Ghost Rider (2007)
June 23, 2010
Ghost Rider (2007) – Review by Isaac
“It’s said that the West was built on legends. And that legends are a way of understanding things greater than ourselves. Forces that shape our lives, events that defy explanation. Individuals whose lives soar to the heavens or fall to the earth. This is how legends are born.”
Synopsis: Stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) unknowingly makes a deal with the devil, cursing him to become the Ghost Rider, an unholy bounty hunter who collects evil souls.
Ghost Rider is pretty close to the worst Superhero movie I have ever seen. I can’t believe this was released in theaters. The only thing keeping this production above “Made-for-TV-movie” level is the presence of Nicolas Cage. Everyone else is so incredibly horrible that comparatively, Nicolas Cage looks fit to play Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Eva Mendes’ acting is wooden and legendarily unbelievable here. Her character becomes increasingly inconsistent as the film progresses, causing me wonder if the low-cut blouses are supposed to justify her presence in the story (-in case you were wondering, no, they don’t). Any story featuring Satan (or Mephistopheles, as he’s called here) has to make some bold decisions on character interpretation, but Peter Fonda appears to be doing his best Dirty Harry impression while light-bulbs burst in his presence, (which gave me the epiphany that Clint Eastwood would be the coolest Lucifer ever).
Apparently Nicolas Cage is a huge Marvel Comics fan, and made numerous suggestions on Johnny Blaze’s character. He even had to hide his Ghost Rider tattoo during filming. Cage’s work is effective, but sadly falls flat due to Ghost Rider’s pathetic supporting cast. The only convincing parts of Ghost Rider feature Nicolas Cage alone and confused while wind and lightning whip around the set. In fact, how well you like Ghost Rider will heavily depend on your opinion of Nicolas Cage. He’s done some pretty lame movies in the past, and he always plays the ‘I’m confused and out of my element’ character, but I like him. I just can’t help but like Nicolas Cage. Maybe its National Treasure, Family Man, or even The Rock, but there’s something endearing there.
As for Ghost Rider’s status as the “worst Superhero movie ever made”, I can’t rightfully place it at the bottom of the cesspool. Here’s why: Infamously bad Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) and Batman & Robin (1997) had the potential to be good. Now Ghost Rider, I expected this to suck. I didn’t expect such wooden acting and hokey villains, but making a film like Ghost Rider is pretty difficult.
First challenge: Its a colossal task to set the right tone and get the audience to suspend their disbelief with the supernatural realm (see the mixed response that is Constantine). Also, it seems required for this genre to invent its own hokey ‘rules’ for the Good vs. Evil spiritual warfare. Instead of “victory through Jesus Christ”; we get hallowed ground, elemental demons, supernatural soul-binding contracts, holy water, etc. When the son of Mephistopheles, amply named Blackheart (oh – the boundless creativity!) tries stealing the reigns of Earth from his father, somehow his rule will be worse for mankind. (Uh, What!?) The idea that there’s someone more evil than Satan himself is just… stupid. However unintentional, Blackheart’s deception and ability to freeze stuff makes a ‘cool’ reference to Dante’s Inferno.
Second challenge: Any time Johnny Blaze has to beat down some evil punks as the Devil’s bounty hunter, his head turns into a CGI flaming skull. Oh yeah, and his motorcycle transforms into a hellish bike, causing explosions and leaving a trail of melted tar wherever he rides. Talk about obstacles to the willing suspension of disbelief! This sort of thing works much better in a comic book than it does in a movie. With narration, artwork, and help from the genre itself, comic books have a much easier time establishing the proper tone for something like Ghost Rider.