Making a Comic Book movie can sometimes be problematic.
Most times, you have an established character with an established
fan base and what should be a fairly simple task. Just adapt
the core work and build off of that foundation.
biggest problem you face as a comic book filmmaker, though,
is bringing said property to a broader audience who’s
unfamiliar with the character, and the story and the history.
So in a sense you’re faced with the biggest problem
anyone has faced. Please all of the people, all of the time.
And we all know how that works out.
Rider director Mark Steven Johnson faces big problems
throughout his latest comic book outing, (Johnson also directed
marginal comic hit Daredevil)
and not even a hot chick and an Oscar™ winner can
Rider is the story of Johnny Blaze (The astoundingly
chiseled Nicolas Cage), the carnival stunt rider who sells
his soul to the Devil (a poofy haired Peter Fonda) in order
to save his cancer ridden, Marlboro smoking, stunt riding,
father Barton Blaze (Played by a guy who was an Other on
In typical “Deal with the Devil” type transactions,
Johnny gets more than he bargained for as he finds out he’s
become Satan’s Bounty Hunter, The Ghost Rider. Kinda
like Dog Chapman might be the Lord’s bounty Hunter,
but I digress.
Rider is called upon by Mr. Mephistopheles to stop his out
of control son, Blackheart (Wes Study… Uh I mean,
American Beauty’s Wes Bentley), from taking
over the family business and essentially bringing on the
End of Days. It seems old Blacky has teamed up with a trio
of elementals, disguised as rejects from the Matrix Trilogy,
to reclaim a powerful contract that will grant him enormous
power, (Or in normally indie actor Bentley’s case,
an enormous paycheck. ZING!).
the while, our boy Johnny rekindles with an old flame (pun
INTENDED) named Roxy played by the siempre muy caliente
(the always very hot) Eva Mendes who conveniently plays
a news reporter. Not only that, but Johnny is now a hot
shot, Evel Kenievel level stunt rider with fame and fortune
and an apparent death wish. Not to mention, a penchant for
late night television, red and yellow jelly beans and an
always faithful sidekick named Mac (Donal Logue from previous
Marvel Movie, Blade). Man, this whole being possessed
by a demon thing is complicated!!
good thing our protagonist has a mentor. What? Ghost Rider
has a mentor, get me Sean Connery. Oh wait, he’s a
cowboy? Is Sam Elliot busy? Of course he isn’t…
out Johnny is the wise and mysterious caretaker played by
another marvel movie veteran, Sam Elliot (Hulk).
Caretaker conveniently knows all about the Ghost Rider lore
and on his first night out transforming into the rider,
Johnny just happens to end up at Caretaker's graveyard.
Man, that sure was lucky.
Johnny in, as well as us audience members, Caretaker makes
sure that everybody knows who the Ghost Rider is and what
he can do. And Johnny pretty much accepts it wholeheartedly
without any real concern. Because gosh darn it, he’s
got a world to save.
if you’re looking for anything more, then you’re
going to be disappointed.
Rider crashes and burns on so many levels. First and
foremost the script is terrible. The movie starts with a
bad Sam Elliot narration and the first fifteen minutes of
the movie is set back when Johnny and Roxy are teenage lovebirds.
The teenage actors try, but the direction they’re
given is so stiff that I really feel bad for the two kids.
It’s a cheesy and lame attempt at creating a love
story aspect of the story.
movie barely begins to pick up when Nic Cage is finally
introduced. Cage tries to bring a little personality and
charisma to the movie, but unfortunately he’s surrounded
in point, the direction by Mark Steven Johnson is, dare
I say, haphazard here. Character development is settled
for with obvious out of the ordinary traits that stand out
more than actually develop.
is way too fast and almost careless. After Johnny Blaze’s
first night of his horrific transformation, (his flesh burns
right off of his bones), it doesn’t phase him at all,
he’s okay with it, like nothing happened. There was
no fear, no real horror.
reason Blackheart wants the contract is the same reason
the Devil wants it, so why doesn’t the devil get Ghost
Rider to get the contract? No, he only wants Ghosty to stop
Blackheart from getting it. It doesn’t make sense.
Johnny Blaze is transforming into Ghost Rider, the movie
quick cuts to puffs of flame on screen, in a poor man’s
attempt at special effects. There’s also a marsh scene
that is straight out of a Spinal Tap rock video. It’s
also spends a lot of time developing Johnny as a famous
stunt rider and celebrity, but never takes the time to show
the conflict of how having your soul being owned by the
devil, and being forced to become the Spirit of Vengeance,
will affect that already established life.
not forget the acting. Nic Cage is fun to watch in this
movie. He tends to mug it up a lot, but he’s only
doing it because the rest of his cast has no life. Eva Mendes,
as hot as she is, delivers lines like she’s doing
a table read for That’s So Raven. There’s
absolutely no emotion behind any line she delivers and at
times it’s painful to see her in the same scene with
anybody. Donal Logue does alright as the loyal sidekick,
but even then, his character is so one dimensional, you
really forget about him once things get going.
then there’s the Ghost Rider himself. Instead of making
him a frightening force of friggin nature here, he’s
a wise cracking (“You’re going down” and
“Get over here”) skeleton caricature reject
from Army of Darkness.
there’s the attempt at theme here and it’s so
underdeveloped that it's really just insulting. The ideas
that people deserve second chances and individuals can live
with fear are two pretty powerful themes, if they can be
conveyed in a convincing way. By having the characters point
blankly ask them out loud to themselves and their friends,
it's really just a half-hearted attempt at any real substance.
At this point in the movie, all you're really asking for
is the flaming skull head guy to kick some ass, not some
small time attempt at undertone.
there was some good in Ghost Rider. Pretty much
any time the Rider is on the screen, it’s a real treat.
The effects are fun and exciting, and well done. There’s
a scene where Ghosty encounters a helicopter that’s
true comic book goodness, and I loved it. When Ghost Rider
tears down the street, flaming wheels and all, you finally
feel like you’re getting to the meat of this movie.
The look of the Rider is pulled off great, and with the
right direction it could have been downright scary. Something
I think the movie lacked: any real sense of fear.
the best special effect of all was Eva Mendes’ gravity
defying cleavage that somehow managed to be featured in
every scene she was in.
isn’t enough to make you want to purge your sins,
I don’t know what is.
Rider is a marginal film at best with a bad script
and just plain bad direction. It attempts to have substance
but just achieves corniness. Nic Cage tries his best to
make it a movie worth watching but he just can’t overcome
all the problems this movie has going against it.
Ghost Rider gets lost here, and you kind of wish he would
have just pulled over and asked for directions.