Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ghost Rider (2007)

Ghost Rider (2007)

Nicholas Cage finally appears in a superhero movie. Shame then that the movie, the adaptation of Marvel Comic's 'Ghost Rider', is so risible.

Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) is a stunt motorcycle rider, the best in the business. He's a superstar. Unfortunately, when he was younger he made a deal with Mephistopheles / the Devil (Peter Fonda) to save his dying father (Dad copped it anyway, proving that a deal with the Devil will get you screwed no matter what) - he gave up his soul. Mephisto wanted Blaze to one day be his 'Ghost Rider', a sort of demonic bounty hunter / henchman. Sadly for Blaze, fate has awful timing; just when he is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Roxanne (the luscious Eva Mendes), he's forced into service, turning into a super powered flaming biker with an exposed, flaming skull! A Demonic guy named Blackheart and some of his henchmen are looking for a hidden 'contract' that belonged to Mephisto which, if acquired, would give him power to rule the world. Mephisto orders Ghost Rider to stop Blackheart and his demonic henchmen from getting the power that is rightfully his. Being Ghost Rider takes its toll on Blaze however, and threatens his personal and professional life. Blaze is finally pushed to the edge when sweet and innocent Roxanne's life is put in peril!

Actually, thus far it sounds fairly decent if decidedly generic, but it's in the execution that things get truly bad. Director Mark Steven Johnson tries to take things a bit too seriously but can't come up with the goods to match the intended tone. The plotting and characterization are anemic and perfunctory and more than a little dumb, and the performances seem to live up to the script. Everyone seems bemused. The only (sort of) exceptions to this are Peter Fonda as the sinister but one dimensional Mephisto and Sam Elliott as the enigmatic 'Caretaker', an ally to the Ghost Rider. Cage himself barely registers, although the effects driven Ghost Rider persona is quite fun. The film admittedly doesn't look too bad; in fact it looks quite decent at times, especially when the effects are firing on all cylinders and the Ghost Rider is blazing across the landscape. Sadly, the close ups of the flaming skull just come across as ludicrous and are poorly animated - I'm not really sure how anyone could have made it an effective live action visual, but then again it didn't need to be quite as cheesy as it is here. Which brings me to the action - there is none to really speak of. Seriously, Ghost Rider engages in a couple of fights with Blackheart's goons but they're over before you know it, and the final 'battle' is also mostly uneventful.

'Ghost Rider' is an uninspired and only marginally entertaining comic book adaptation. A part of me feels that these superhero origin stories are way past their sell by date, and that no matter how good this film could have been there would still have been a feeling of deja vu. We've even already seen a guy mucking about with figures from Heaven and Hell in the far superior Constantine, which interestingly enough wasn't an origin story. So perhaps the Ghost Rider origin story never stood a chance. Another part of me realizes, however, that regardless of how stale the movie template is, this film is weak on all other merits and could have been better.

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