Movie Review
Ghost Rider
2007
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Cast: Wes Bentley, Nicolas Cage, Peter Fonda, Eva Mendes
D+


ghost Rider, now out on DVD, is writer/director Mark Steven Johnson's second comic book adaptation, following Daredevil... hey, where are you going, stay here! OK, so he's not the most original guy in Hollywood, but Ghost Rider makes two consecutive hundred-million-grossers for him, so he must be doing something right. Right?

For one thing, he has hero-for-hire Nicolas Cage. Cage works with the same dedication beyond the call of duty that he brought to his major 2007 role, that of Fu Manchu in Werewolf Women of the S.S. Given some autonomy over his character, he manages to add a couple of half-funny touches to the character: a fondness for jellybeans and the Carpenters. Unfortunately, he didn't get to rewrite the script.

The plot? Second-generation stunt rider Young Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) loves Young Roxanne (Raquel Alessi) so much that he carves "J&R FOREVER" into the nearest tree. Years later, we see the couple stand in front of the engraving, poignantly reminding us of their star-crossed love. The end.

Oh yeah, some stuff happens in between. Peter Fonda, I mean Mephistopheles, turns up amidst thunder! And lightning! To save his father, Young Johnny sells his soul; Dad suffers a horrible mangled death anyway. Young Johnny Blaze rides off, leaving poor Young Roxanne standing in the rain. He grows up to look like Nic Cage and become a superstar motorcyclist. She grows up to look like Eva Mendes (an implausible change of appearance) and become a TV reporter (sadly plausible in her lack of expression).


Following Johnny's requisite harrowing flashbacks to Dad's accident, Meph turns up to get Johnny to knock off his power-hungry son, Blackheart. (Get it? “Black heart”!) After some anguish and cackling, Johnny becomes Ghost Rider, most notable for having a flaming skull that doesn't look cool despite being a flaming skull. Among his powers is the ability to look into the eyes of evil humans and kill them by making them OD on empathy.

Ghost confronts Blackheart (Wes Bentley) and his Joss Whedon casting-call reject lackeys Earth Demon, Wind Demon and Water Demon. (Ghost Rider is a Fire Demon. It's the four elements! Get it? Get it?) Periodically, throughout the rest of the movie, he dispatches one of these bad guys with little more than a Schwarzenegger-in-Commando bad pun—“Time to clear the air!” (to the Wind Demon! Get it?) Even the Water Demon doesn't give Ghost much of a fight, though, contradicting everything I learned from Pokemon.

Anyway, after much smoking and fuming, Johnny, no longer on fire, regains consciousness at, where else, the grave of his father, where he meets the mysterious Caretaker (Sam Elliott, by far the classiest thing about the movie). Johnny heads home to stare at his CGI-muscled physique in the mirror—who knew stunt riders needed steroids? Roxanne turns up, there's some substandard romantic complication, but eventually she realizes Johnny is the Flaming Biker, a discovery so shocking that Eva Mendes belatedly starts acting. Meanwhile, we start counting the minutes until she's kidnapped. Blackheart soon nabs her, threatening to mess up her hair unless Johnny brings him the long-lost contract required for him to take over the world—apparently, even Hell is bureaucratic.

Johnny, unwilling to bring hell to earth, refuses and leaves Roxanne to her fate. No, of course that isn't what happened. The devil, being far more powerful than his son, sends his son to hell. No, too simple. Ghost records a solo album about the cocaine trade. Roxanne puts on her red light. The Caretaker reveals himself to be Ichabod Crane. Who cares? All you need to know is that the ending indulges in some highly annoying sequel baiting, and that they play a cover of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” over the credits. “Ghost Riders”! Get it?

Ghost Rider is now available on DVD.



By: Brad Luen
Published on: 2007-08-30
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