A confusing and unfortunate catastrophe somewhere between Daredevil and Catwoman, Marvel’s continuously delayed Ghost Rider is finally out, and definitely not worth the wait. Sadly, the ultra cool flaming-skull vigilante is reduced to a mindless drone, replete with a scatterbrained and hopeless-romantic femme fatale, an obnoxious patriarchal cowboy mentor, pitiable special effects, languid villains, and an utterly incomprehensible storyline.
Johnny Blaze, (Nicolas Cage) a motorcycle daredevil, unwittingly makes a deal with Mephisto (the devil) to save his father. When the influential demon comes to collect, Blaze realizes his irreparable mistake. Mephisto curses Blaze with the power of the Ghost Rider, causing him to burst into flames and seek out the guilty. Caught between fighting Mephisto’s renegade son Blackheart, learning the powers of the “Rider” and conveying his true feelings for his long lost girlfriend (Eva Mendes), Blaze teams up with a mysterious gravedigger to save the world.
Where did this film go wrong? The more appropriate question is “where did this film succeed?” Frankly, it didn’t. The primary predicament this comic book adaptation faces is that the studio obtained a super cool character that launches flames, wields fiery chains, and cruises in a formidable chopper, and didn’t know what to do with it all. The story is decidedly nonsensical, spurting out bits of legends and ancient religious lore that only aid in bewildering the viewer. Too many characters are introduced and none are properly developed, so we’re left with adversaries that we don’t despise, and protagonists that we don’t appreciate. The perplexing pieces of Ghost Rider’s history are convoluted and overwhelming. Legendary fiery vindicators are difficult enough to grasp; gothic, yuppie soul-sucker elementals are crossing the line into dreadful.
Nicolas Cage is perhaps an adequate choice for Ghost Rider. Unfortunately, every other character seems to be placed merely for comic relief, spouting unbelievably substandard dialogue in a film that needs no comedic interludes whatsoever. The previous cursed Ghost Rider is a dusty cowboy played by Sam Elliott (conspicuously reminiscent of his role in The Big Lebowski), who mentors Cage and manages to be insipid and uninspiring. Deliciously spicy Eva Mendes thankfully displays revealing cleavage in every scene she’s in, apparently to distract audiences from her overwhelming inability to act. Blackheart was once an enthralling character in the comic books, sporting glistening black skin with freakish strands of grass-like spikes billowing from his glowing red eyes, set atop muscular Minotaur legs. If you were to remove every original and frightening aspect of the once great son of the devil, you would still end up with a more intense villain than what was spewed out in the form of the film version of Blackheart. His elemental henchman were even more bland, if that’s possible, and spectrally appeared and were immediately vanquished, resulting in the most unexciting and banal action scenes ever filmed. All of the villains showed up at anticlimactic moments and peppered the sparse screenplay with laughably bad fight sequences, one-liners and hairdos.
The special effects for Ghost Rider himself are actually decent, alternating between a guy in a blue-screen suit and a completely computer animated character atop a devilishly tricked-out bike. However, the decency stops there when we’re introduced to a scene in which Ghost Rider lassos a CG helicopter that resembles a cross between a Lego kit and a Monty Python cartoon. When the Rider defies gravity to drive up the side of a towering industrial building, thoughts of both Ultraviolet and Transporter 2 surfaced in the back of my mind. And they are two of the worst movies ever made.
The plot is abandoned from time to time, filling in the audience only when it conveniently rises from the jargon of supporting characters. A pointless love story attempts to surface, but is promptly buried amongst yawn-inducing action and tiresome antagonists. The Ghost Rider comic already has several conflicting stories of origins, so it’s no wonder that the film decided to educate us with snippets of drivel scraped up from a rarely overturned Marvel rock. Either assuming that viewers already know something about the Ghost Rider back-story, or that they simply won’t care, the plotline is completely disjointed in some places, and shockingly generic in others. Stuck in the Spider-Man formula of superheroes, (a superhero must help the people before himself) Ghost Rider is essentially a familiar and unimaginative crime fighter with only a rousing physical design; pre-sold audiences may even hesitate.
Due to the increasing success of other popular comic books adapted to film, Hollywood is under the impression that as long as it’s lucrative in one medium, it has hope in another. Provided they keep churning them out with little planning and zero story, every inferior superhero film will hurt the chances of the ones that are actually worthwhile being made. On a lighter note, some good will come from Ghost Rider‘s inevitable titanic failure: Zack Snyder’s 300 will look just that much better.
– Mike Massie, MoviePulse