Ghost Rider (2007)

110 minutes on a highway to Hell

As a teenager, Johnny Blaze sold his soul to The Devil, Mephisto (Peter Fonda), in an effort to save his father from cancer, but the next day, his father died in a motorcycle accident. Years later, Johnny (Nicolas Cage) has become a stunt motorcyclist rider, and Mephisto returns, giving Johnny the power to transform into a vigilante with hellish powers and a flaming skull where his head should be, Ghost Rider.

2007 was a bad year for superhero films, with Spider-Man 3 substituting the Venom saga for Emo Peter and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer giving us a "menacing" space cloud instead of Galactus, the planet eater. But nothing that year could match Mark Steven Johnson's "effort" at possibly Marvel's darkest hero, Ghost Rider.

The film opens with the thing that is much needed when introducing a new superhero character, the origin story. Lasting only 10 minutes, the story of how Johnny Blaze would go on to become the flaming skull Marvel character speeds along, but feels pretty rushed.

A romance subplot is added into the origin, and then carried on over to the main story, but it feels pretty forced, thanks to the cringe-worthy scenes which are present, as if it was obligatory to have a superhero romance story within the film. And it doesn't help how poorly written Johnny's love interest, Roxanne, is, never managing to feel like a character in her own right, but merely an object for the main character to place his affections towards.

Ghost Rider is not your traditional Marvel character, in fact, he feels more like a character of horror than of Marvel comics, and that is often reflected in his surroundings, his villains, and his stories, which can be quite dark and gothic. But director Mark Steven Johnson fumbles the ball here, by showing dark and gothic in the most pedestrian of terms, by showcasing skulls, making the lighting pretty dim, showing screaming faces within the clouds and by blaring rock music out on any occasion.

And it isn't Ghost Rider who epitomizes the dark style within his comics, but also his alter ego, Johnny Blaze, who showcases the typical signs of hard-drinking and smoking to accompany his motorbike, his leather jacket and his general nature. While this is how Blaze is presented within the comics, none of that manages to make the transfer to the big screen, as instead, we given a watered down version of the character to go with the kiddy audience. Instead of heavily drinking, he drinks goblets of jelly beans whilst watching specials on Monkeys and listens to The Carpenters, making Cage's adaptation a far-cry from his comic-book counterpart. Not only that, but his general look is pretty ridiculous looking, as he wears a cowboy hat atop greasy looking hair, sunglasses and your typical stuntman style clothing, looking less like a badass and more like an awkward wanna-be Evil Kinevil.

The plot is pretty weak and is structured in a very predictable manner that will leave you with next to none surprises about what happens. The film actually manages to not focus very much on logic or character development, instead opting for having too many moments which school children can deem as 'cool'. The fights are filled with these 'cool' moments, which don't make up for them being poorly enacted, and ending quite rapidly after they begin.

Cage prepared to open fire upon anybody who mentioned The Wicker Man

The dialogue comes off as awkward and stilted, with the prime example being Johnny's on-air interview with Roxanne the obligatory love interest, and tries to pander for the young audience even more by adding attempts at comedy, none of which hit the mark in the slightest. The effects are poorly done and the fights are poorly executed. Blackheart makes for an unintimidating villain, played by one of the many bland performances that are placed front and center for this film.

The film tries to take advantage of the whole Ghost Rider situation for the 'cool moment' factor by having Johnny use it as an excuse to perform death-defying stunt after death-defying stunt, and not contend with leaving it at that, director and writer Mark Steven Johnson decides to add the forgettable character of Mack into the mix, as the friend who voices his worries over Johnny's constant need to defy death and connect it to Johnny's dead father, something which the audience didn't need spelt out for them because it's so blindingly obvious.

I found that the Ghost Rider character to have quite a different presence from Nic Cage's, and this was due to the fact that they did not have Nic Cage playing Ghost Rider as well as Johnny Blaze, but a stuntman within his place instead. I get that the tortured man would be somewhat different in his movements and mannerisms from the flaming skull biker, but with other characters who change into their superhero personas, like The Incredible Hulk, there is enough of a similar presence left so you can tell that this is the same person  as who we saw before, but with Ghost Rider, it's as if he's an entirely different person teleporting in Johnny Blazes place.

Believe it or not, I did manage to find a few positives within this film. I particularly liked Peter Fonda's portrayal of Mephisto (that's the characters name, not Mephistophelese), and I found Nic Cage's performance got better as the film went along, even if he did get a bit over the top at times, but overall, i'm glad he will be back for Spirit of Vengeance.

Ghost Rider is a watered down attempt at tackling one of Marvel comic's darkest characters, and misses the mark as much as you'd expect. I know i've really layed it into this film, giving only two positives about the film, but I did not feel this was a film awful enough to garner a 0 star rating, or even a 0.5 star rating. It is still a film you'd be better off avoiding, however.


Anonymous said…
Oh I've herd of Ghost Rider but he's not my favorite Marvel man.
Anonymous said…
Nice work, Rodders. Cage is such a strange actor. Just when you think he makes nothing but junk, he surprises with a decent flick. But not this one, apparently.
The Grouch
Ruth said…
Hmmm...always thought this film looked like a less than desirable watch, haha. Nice write up!
Aditya Gokhale said…
.Wow I've seen this on was abysmally bad. Thought the effects were pretty bad too.

However Peter Fonda was awesome and Eva Mendes was hot!

Nice review man!
James Rodrigues said…
No, mine neither, but he is a cool guy.
James Rodrigues said…
Cheers Grouchenstein. Cage does seem to make one good film for every two terrible films he's making, he is quite a hard worker in Hollywood.
James Rodrigues said…
Well your suspicions are correct. Thanks for the words.
James Rodrigues said…
Eva Mendes was hot indeed, but she didn't really bring much else to the role, and yes, Peter Fonda was awesome, he should be back for the second film. Cheers.