Ghost Rider

As I stood in line last night (Which happened to wrap around the front of the theater and into the street), I listened to the buzz around me. Everyone was scintillating with anticipation for what looked like to me as being one of the worst films this year. It is directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who also made the much lamented Daredevil. But, maybe I would be surprised and have to eat my words.

Being unfamiliar with Ghost Rider comics, I had the ability to view the screening in an unbiased fashion. And I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that this movie is dreadful and boring from an entertainment standpoint.

Johnny Blaze, a stunt rider in a small Texan community, finds out that his father is dying and makes a deal with Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) to save him. This, in exchange for his soul. After a tragic mishap, Johnny is left with no father and no soul. The movie steadily spirals downward after that. Fast forward 25 years and we see that Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) has become an internationally loved stunt rider. His long lost love interest, Roxanne (Eva Mendes), shows up, along with Mephistopheles and Blackheart (Wes Bentley), who are fighting for souls.

The film has low points, but none lower than the writing. When Johnny transforms into the Ghost Rider, his dialogue seems to be taken from a list of rejected Arnold one liners. They were neither “so-bad-they’re-good” or funny. The character of young Johnny Blaze has a limited emotional range. Upon learning that his father is dying of cancer he simply retreats to the garage to work on his bike. This is clearly a missed opportunity to show the depth of connection between the two characters .He doesn’t even seem concerned when he signs over his soul. The newly painted walls on my house gave a better performance when they were drying.

The Roxanne character is annoying. I don’t know if Ghost Rider had a love interest in the comics, but it seemed very out of place in the film. There appears to be no purpose for her, other than to possibly cater to the female demographic with a love element. Her acting left a lot to be desired. It sounds as though she phoned in her performance. Actually, most of the cast seemed to do this. The only actor I really enjoyed was Peter Fonda, who played an ominous character. He gave his character depth. A pity that he only had approximately 10 minutes of screen time (A film, I might add, that runs 114 minutes).

When I originally saw the trailer, I thought, “Well, they’ll fix up the CGI before the film comes out.” Well, they did… sort of. It is still in dire need of some major reconstruction. There are times when the character of Ghost Rider looked like an anatomy class skeleton, set on fire and placed on a motorcycle. The various demons in the film are nothing more than CGI moved around so quickly, that you can’t get a clear view. So, they end up looking cartoon-ish.

A good point a friend made last night after the film ended was that the film was reminiscent of a video-game. The Caretaker character shows up to fill in plot points in a film with a very thin plot. The villains fight Ghost Rider, one by one, making it seem like a level he has to pass in order to fight the next person standing in his way. And, the fight scenes were very short lived at that (Think the ending of Fantastic Four and you’ll get what I’m saying).

The most confusing element of the film is the demographic. I can’t really pinpoint who the film should be catered to. There were some 30-year-old comic buffs sitting in front of me and they loved the film. They laughed at every corny line and ooh’d and aah’d at every fight scene. They had a blast with it. Maybe it was made for them, those who have been following the various story lines and incarnations over the years. To me, it seemed to be very childish in execution and more geared towards the 13-17 crowd. No great story or characters. Just a weak plot strung together by scenes with explosions.

The only Marvel film that was worse than this one is Man-Thing. Will people go in droves to see this, even though it’s awful? Of course. I imagine that it will make its money back and then some and we’ll be treated (Depending on how you look at it) to more sequels in the coming years. I certainly will not be shelling out my hard earned dollars for them though.

Official Score