Rated: 6.5/10Official Site
Hardly a month passes without news of another comic book adaptation heading to theatres. We’ve already seen a lot of Superman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and all the other men in tights you can cram onto an expensive set, so it’s kind of a relief to see an adaptation that doesn’t quite fit into the normal categories of squeaky clean heroes. Ghost Rider may not entirely live up to all it could have been, and it’s certainly cheesy, but there’s just something undeniably cool about the spirit of vengeance riding a motorcycle and saving the day.
Nick Cage stars as Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcycle driver who keeps pushing himself to do the biggest leaps he possibly can as a way to prove to himself that it’s really him doing the jumps. Blaze made a pact with Mephistopheles, better known as the devil, when he was just a kid and ever since his father died he’s been living in the shadow of that deal which not only claimed his father’s life, but left him with something extra.
That extra bit pops out one night when the devil decides to call in his pact with Blaze to have him rein in a little problem he’s having with his son Blackheart. Blackheart wants to claim something his father lost, and in doing so, he could very well plunge humanity into darkness forever. Blaze’s alter ego, the fiery skeleton known as Ghost Rider, has to leap into action and save the day.
Maybe it’s the whole skeletal thing, but Ghost Rider just embodies menace through and through. Writer and director Mark Steven Johnson fumbles a lot of the film’s best elements, providing some of the cheesiest lines I’ve heard in a while, but he also helps make Ghost Rider come off looking really bad ass. I think the film could have pushed the fear and horror elements harder, but Ghost Rider does the whole story a lot better than some other films that I could name (Spawn).
Nick Cage as Johnny Blaze
The acting is however the biggest redeeming quality of the film, which might seem a little surprising, but we are talking about Nick Cage here. Cage is probably the best he’s been in years here, and it’s in the little eccentricities that he makes Blaze a watchable hero. The script probably played a large part in Cage’s greatness since it’s peppered with elements like Blaze’s obsession with Karen Carpenter’s music and how he likes to eat Jelly Beans from a martini glass, but Cage is one of the few actors who could make these quirky elements work.
Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles was also a great choice, and the actor steals pretty much any scene he’s in. There’s no doubting that he walks away from the film with some scenery in his teeth, but since the film is already pretty cheesy it actually works out.
I’ll even give some credit to Eva Mendes as Roxanne, who adds some spice to an otherwise bland role. She has to play the part fairly straight to counter Cage’s insane Blaze, but she injects a lot of humour into the role nonetheless.
And that’s where I’ll pretty much stop talking about the acting. There’s no need to bore you with details of the ineptitude of Wes Bentley as Blackheart, since he’s really not in the film all that long.
So lets move on to the film’s special effects. Not all of them come off perfectly, but where Ghost Rider and his motorcycle are concerned, the film looks great. The flames dance around his body, he wields chains like some sort of giant metal snake, and the initial transformation scene from Blaze to the Rider are awesome.
Ghost Rider is best suited to fans of the comic, like me, who’ve been waiting years for this film to be made, or action geeks. It’s certainly not a very good date movie, unless you want a good laugh. But it is better than a lot of adaptations and I’d even love to see a sequel. Sure, I want something a little darker if there’s a next time, but Cage as Johnny Blaze is worth the price of admission.
As a fan of the comic book origins, the 2-Disc Extended Cut of the film is actually pretty interesting. There’s two commentaries on the first disc, one with Johnson, and another with visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, but it’s the second disc I found the most interesting. On it you get “Spirit of Vengeance: The Making of Ghost Rider”, a three-part documentary on the making of the film, which is about as interesting these features go, plus “Sin & Salvation: Comic Book Origins of Ghost Rider”, which delves into the origins of the character by talking to the artists involved in making the original comic books.