There are soulless bastards out there who are going to crap on this movie, and to some extent I suppose I’m going to be one of them, but not completely. To completely dismiss director Mark Steven Johnson’s ‘Ghost Rider’ as pure tripe and complete garbage is to miss the point of the film, which is obviously supposed to be taken as a parody. There is a scene in ‘Ghost Rider’ where star Nicholas Cage is communicating to his arm with demonic chant, similar to Eddie Murphy’s ‘Give Me the Kniiiifeeee’ chant in ‘The Golden Child’ (Another underrated parody). You see Nick is trying to make the fire come out of his hand, and it’s really funny, to wit the screening audience was cracking up. But then the fire actually comes out and at that point we realize that it wasn’t SUPPOSED to be funny, oh but it was. It was at this time that I realized that the geniuses behind ‘Ghost Rider’ are actually pulling our leg because there is no way they could have taken this thing seriously.
In a fairly faithful retelling of the ‘Ghost Rider’ mythos, we meet teenage stunt rider Johnny Blaze who rides in carnivals with his father Barton (Brett Cullen) to the adoring eye of the young Roxanne Simpson. Sadly, the elder, chain smoking Blaze is dying with cancer which prompts a visit to the impressionable youth by the satanic Mephistopholes (Peter Fonda) who makes Johnny a deal; his soul for his father’s life. Not being a believer, Johnny thinks ‘cool, what’s there to lose’ and drops a drip of blood on a contract to seal the deal. The next day the old man wakes up magically cured and off to get his stunt bike on. Tragically, the old man dies in a bike accident, Johnny gets pissed and tells Mephistopholes about himself accusing him of reneging on the deal, to which the evil dude responds that he cured the cancer and that’s all he promised, thanks for the soul though, I’ll be around later to collect.
X years later, young fresh Johnny Blaze has transformed into not so young, not so fresh Nicholas Cage who is now a world famous stunt bike rider that does things that no human should even think about trying. But no matter how bad the stunts go on occasion, Johnny doesn’t even so much as bruise which has his best friend and stunt coordinator Mack (Donal Logue) worried, confused and curious about Blaze’s ‘gifts’. Would you know that young Roxanne is all grown up too, becoming a big time TV reporter, but she has now become Eva Mendes. Mercy! Being a spawn of Satan and all, Johnny left Roxanne so long ago, but now he thinks he may have been given a second chance. Wrong! An evil, cast out angel known as Blackheart (Wes Bentley) has descended to earth with his evil minions Earth, Wind and Water to find the contract of San Gelios or something. If he can get the contract and absorb the souls, the earth will be his, but Mephistopholes doesn’t want this because the earth is like already his. Blackheart keeps calling him father too, though this in never quite explained to us. Anyway, Mephistopholes now calls on his rider, the ‘Ghost Rider’, to destroy Blackheart and send him back to Hell! If Johnny can complete this daunting task the evil dude will give him his soul back, the deal will be complete, and he can finally start having sex with Eva Mendes! Oh it is so ON Blackheart!
Criticisms aside, ‘Ghost Rider’ plays like one of those old TV westerns from back in the day complete with the long drawn out bubble gum dialog, bad dudes dressed in black, plenty of showdowns, and even Sam Elliott steps in as the narrator and the character of the Caretaker to complete the Western mosaic. The Ghost Rider looks pretty cool and the bike he rides kicks total ass, there’s plenty of action and soul sucking mayhem, and I can honestly say the movie rarely gets slow or boring. Oh, and Eva Mendes is in it a lot. And though she may dress somewhat inappropriately for a woman who’s supposed to be highly trained broadcast professional, I ain’t mad at her for it.
Criticisms now in front, who in the hell wrote this crap? When Cage started droning on with one of his many majestic, heroic speeches, the only emotion it drummed up was a rolling of the eyes letting me know with certainty that this HAD to be a parody. There is no way that a film professional could write, or an Academy Award winning actor could say these lines and NOT know how stupid they sound. About that Academy Award winning actor… Nick Cage is awful, simply awful in this film. I know he’s a comic book guy, and he really wanted this and all but that don’t mean he should have gotten it. Cage gave Johnny Blaze a southern accent, which sounded like crap to begin with, but being as how he forgot to use it half the time made it even worse. He is completely unbelievable as a stunt bike rider, his is unbelievable as a Texan, he’s unbelievable as a ‘super hero’ and he’s even unbelievable as Roxanne’s boyfriend. How in the hell can you kiss Eva Mendes and have it look forced and fake? I may not be able to act, but there’s no WAY I could screw that up.
Then we have our villains whose purpose in never adequately explained. The Ghost Rider has such an easy time dispatching with Blackhearts minions that it’s apparent they were there only because the special effects budget had to be spent. This is a bit of a spoiler to expose a huge plothole, but the Ghost Riders main weapon is the ability to burn souls. He can’t do much with Blackheart because dude doesn’t have a soul, so he just kicks Ghost Rider’s ass. Blackhearts ultimate goal is to ingest a thousand souls so he can be all-powerful. So if he does this, do you think this would make him vulnerable to the Ghost Rider’s one great power? One can only wonder.
Director Mark Steven Johnson was the braintrust behind such fine fare as ‘Daredevil’ and ‘Elektra’, which causes one to wonder who at Marvel he has dirty pictures of in that they keep allowing him to screw up their properties. And then there’s Eva Mendes. Oh my, she was completely mis… Come on now, do you seriously think I’m gonna trash Eva Mendes? You’re going to have to look elsewhere for that folks. Eva baby, you were GREAT in this! Shoot girl, if it were me running things I would have made YOU the Ghost Rider, that’s how good you were. Call me.
Now after all of this, you might surmise that I thought ‘Ghost Rider’ sucked ass. Maybe it did. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a ‘Demolition Man’ good time watching it (Guilty pleasure number one – Demolition Man). Whatever other critics say in attack of this film, they are probably correct and I’m not going to defend it because it can easily be interpreted as crap. But if you see it for what it actually is, a parody of all comic book movies, then what we really have here with ‘Ghost Rider’ is the ‘Airplane’ or ‘Kung Pow’ or ‘Scary Movie’ of superhero movies and can you really be mad at that? Can you?
Bud’s Second: You can even ask Chris about it next time you see him ... I was actually looking forward to seeing this movie! I figured maybe there was a chance that Ghost Rider might turn out to be as good as some of the Batman or Superman movies (a little less brooding and a lot more action) ... but that in the worst-case scenario, it would be Electra-bad or Daredevil-bad. Never would I have imagined that this could turn out to be "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"-bad or "Incredible Hulk"-bad. But bad it was.
Every single male actor in this movie was horrible. Nicholas Cage was the most lifeless superhero. Peter Fonda was the most disinterested arch-villain. Wes Bentley and his band of hapless supernatural-badguys were about as scary as teddy bears. I mean, the only way you could tell that these guys were supposed to be scary was that their faces would morph from human faces to demon-looking faces. Honestly, I've been more scared watching a Jennifer Granholm press conference! (What is that thing on her face, anyhow?)
And the dialogue in this movie was atrocious!
All I can say is, "Thank goodness Eva Mendez was in this," because if it weren't for her, I would have actually gotten up and walked out about 45 minutes into this one. Seriously, I would have been outta there!
Chris thought some of the graphics and special effects were cool, but I really struggled with the fact that I had seen Johnny Blaze as the Ghost Rider looked incredibly like Eddie from the Iron Maiden videos from the late 80's / early 90's. And Eddie had the decided advantage of not having to turn back into Nicholas Cage when the sun came up!
I dunno, maybe I just didn't get it. Maybe Chris is right, maybe they were trying to do a parody, making fun of themselves and this genre of movie. A campy, cheese-ball, sci-fi, comic book movie. But guys, if that was what you were trying to do, parodies work better when they're actually entertaining (instead of just boring, like GR was).
This movie was painful. Avoid it.