Yeah, I'm talking about Ghost Rider, and I couldn't stop thinking about how cool this movie could have been. The budget was there, the star power was there... the story... Damn, was that ever there. The story of a literal HELL'S ANGEL on wheels going rogue and fighting the devil was one of the best of Marvel's latter day "horror" comics. Yeah, it's safe to say I was on board and ready to be floored for this Movie Version...
Too bad it sucked. I mean, it's really too bad. It's a wonder why it's this bad. It's not inaccurate to the comic in any significant way, the casting is pretty decent and the special effects are top notch. It's also just about the most melodramatic and least logical flick to come out in quite some time.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know... it's about a Bike Riding Skeleton somebody set on fire beating the crap out of Demons, so what do I expect, right? Ironically, the movie is only good when Cage turns into Ghost Rider... at least then you've got the killer effects and a good excuse to be over-the-top. Cage is so hammy when he's got skin that I half expected someone to slap a honey glaze on his ass and serve him up with apple sauce.
Shall we to the plot? We shall. An overlong beginning sets the stage of our story, specifically, the Devil (Peter Fonda) recruits a kick-ass skull cowboy dude to collect a whole roster of nasty-ass souls for his army, but the champion decides to become Catholic instead and shows ol' Mephistopheles his ass. (Incidentally, you're basically looking at yet another ingredient that went into "Spawn"!) Undaunted, El Diablo sits around on his ass for about a hundred years or so before recruiting a new "Ghost Rider" in the form of Johnny Blaze (Matt Long), a kid on the cusp of becoming a real Evel (or would that be... Evil?) Knievel in his dad Barton's (Brett Cullen) stunt show.
Before long, he's gone from up and comer with a hot little girlfriend named Roxanne (Raquel Alessi) and a cool dad to becoming a successful douche bag who looks a lot like Nicolas Cage with no girlfriend and a haunted soul who redefines "Daredevil" (incidentally, Daredevil was also written by writer/ director Mark Steven Johnson, but then again, so was Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men, which explains why Ghost Rider quickly and easily devolves into a Comedy).
To convolute things, Roxanne is back all of the sudden trying to interview his ass (and now played by Eva Mendes and both her incredible breasts), while his amigo premiere Mack (Donal Logue) is trying to save his life from idiotic tricks like jumping his bike over a football field worth of military helicopters... and that's just when Sleazy Rider slouches toward Daytona to start Mister Melodrama on his mission of Skullduggery.
Okay, so his girlfriend's back, he's in trouble with his best friend, he's in the employ of the boss from hell... LITERALLY... and things can't get any worse, can they?
Shit, yeah, they can.
Look... just my synopsis is boring, imagine sitting through this boiling douche.
Because Ghost Rider wasn't quite melodramatic or overacted enough with Nic Cage and Peter Fonda, Johnson throws in Wes Bentley as Blackheart (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha), just daring a certain Ex-Runaway to sue his ass. Because it's somewhere in Bentley's contract that every character he plays has to have "Daddy Issues", Blackheart is on a mission to overact his way to the list of uber-tainted souls to make Daddy Devil look like shit in front of the Perdition community. To this end he recruits the demons of crap, poo-gas and piss (Mathew Wilkinson's ridiculous Abigor, Laurence Breuls' goof-ball Gressil and Daniel Frederiksen's laughable Wallow), aka "The Hidden" to give performances on par with the subtlety of your average Pokemon Voice Actor to either frighten the Devil's Bounty Hunter to death or keep him laughing until Blackheart comes up behind to "Pants" him... I'm not sure which.
As I said, Ghost Rider is at its (relative) best when it lets itself become the cartoon it threatens to be with every line. The character looks great! The body is really Nic "rib" Cage with a CGI Skull based on 3D Renderings of his own skull X-Rays and enough fake flame to promote a drag show. Ghost Rider as a character is fitfully over-the-top and can be a lot of fun. His evolving costume and bike (based, in part, on Fonda's own Easy Rider "Captain America" bike) help complete the look. But like most of the cheese slices in this movie, the potential shown here is quickly and easily dispatched in favor of big knots of convenience and misguided comedy... I tell you Cage has the approximate consistency in this movie of laminated Jell-o!
Another case in point is this film's only perpetually likeable character. Super-Captain-Cool-Man Sam "I'm the MAN!" Elliott plays the local Cemetery's Caretaker named Carter Slade, who knows a bit too much about Johnny Blaze's head-warming predicament. It's not too damned much of stretch of the imagination to figure out just who Elliott is and why he's in this story with the knowledge he possesses, but dude, I tell you he's not in this film nearly enough. I'd trade most of the rest of the actors for five more minutes of Sam-I-Am! Maybe they should've just gone with him as the title character, with Mendez showing up to show the audience her continental shelf every once in a while... or, no, really, I guess just Eva alone would be cool... You wouldn't even need the supernatural aspect. That's a good movie idea... Hey, Columbia Pictures... call me!
Anyway, back to Sam Sporatic's occasional Jack-In-The-Box head pops. These lead up to one cool truth, though: There is one truly beautiful CGI scene, virtually worth sitting through the rest of the film for. It's a great moment that could have succeeded in a less predictible and laughable ending (though it's still relatively satisfying), but instead it leads to yet another let-down. Some epic...
But still... In reality, Ghost Rider is a horror-comedy at core whose flashes of drama are treated more like break outs of pimples before the Prom! There's not a whole lot of substance here from the silly beginning to the predictable end, and just when it starts getting fun another inane line is thrown in. But it seems to be working... it's making serious Box-Office Bank, day after day. I guess dat's what the kiddies be wantin'. Maybe it's because they're too young to have seen Blade, which this film borrows liberally from. Even Elliott's underused character bears more than an overwhelming resemblance to Kristofferson's Whistler. Seriously, kids... If you want to be taken seriously as a movie, Goofy Goyer is not the place to start. But yes, yes and yes, the Fingerprints of smilin' David S. Goyer are all over Ghost Rider... ALL over! No, he doesn't get a writing credit here (hence the fact that "Mephistopheles" isn't pronounced incorrectly), but it will come as no surprise that he's credited along side Stan Lee and Avi Arad as "Executive Producer". It's safe to say, I'm not goy for Goyer, I'm not Avid for David, I won't say yes to the S! Shit!
It both pains and surprises me to give Ghost Rider Two Stars out of Five... I kept thinking, you know, add an extra half-a-star for the effects, but then I'd think of the inane dialogue and that 1/2 faded like an inhibition after sixteen beers. Sigh... but okay, when I think of those two Ghost Riders burnin' up the desert, and Eva Mendes' constant cleavage class I guess I could muster up Two and One Half Stars out of Five. I hope I don't regret this, man. While there is a lot of good (at least in the LOOK) to be found in Ghost Rider, the best thing about it is that it makes one want to read (or re-read) the original comics that inspired the film. As for the movie... watch The Crow instead. It's a much better film with much more potential to be taken seriously, and hell, it's even got a song called "Ghost Rider" (by Rollinsband, remade from the original 1977 version by Suicide) on the soundtrack inspired by... you guessed it... Johnny Blaze. Now, until things get really desperate and Hollywood decides to make a filmed version of "Forbush Man" from Marvel's Not Brand Ecch!!!, I'll see you in the next burning, burning, burning for you reel!
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