Could have been much better
The M.O.W. - wrote on 08/02/08
When I was a kid, I never read the "Ghost Rider" comic books published by Marvel Comics Group. I am only familiar with the character when he made a guest appearance in one of the titles I did read. So, since I had heard of the character, I was pretty interested when I saw that a live-action adaptation was coming to theaters even if they cast one of my least favorite actors in the lead role.
The teenage "Johnny Blaze" (Matt Long) is following his father (Brett Cullen) into a life of being a motorcycle stunt rider at a circus. To complicate things, his girlfriend, "Roxanne Simpson" (Raquel Alessi) is moving away under orders of her father. To complicate things either further, his father is dying of cancer.
Just as he is preparing to leave his father and the circus behind to go after "Roxanne", a man with a cane (Peter Fonda) comes up to him and offers to cure his father's deal for the young man's soul. "Blaze" signs the contract, and the next morning, his father is completely healthy. However, the young man soon finds out that when you make a deal with the devil, you will pay in spades.
Now, years later, "Johnny" (Nicolas Cage) is a famous motorcycle stuntman who puts his life on the line in bigger venues than his father ever did. However, he is not happy with the fame and fortune he has now and is looking for a sign for a second chance at the life he believes he was destined for. And the sign apparently shows itself when "Roxanne" (Eva Mendes) walks back into his life as a television news reporter assigned to cover his jump that he has scheduled for the anniversary of his father's death shortly after she moved away.
However, a demon known as "Blackheart" (Wes Bently) wants to bring the End of Days to the world so he might inherit it. So, because of this, the man with the cane re-enters "Johnny's" life to cash in on his debt. He transforms "Johnny" into his bounty hunter known as the "Ghost Rider" who is bent on returning and sending evil souls to Hell.
Now, "Blaze", with the help of a mysterious cemetery "Caretaker" (Sam Elliott), must stop "Blackheart" and his evil minions while trying to save his own soul.
Like I said earlier, I never read the "Ghost Rider" comics. So I will say right off that those who do will probably like this a lot more than the average audience member who probably never read it. And, unlike those who never picked up a copy of either version of "Ghost Rider" (one of which has since been renamed the "Phantom Rider"), they will be able to pick up on the major differences in the original comic book version and this movie. And, after some web surfing, I have learned that there are some major differences between the comic book storyline and the movie's storyline that only the fans of the comic book will know.
First off, the movie tends to drag in many places. It's not really the fast-pace that it should be. The action is also pretty slow. You would think that with all the special effects used for the supernatural powers of the villains and "Ghost Rider" you would think that they could have made the characters move at a superhuman-like speed at times. For the most part, the supernatural-powered characters move as if they are just average humans.
The acting pretty much suffers due to a weak script. Many times, it seemed as if the actors were repeating the lines being relayed to them by somebody off-camera. There was little chemistry between the entire cast. I felt no chemistry between Cage and Mendes.
I also felt that Cage was miscast as "Johnny Blaze"/"Ghost Rider". If my memory serves, the comic book character I remember was younger than Cage. I also felt that he was holding back in his performance. Mendes was also underused, as were other major supporting characters.
If you ask me, the absolutely gorgeous Mendes was there more for eye candy than her acting. When "Roxanne" re-enters "Johnny's" life, we see her standing in profile in a tight fighting dress that would not be seen worn by real news reporters. And, in a later scene, she is showing off just a little too much cleavage for the working environment.
I think that the only perfectly cast actor was Elliott as "The Caretaker". With his deep voice, he made the character very mysterious as he tried to give "Johnny" tips on his battle. You also never really realize his true nature until it appears in the story, but with "Caretaker's" knowledge of "Ghost Rider's" mission will make you wonder. One bad thing about "Caretaker" is that when his true nature is revealed, it's the wrong look. Over the years in the comic book history, there have been three characters known as "Ghost Rider". I only know of the first one and the "Johnny Blaze" one, and knew instantly that when the "Caretaker's" true nature was finally revealed that it was in reference to the first character with the name. I also knew instantly that it was nothing like the first comic book character.
The music is pretty good in this movie. There is a mix between songs by well-known artists and instrumentals. There is no real current stars on the soundtrack, but there are well-known artists performing big hits from their careers.
Of course, there is a lot of special effects in this movie. There is a lot of morphing effects that are nicely edited together. I also liked the look of "Ghost Rider," but it was pretty obvious that the "bone" that we see of his skeletal body was made with CGI. The "flames" that come from his body is much better looking than the "bones" if you ask me. The "flames" are multi-colored much like real flames and have a natural movement. One thing that I wasn't too fond of was the digitally-enhanced voice used for "Ghost Rider" because, at times, it was hard to understand what he was saying.
If you are a fan of the comic book, I would say rent this. However, if you are not a reader of the comic book, then I would say watch this on television when nothing else is on.