched bad guys with vague powers and few lines.

The latter is accomplished through Blackheart's three demon henchmen, who are able to summon the awesome powers of water, air, and earth in order to quickly lose fights with Ghost Rider. Cage himself doesn't even get to return to the action glory of Con Air or The Rock in these scenes, since most of them necessitate his transforming into Ghost Rider, which in this case means stepping out for coffee while CGI dispatches the villains.

I guess ditching the skull would be heresy for the comics character; nevertheless, a superhero movie where you wait impatiently for the return of the mild-mannered alter ego is either a bold experiment or, well, something else. If you need a hint as to what that is, I can talk about the way Eva Mendes, a charming actress in so many other films (and still pretty charming here, if not for the right reasons), plays a TV reporter who holds a microphone like a teenager doing a school project. Or the way that Donal Logue's best-friend character disappears after several scenes, only to turn up again in the last third for what I shudder to think might be Johnson's idea of an emotional stakes-raising.

Actually, it's this kind of heedless incompetence that keeps Ghost Rider off the bottom of the Marvel shelf where Elektra and Fantastic Four dwell. Because the character of Ghost Rider never threatens to involve us emotionally or intellectually, the film version lacks the crushing disappointment of Daredevil, which got all its ducks in a row before a botch.

Ghost Rider doesn't even get its ducks into the same pond -- Johnson may be getting worse as both a writer and a director -- and the grab-bagginess of its failure is kind of endearing. Unfortunately, only Cage seems capable of pushing the film beyond this mess, into the mystical realm of preposterous, exuberant, self-aware goofiness; despite some intentionally funny moments to go with all of those happy accidents, Johnson seems to think his film contains actual thrills and spectacle. What it has instead is the thrill of a spectacularly silly crash and burn.

Is it hot in here or is it just me?



Ghost Rider

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th February 2007

Box Office USA: $115.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $228.7M

Budget: $120M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Crystal Sky Pictures, Relativity Media, Marvel Enterprises, Michael De Luca Productions, GH One, Vengeance Productions Pty. Ltd.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 100

IMDB: 5.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, as Roxanne Simpson, as Blackheart, as Mack, as Caretaker, as Mephistopheles, as Barton Blaze, Matt Long as Young Johnny Blaze, Raquel Alessi as Young Roxanne Simpson, Tony Ghosthawk as Team Blaze, Hugh Sexton as Team Blaze, Marcus Jones as Team Blaze, Matt Norman as Team Blaze, Lawrence Cameron Steele as X Games Announcer, Eddie Baroo as Motorcycle Gang Member, as Broken Spoke Waitress, as Gressil, as Goth Girl in Alley

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.