Ghost Rider (2007)
Ghost Rider (2007)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

Release Date: February 16th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Mark Steven Johnson Actors: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Peter Fonda, Wes Bentley, Brett Cullen, Sam Elliott, Raquel Alessi, Rebel Wilson

 


 

A

confusing and unfortunate catastrophe somewhere between “Daredevil” and “Catwoman,” Marvel’s continuously delayed “Ghost Rider” is finally out – and definitely not worth the wait. Sadly, the ultra cool, flaming-skull vigilante is reduced to a mindless drone, complete with a scatterbrained and hopeless-romantic femme fatale, an obnoxious patriarchal cowboy mentor, languid villains, and an utterly incomprehensible storyline. And even the special effects are pitiable.

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), a motorcycle daredevil, unwittingly makes a deal with Mephisto (the actual devil) to save his father. When the influential demon comes to collect, Blaze realizes all too late his irreparable mistake. Mephisto (Peter Fonda) curses Blaze with the power of the Ghost Rider, causing him to burst into flames and, inexplicably, to seek out the guilty. Caught between fighting Mephisto’s renegade son Blackheart (Wes Bentley), learning the powers of the “Rider,” and conveying his true feelings for his long-lost girlfriend Roxanne (Eva Mendes), Blaze must team up with a mysterious gravedigger to save the world (and hopefully some of his social conundrums).

Where did this film go wrong? The primary predicament this comic book adaptation faced is that the protagonist launches flames, wields fiery chains, and cruises in a formidable chopper. How in the world can that be turned into a serious cinematic entity? The story is decidedly nonsensical, spurting out bits of legends and ancient religious lore that only aid in bewildering the viewer; the perplexing pieces of Ghost Rider’s history are, quite simply, convoluted and overwhelming. Too many characters are introduced while none are properly developed, leaving audiences with adversaries they won’t despise and heroes they won’t appreciate. Fabled fiery vindicators are difficult enough to grasp; gothic, yuppie, soul-sucker elementals are entirely crossing the line.

Nicolas Cage is, arguably, an adequate choice for Ghost Rider. Unfortunately, every other character seems to be cast merely for comic relief, spouting unbelievably substandard dialogue in a film that, with a goal to combat its inherent silliness, needs no comedic interludes whatsoever. The previous, cursed Ghost Rider is a dusty cowboy played by Sam Elliott (conspicuously reminiscent of his role in “The Big Lebowski”), who advises Blaze while managing to be insipid and uninspiring; eye candy Eva Mendes displays revealing cleavage in every scene, apparently to distract audiences from her overwhelming inability to act; and Bentley has to be one of the most harmless of all superhero villains. Blackheart was once a terrifying character in the comic books, sporting glistening black skin with freakish strands of grass-like spikes billowing from his glowing red eyes, set atop muscular minotaur legs. But not anymore. And his spectral henchman are even more bland, if that’s possible, popping up at anticlimactic moments to pepper the screenplay with laughably bad one-liners, dull fight sequences, and strange hairdos.

The special effects for Ghost Rider himself are actually decent, alternating between a guy in a blue-screen suit and a completely computer-animated character atop a tricked-out bike. However, the respectable imagery stops there, since his stunts go on to include the lassoing of a CG helicopter that resembles a cross between a Lego kit and a Monty Python cartoon, and the Rider defying gravity to drive up the side of a towering industrial building, like something out of “Ultraviolet” or “Transporter 2” – two of the worst movies ever made. To complement the visual ludicrousness, the plot is abandoned from time to time, filling in the audience only when it haphazardly rises from random, background conversations. A meandering love story attempts to surface as well, but it’s promptly buried amongst yawn-inducing action choreography and tiresome antagonists.

Since the Ghost Rider comics already have several conflicting origin stories, it’s no wonder the film decides to educate through snippets of drivel scraped up from rarely overturned Marvel rocks. Either assuming that viewers possess basic knowledge about the Ghost Rider backstory, or that they simply won’t care, the narrative becomes completely disjointed in some places and shockingly generic at others. Stuck in the Spider-Man formula of superhero motives (a superhero must help the people before himself), Ghost Rider morphs into a familiar yet unimaginative crime fighter with nothing but an unusual physical design to impart singularity. Due to the increasing success of other popular comic books adapted to film, Hollywood is under the mistaken impression that as long as a property is lucrative in one medium, it has hope in another. “Ghost Rider” is surely one to prove that theory wrong.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10