Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            So the Ghost Rider is a man with a flaming skull for a head, he wears a leather jacket, he rides a big wicked motorcycle, and he whips a chain around. He wears spiky leather stud gauntlets, and clomps around in steel-tipped cowboy boots. The Ghost Rider is essentially every biker tattoo come to life.

            You’d think with the flaming-skullhead-snake-rose-combo biker sensibility, you’d hire someone who understands it – perhaps Rob Zombie or, hell, even Dennis Hopper. Bob Rafelson is still alive… – and not the same guy who did “Daredevil” and “Simon Birch” (Mark Steven Johnson). But he had a hit with “Daredevil” (which was a fine film with a strong comicbook sensibility), so now he’s adapted another minor Marvel Comics superhero into a big screen romp. “Ghost Rider” doesn’t have a lot of blood or teeth, it has a disappointing underuse of Sam Elliott, an unclear villain’s plot, and some weird acting from Wes Bentley (chewing more scenery than is readily available from the set decorators), Eva Mendes (who seems to exist only to reveal her cleavage), and the hero, Nicolas Cage (playing a combination of Lon Cheney, Jr., Sailor Ripley, and a space alien). At least Donal Logue does well as the doomed sidekick. It’s not good enough to be moving, nor is it bad enough to be campy fun. It’s merely… well, I guess it’s what you’d expect.

 

            The premise (from the comics) is even a little ridiculous, even for the world of superheroes: Johnny Blaze (Cage) makes a pact with Satan (Peter Fonda) to have his father saved from cancer. In exchange, Johnny must, at some unspecified date, become a flaming skullheaded agent of Satan, meting out justice to particularly unholy people. He transforms when it’s night and he’s “in the presence of evil.” He damns people by staring into their eyes with his flaming eye sockets (They, then, feel guilty for their crimes; Satan seems to be operating differently than Catholics have told us). There’s also a romance with a childhood love whom Johnny abandoned (Mendes), and an escaped demon named Blackheart (Bentley) who, with his posse of elementals, plans on opening an on-earth demon prison… or something. It’s the Ghost Rider’s job to stop Blackheart, as he (Blackheart) is even more evil than Satan. Sam Elliott shows up as an ex-Ghost Rider, so he can deliver all the explanatory speeches.

 

            “Ghost Rider’s” biggest crime: So Sam Elliott, the world’s coolest badass, shows up as an ex-Ghost Rider. That means we’ll see him on the back of a demon horse with flaming hooves, his skull burning under his cowboy hat, riding across the purple sage to the strains of “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” With such a great image given to us, the film makes us think that he will somehow be involved in the villains’ eventual defeat. But no, he and Johnny Blaze pull up to the site of the final showdown, and Elliott tips his hat and, like an otherworldly Shane, says “Well, I better get going.” What?! If you’re going to make the promise of Sam Elliott kicking demon butt, I wanna see Sam Elliott kicking demon butt.

 

            Oh, and the ending is a little odd as well. I’m going to give it away here: After the defeat of the bad guy (that the villain falls is no surprise), Satan appears to Johnny Blaze again, telling him that his job is done, and he doesn’t have to be a Ghost Rider anymore. Johnny Blaze has spent the entire film struggling with his new wolfman-like life as a Ghost Rider. It’s caused him to destroy property, terrorize petty criminals, and almost lose his girlfriend several times. It’s no picnic being a flaming agent of Satan. But no matter, Johnny stands up, looks Satan in the eye and proclaims “I’m keeping this curse.” Presumably, it’s so Satan cannot hire anyone else as a Ghost Rider (you’d think he’d have several), but Johnny makes no such speech; he merely saunters off, still flaming, girlfriend-less, and miserable.

 

            But if he gave up being the Ghost Rider, how could we have “Ghost Rider 2?” Coming in 2009.

             Nicolas Cage has made some questionable acting choices recently, but I guess if a movie lets him ride his motorcycle, and do his Sailor Ripley tough guy voice, than of course he’ll take the role.

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Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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