Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ghost Rider

Caretaker in voiceover: "It's said that the West was built on legends. Tall tales that help us make sense of things too great or too terrifying to believe. This is the legend of the Ghost Rider."

And this is the point, the first minute in the film, where you should've run screaming from the theatre.

It's bad. Is that enough of a review? Okay, then let's go over the plot, or at least what passes for that in this dreadful comic book tale.

When carnival motorcyclist Johnny Blaze finds that his father has terminal cancer, he accepts a pact with Mephistopheles, giving his soul for the health of his beloved father. But the devil deceives him, and Dad dies in a motorcycle accident immediately after the contract is signed. Johnny leaves the carnival and his girlfriend Roxanne, riding off into the sunset. Years later, Johnny Blaze becomes a famous motorcyclist, who risks his life in his shows, and he meets Roxanne again, now a TV reporter. However, Mephistopheles holds Johnny to his contract, to become the "Ghost Rider" and defeat the devil's son Blackheart, who wants to possess one thousand evil souls and make a hell on earth.

What's sad about this is that it started out promisingly, well, once you got past the voiceover. Young Johnny, played by Matt Long, was interesting to watch in a fairly long set-up which showed him as the typical teenager, loath to follow Dad's advice, and eager to chase after young Roxanne. However, Nicolas Cage's Johnny did not resemble his earlier "self" at all. Cage decided to take on the 'ol Con Air southern drawl, which was more distracting than disarming. And his toupee -- I understand it took 3 hours for makeup technicians to apply it to his head each time -- was even more distracting. Cage lends the movie some credibility -- at least until you see him in the role. His reputation, his mannerisms, are just too big for the screen.

Eva Mendes as the older Roxanne does what she can with the minimalist dialogue. Usually in comic book movies, the love interest doesn't have much to do, but she's given a fair amount of screen time. Her talent, I'm sure, will rise above this movie.

The special effects were termed "cheesy" by a young friend of mine, especially the fiery entrance of Ghost Rider. I would disagree. I actually liked those effects, as well as some of the other effects shown by Blackheart's (Wes Bentley) cronies. And the actual stunts involving the motorcycles were stunning.

But the best effect in the movie, and this is one thumb up for this film, is Peter Fonda's appearance as Mephistopheles. Sheer genius. And his comment regarding Johnny's bike, which resembles one Peter used to ride in '60's film "Easy Rider" was also brilliant: "Nice bike."

Don't bother with this drag-on-your-time of a movie. If you want to see a good comic book movie, see Batman Returns, or Spider-Man 1 or 2. Thumb's down.


At 8:47 AM, Blogger rich said...

I have to disagree a bit with your comments about Cage's larege-than-life style. This movie is by Stan Lee and this is merely his hyperbole: stylized excess to tell a story. There was always a dynamic, teen-aged angst element. Things start out fine, but Life (with an anonymous capital "L") changes things. In this case it's in the person of Mephisto, who conveniently appears when others aren't there to see him, but that's just another Stan Lee thing.

Yeah, I'm not sure where that accent came from, maybe an attempt to be Everyman by *not* being cultured in a Hah-vahd sort of way. He could have retained some Iowa zero-accent approach, but the character is a bit more plebian with that generic drawl.

Now for *my* comment- I sure miss these reviews. Outtakes was great!


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