With comic book films in the last couple years the big name novels have already branched out into franchise territory (Spiderman , X-Men , etc.), now movie studios are branching out to lesser known comics for ideas (Daredevil, Elektra, etc.). While this can be a great chance to have a failing hero get some buzz on the big screen, it also lessens a film audience since standard moviegoers won’t know a lot about this character. So with nothing to do on a Friday night, I decided to give Ghost Rider a try. I mean I had seen every other comic book film made so far, and yes that includes The Hulk and Elektra.
The actual story behind Ghost Rider involves Johnny Blaze and his father Barton. These motorcycle daredevils tour the carnival circuit performing death-defying stunts. Johnny seems to be living the good life, except that his girlfriend Roxanne is leaving town, so he decides to run away with her. Before this plan is put into motion though, Johnny finds out his father is dying of cancer. Unable to leave, he unknowingly makes a deal with the Devil to spare his father’s life. However, as with all deals with Satan, Barton ends up dying anyway. So Johnny forges ahead with his life becoming a famous daredevil, very much in the vein of Evel Knievel.
Strangely enough, Johnny seems to be getting into many accidents that should have left him dead. When his friend tells him he has a spirit protecting him, Blaze knows that “it’s something else.” Nonetheless, after reuniting with Roxanne - against her better judgment - everything should be smooth sailing. Except that Blackheart, Satan’s son, has returned to unleash hell on Earth, so the Devil calls Johnny back on his deal and makes him become Ghost Rider, a bounty hunter forced to kill Blackheart. With the help of a wizened caretaker (played by Sam Shepard), Blaze must stop Blackheart, not only to break his deal, but to save Earth and his lady love.
Now this is a comic book film to the nth degree. The special effects in this film are by far the best I’ve seen. The scene where Johnny first converts to Ghost Rider is a ten-minute sequence of pure terror and pain, and Cage pulls off the emotions well. The story is incredibly fast-paced, yet just when it seems that the action is really going, it then shifts to about thirty minutes of straight talking and nothing else. Also, it takes about 40 minutes for Blaze to actually turn into Ghost Rider. It’s very much like watching Peter Jackson’s King Kong and waiting an hour for the ape to arrive. While this did not lessen the film’s appeal to me I know some people complained about it. Some more problems: as I mentioned before the story is very much like Constantine in that there is a lot of mythology involving Satan and Hell. While I do enjoy stories like that, it did keep reminding me of that previous film. Also, a lot of the dialogue between Blackheart and Ghost Rider is incredibly cheesy, like when Ghost Rider says to Blackheart “you’re going down.” It just seemed like some better writing could have been produced for these fight scenes.
The cast does an amazing with the material that they have. Nicolas Cage owns the role of Johnny Blaze, although he should really work on getting a better hair piece for the sequel. He takes all of Blaze’s quirky attributes, like his love for the Carpenters, and doesn’t make them look silly. Having said that, the permanent scowl that Cage always uses gets tired after a while, along with his “Texas” accent that disappears and returns throughout the movie. Sam Shepard is a standout as the mysterious caretaker. He takes the idea that this is a modern day Western and plays his character up to be more than it should have. I was thoroughly surprised to find him my favorite character. Peter Fonda and Wes Bentley also have great scenes as Satan and Blackheart respectively. Fonda does a bit more competently then Bentley. The only real weak link in this cast is Eva Mendes as Roxanne. First of all, she is your stereotypical love interest from the past, and she acts a lot like Jessica Simpson at times. The film really could have moved a lot faster without her and the love story. (As a side note, I also found it extremely hard to believe that she and Nicolas Cage were supposed to be the same age.)
Overall, I give Ghost Rider 8.5 out of 10. As a girl I thought this film was incredibly fun and beautiful to watch. The story was tight and it was just a great ride. If you have friends that are female who love these types of movies, then be sure to remember to take them along. Women themselves, go see Ghost Rider because you will have a great time. This movie has a lot of great things going for it and it is a must see...at least until the bigger comic films come out.