Film Reviews

GHOST RIDER

By • Feb 16th, 2007 •

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A Columbia Pictures release in association with Crystal Sky Pictures and Relativity Media / A Marvel Studios/Michael De Luca production
Running time — 110 minutes / MPAA rating PG-13

I’m not a comic book aficionado but I liked GR. Who was that bewigged 30 year old pretending to be Nic Cage?

In all candor, I do not read comic books, but that doesn’t mean I am prejudiced against possible money-making comic book franchises – which this clearly is. Done right, of course (I hate those soulless “Fantastic Four”). Nic Cage wanted to play Superman. Yes, he was a tad old for that gig even back a few years, but many people indulged him in that fantasy.

Looking 30 years old – with a botoxed brow and skin stretched too tight over cheek implants – Cage shows off a ripped, youthful body. He’s lithe, he’s thin, he’s wearing the movie star wig. He is not chewing up the scenery with over-acting. And we all know Cage is in the cabal of over-acting stars led by 1st Place Holder Jack Nicholson and 2nd Place Holder Al Pacino.

I did not know anything about Marvel’s “Ghost Rider” except we applauded the trailer when it was previewed a few weeks ago. How often does the audience do that?

Ben Affleck picked a superhero (“Daredevil”) with a disability (blindness) for his foray into Franchiseland – a stupid choice (but it took many more bombs than DAREDEVIL to sideline his career). Cage chose a motorcycle-riding anti-hero that spits fire and has a major flaw – he sold his soul to The Devil-With-A-Facelift. Don’t you just love it when The Devil is wearing a stylish Prada long trench and the latest in Brazilian faces?

The living emblem of cowboy righteous, Sam Elliot, opens GHOST RIDER with the story’s masculine history. It is the run-up to young Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) who works alongside his father Barton (Brett Cullen) in a circus motorcycle act.

Finding out Barton is dying of cancer, Johnny quickly does the right thing and sells his soul to Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) in exchange for his father’s clean bill of health.

Johnny does not read the fine print or have a lawyer present.

Instead of running around bragging, “Guess who I just met!”, Johnny is hoodwinked by The Big D. In the manner of the great Don Corleone, The Devil tells Johnny: “Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”Upset over his devil dupe, Johnny leaves his young girlfriend Roxanne (Raquel Alessi) and finds fame and fortune. Thirty years later, when we meet up with Johnny (Nicholas Cage) again, he’s a huge motorcycle-jumping superstar. He cannot die! He is invincible. He looks like he’s 30 years old too!

At Johnny’s career apex, Roxanne (Eva Mendes) returns. She is a TV reporter. She’s been watching him get filthy rich and famous. He’s been watching her interview mugging victims on local TV.

But, wouldn’t you know it? It’s payback time. No, Mephistopheles doesn’t need a birthday cake. He requires the services of a bounty hunter and calls upon Johnny to become his motorcycle-riding “Ghost Rider.” Johnny gets a neat superpower now. He can tell when evil people are around and he transforms into a fiery, skeleton in black leather. He kills bad people.

Mephistopheles has a problem: A mean, ungrateful son named Blackheart (Wes Bentley). His kid runs a gang of three buddy-demons. If Johnny gets back a1,000 Souls Contract that Blackheart is after, and kills the bastard, Mephistopheles will rescind his contract. He gets to keep his soul!

Lucky for Johnny, his new friend, graveyard denizen Caretaker (Sam Elliott), considers him “a kid” without a mentor. He tells him the ground rules and the lay-of-the-franchise-land.

Director-screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson redeems himself from the debacle that was DAREDEVIL. But DAREDEVIL did have an interesting look, and so does GHOST RIDER. At times Johnny’s lair reminded me of the J.F. Sebastian’s warehouse. GHOST RIDER’s story is nicely presented with a Devil Pact as the hook. While GHOST RIDER does not have the SPIDERMAN cartoon special effects budget, it has a gritty atmosphere that would have suffered with over-the-top digital effects.

Nic, you have your franchise now and I liked your goofy charm. Who, in Johnny’s place, wouldn’t try out a few superhero poses in the bathroom mirror? And you didn’t look fat in that Elvis motorcycle jumping costume.


Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Mark Steven Johnson
Producers: Avi Arad, Steven Paul, Michael De Luca, Gary Foster
Executive producers: E. Bennett Walsh, Ari Arad, Stan Lee, Norm Golightly, David S. Goyer, Lynwood Spinks
Director of photography: Russell Boyd
Production designer: Kirk M. Petruccelli
Film editor: Richard Francis-Bruce
Costume designer: Lizzy Gardiner
Special visual effects and animation: Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc.
Music: Christopher Young
Cast: Johnny Blaze: Nicolas Cage, Roxanne: Eva Mendes, Blackheart: Wes Bentley,
Caretaker: Sam Elliott, Mack: Donal Logue, Mephistopheles: Peter Fonda.

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